Baroness

This unprocessed image of Saturn’s moon Titan was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its final close flyby of the hazy, planet-sized moon on April 21, 2017. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

I love space.

I also love our solar system. It’s never not fascinating. New Horizons going to Pluto? Curiosity going to Mars? Cassini studying Saturn? Juno peeping at Jupiter?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

We live in an amazing age for this stuff. I eat it up!

My new Clarkesworld story, “Baroness,” is set on Saturn’s moon, Titan. We got some good pictures of Titan recently as Cassini makes its final loops closer and closer to the planet where it will poof forever (this September).

But Titan! Titan is awesome. It has a dense atmosphere and lakes of liquid methane! Infrared rainbows! How could a science fiction writer not play with that? I started with some classic tropes as I worked my way to the heart of this story: aliens, UFOs, abduction stories, and oh the mysteries of the galaxy. I asked the Launchpad Astronomy Workshop alumni mailing list a billion questions — so if the science is wrong, that’s on ME.

No story is really proper until I’ve gotten into the heart of one character. Whose story is this? Who is hurt? Who changes? In this piece, it’s two characters occupying that space, one vaguely human and one vaguely alien.

This TOC…lovely, lovely.

Vaguely human. She once was, but now she’s something more — she and the rest of the crew she leads. They’re a group of oligotrophs, people who have been modified to endure and indeed thrive in hostile environments. They can breathe methane and don’t need much to eat; they love darkness, and don’t mind the cold. They’ve been engineered to work in places that no one else really wants to go. They’re also refugees.

The rich and white don’t want to do the dirty work of the world; who better to send into all the awful places than the unwanted, the unwashed, the huddled masses Liberty once lifted her lamp for? Refugees are sent into all the terrifying places, to mine methane, hydrogen, to pull planets and moons apart so shiny rockets can plunge deeper than ever into the universe. But everything has a cost, even space.

“Your life will change,” Bishop whispered. “They tell you. And they aren’t wrong. But they also aren’t . . . specific.”

Go read, then let me know what you thought! I can’t wait for you to meet Baroness…

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