Saturday, 29 March 2014

Jinx And The Old Red Dwarf

Anderson, Poul, "Iron" IN Niven, Larry, Ed., The Man-Kzin Wars (London, 1989), pp. 27-177.

Jinx is a massive, egg-shaped, humanly colonized satellite of a gas giant in the Sirian system. Carita Fenger, a Jinxian, is almost as wide as she is high and:

"Ancestry under Sirius has made her skin almost ebony..." (p. 51)

Black skin that comes not from Africa but from centuries on Jinx!

Very soon after the Beginning, a galaxy formed as soon as it was possible for this to happen. (I think that the cosmic voyagers of Anderson's The Avatar visited a very early galaxy.) The stars of this galaxy lost mass in their red giant phases. This mass, containing oxygen, nitrogen, silicon, neon, magnesium and iron but few or no heavier elements, enriched a cloud from which the red dwarf formed. This dwarf and its five surviving planets have abundant hydrogen and helium because they condensed so soon after the Big Bang.

Displaced probably by an encounter with a larger body, the system has been moving between and through galaxies for fifteen billion years. Carita says:

"'A relic - hell, finding God's fingerprints...'" (p. 69)

Most science fiction readers know only that there are stars and planets with nuclear fusion inside stars transforming lighter into heavier elements which, blasted into space by novae, enrich later generations of stars and planets. Anderson gives us a lot more detail, shows us why it is important and imagines dramatic and unusual events within stellar processes.

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