Somewhere I Have Never Travelled

A cylindrical projection of Jupiter stitched together from photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft during its December 2000 flyby of the planet.

A cylindrical projection of Jupiter stitched together from photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft during its December 2000 flyby of the planet.

I wish I remembered the exact moment I fell in love with outer space.

One of my earliest space memories (sounds like a game show…) is going on a Girl Scout camping trip — I dreaded it, because I always felt so clumsy, and they were going to have us ride horses, and I couldn’t even imagine. I got on this huge beast who was as gentle as a bunny, and rode up a hill at dusk; by the time it was dark, we had reached the top, where there was a telescope set up. A telescope! We got to look at Saturn that night and I only knew I never wanted to look away.

Now, it’s the time of year when Jupiter hangs in the western sky as I do my laps in the pool — so it’s fitting that “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled (Third Sound Remix)” appears in Clarkesworld this week.

clarkesworld-magazine-issue-105-cover-200x309I had the idea for this story after listening to far too many space sounds — what does a planet sound like? What do the really big planets sound like? Do Saturn’s rings sing? Does Neptune sound like the ocean it looks like?

Next, I started reading about the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn — why do they sound so weird, what’s really going on out there, what is in those clouds, what if — hydrogen miners?

The muse is far smarter than I am, and suggested that I draw on helium — already in short supply in our world. What if we harvested helium from our gas giants and brought it back to Earth? Okay! Helium. Reading about helium led me to reading about liquid helium, which is weird, weird, weird.

When I started reading about how liquid helium acts in containers, I knew I was on to something — something liquid and strange, trying to escape the container that holds it. That sounds like an E. Catherine story to me.

BUT, I still didn’t have a complete story. Running out of pages in my current writing notebook proved useful there. The words “gravity” and “sirens” ended up plastered together, though the initial ideas had nothing to do with each other. Gravity sirens. HELLO. Mashing the concept of mythological ladies into something outer spacey? Now we’re talking about a proper story.

While frolicking with Jupiter and Saturn, I came up with another story, too — I know I’m not done writing about these monster planets.

For now, drop by Clarkesworld and check “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled (Third Sound Remix)” — of course that title comes from the e.e. cummings poem and naturally that has some bearing on the path of the story, too.

Jupiter, swollen. So orange against the black of space, so large as to almost occupy the entire window. Space is only a slim crescent along the planet’s brightening rim. I have worked on Galileo Station harvesting helium for twelve years, and the view never grows old; Jupiter never grows old with its ceaseless storms, new designs constantly wrought within its cloud layers. The red spot spun itself out in our sixth year, the storm succumbing to another that is the colors of Earth’s seas: teal and turquoise, indigo and lapis. Sometimes, when the sunlight angles across, the storm shines like a great opal, cracked with orange lightning.