Posts Tagged ‘Gregory Benford’

In the Ocean of Night – memorable

December 28, 2007

I’m not doing my memorable sf phrases/scenes in chronological order, but by one jogging another loose from my memories.  My early love of astronomy and spaceflight also colors my choices, then and now.

So thinking of “In the Cave of Night” immediately recalled a memorable sf scene from a story with a similiar title, 17 years later, also in an sf magazine.  This time the magazine was Worlds of If, the May/June 1972 issue.

A visiting space probe communicates with the human race, receives all of our knowledge, and eventually moves towards Earth. So astronaut Nigel Walmsley is lofted on an intercept course looping around Luna and ordered to prevent the ship from leaving the solar system. Coming out of the sun to mask his ship’s signature, flying blind to avoid alerting the Snark with his radar, Nigel is lining up his missiles when:

‘A voice said:

“I wish you the riding of comfortable winds.”

Nigel froze.  The odd, brassy voice came from his helmet speakers, free of static.’ And the computer AI starts to converse with him … [Part Four, chapter four, page 189 of the original Dell pb.]

And I was gripped by awe at seeing a far superior tech level in such a small detail as no static; I assumed the probe was directly manipulating his speakers without using radio. But our mileage varied, because I had read the original If version, which varied in the dialogue. I can’t refer to the issue, but I recall Nigel hesitating to launch, and the static-free voice asking, “are you all thus so double?”

All 4 of these Walmsley stories [including one that happened to a different character, rewritten to be Walmsley in the novel] were collected as In the Ocean of Night in 1977.

Seven years later, it became the first of the sweeping Galactic Center six novel series, when Across the Sea of Suns (Galactic Center 2) was published.

At the same time in Galaxy magazine, Dr. Ernest Taves was showing me The True School of Modesty in his Luna series, in my next memorable sf scene.

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