- Red Star, Winter Orbit
Infobox short story |
name = Red Star, Winter Orbit
language = English
series = "
Science fiction short story
published_in = "Burning Chrome"
media_type = Print (Hardback &
preceded_by = Hinterlands
New Rose Hotel
"Red Star, Winter Orbit" is a short story written by
William Gibsonand Bruce Sterlingand published in Gibson's " Burning Chrome" collection of short fiction. The story is set in an alternate futurewhere the Soviet Unioncontrols most of the Earth's resources, especially oil. As a result of this the United Statesis no longer a dominant economic power on earth and the Soviets have won the space race.
The story takes place on the Soviet space station "Kosmograd" ("Cosmic City"), which consists of a number of Salyut's linked together. The station has both civilian and military roles; the military portion is a base for the operation for two large
particle beam weapons for shooting down ICBMs. The civilian side, once a hub for space exploration, is now reduced to a maintenance role for the engineers running the station. Most of the story takes place in one of the Salyut's that has been set aside as the "Museum of the Soviet Triumph in Space". Its caretaker is cosmonautColonel Yuri Vasilevich Korolev, the first man on Mars.
As the story opens, the military role is no longer required now that the US has lost superpower status and the threat of ICBMs is gone. The government decides to stop manning the station, but this would involve a loss of face as they would be abandoning their last manned space presence. At first they plan on blaming the station's shutdown on the civilian crew's black market activities, the minor trafficing in US media. When he hears of the shutdown, Korolev organizes a strike, demanding the charges be dropped. He is ignored, and the station rapidly deteriorates.
On the ground, a purge starts within the space establishment that removes most of the "old guard". The remaining administrators decide to put the station in a decaying orbit, and blame its demise on Korolev, the strike's leader. After 20 years in space, Korolev can no longer return to Earth and will make a convenient scapegoat.
Korolev instead hatches a plan to use the remaining
Soyuzcapsules to allow the crew to defect to Japanafter landing in China. His attempts to interfere with the military side of the station fail and they prepare to fire on the defectors. One of the capsules returns and deliberately crashes into the weapon. The military crew is killed when their portion of the station is ripped open, and Korolev is locked in the civilian side when the doors automatically close. He is left alone in a decaying orbit.
Some time later, Korolev awakens to find one of the hatches being knocked on from the outside. Thinking he is dreaming, he comes to his senses when the hatch is opened and several Americans enter the station. Hearing it had been abandoned, they have decided to leave their
squaton a solar-power balloon and take over the station to form a new colony. The story ends with Korolev being asked to give a tour of the station for its new inhabitants.
* [http://www.antonraubenweiss.com/gibson/ The William Gibson aleph]
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