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Space Weather To Universe Weather

Science fiction author Bruce Sterling points out this great article on space weather and asks - but what about galactic weather?

I responded by raising the stakes - what about the weather in our corner of the universe?

Space weather was first described and written about by science fiction writers like A.E. van Vogt, who wrote about space weather maps in his 1943 story The Storm:

On the three-dimensional map at weather headquarters on the planet Kaider III, the storm was colored orange. Which meant it was the biggest of the four hundred odd storms raging in the Fifty Suns region of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud.

But the largest issue, that of the different conditions that obtain throughout the large structures of the universe; that's a different story. Or, to be precise, a set of different stories.

Science fiction writers have described vast fields of force that enclose the solar system. One of the best-known is Poul Anderson's description of the galactic damping field in his 1953 novel Brain Wave.

('Brain Wave (The Escape)' by Poul Anderson)

However, I'd like to quote here a passage from the incredible 1981 novel Radix by A.A. Attanasio. This novel really blew my mind when I read it that year.

"Over a thousand years ago, the sun and its planets entered a stream of radiation that has no origin. The radiation comes from the axle of our galaxy where the gravity of a billion suns has opened our universe to the multiverse. There, in the galactic core, energy gushes in from an infinity of other realities.

Some of that timeless energy is psynergy, modes of being that you and I would recognize as sentient. When that psynergy reaches earth, it changes the genetic structure of humans, and in a generation or two it becomes voors, distorts, and sometimes godminds. These are beings orphaned from the worlds that created them. They fight hard to hold onto the patterns that anchor them to this planet, because the psynergy-stream is sliding away from us. After the skyfires are gone, there will be no more new voors, no more new godminds. Those that survive will possess the earth."

Another example of this story is Atomic Fire (1931) by Raymond Z. Gallun. A dark nebula envelops the sun and plunges the Earth into darkness; the end is near!

Aggar Ho looked up at his assistant. The grave expression on his face did not change. "We can no longer joke about the Black Nebula, Sark Ahar, my son," he said. "Unless something can be done, it will cause all the inhabitants of Aerth to be frozen to death in thirty-five days."

..."There is no chance for a mistake," returned Aggar Ho. "Here are my figures," and he tapped the pad of paper lying on his desk. "You may take them to your work room and check them if you like. Ever since we began to watch the Black Nebula six months ago I have been afraid. We thought that it would miss the solar system by several billion miles but tonight I have plotted its course. It is going to envelope the sun and blot out its light and warmth! Microscopic observations prove that it is a vast cloud of the heavy opaque gas number 106. When it reaches the sun, it will form a dense layer over its surface. Then there will be darkness."

But plucky scientists create a self-sustaining nuclear reaction, and set the moon on fire, creating a small sun to light the Earth until the sun itself can burn through the nebula's clouds.

The earliest reference to this idea that I know about is the poison space cloud in The Poison Belt, a 1913 novella by Arthur Conan Doyle:

"You will conceive a bunch of grapes," said he, "which are covered by some infinitesimal but noxious bacillus. The gardener passes it through a disinfecting medium. It may be that he desires his grapes to be cleaner. It may be that he needs space to breed some fresh bacillus less noxious than the last. He dips it into the poison and they are gone. Our Gardener is, in my opinion, about to dip the solar system, and the human bacillus will in an instant be sterilized out of existence."

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/23/2023)

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