Monday, 30 June 2014

The bugbears of Ian Watson (part two)

Group chairman Ian Watson has contributed two brand new poems to the NSFWG blog (exclusives!), which are - in his words - "attacking misuse of my bugbear words Actinic and Careening"

The first was posted a fortnight ago (see it on this link) and here's the second...

Careening Towards Alpha C
by Ian Watson

In her hibernation casket on the hundred year journey
Anne dreams, monitored by the ship's A.I. named Nod.
Slumbering crew of six.  Anne was inspired to become
a stellanaut by science fiction stories.  Now she imagines
careening along the corridor as per exciting tales
of emergency situations.  But actually careen means
turning a ship on its side to scrape off barnacles.
Nod quickly surveys the hull—anomaly—
and brings Anne out of hib, using CNS stimulants
then espresso.  Collect from the housekeeping cubicle
one stainless steel scrubber plus one putty knife!
Suit up for first EVA of estimated six!  Why?
Why?  We seem to have barnacles, Anne.
We need to careen!  Nod briefly increases centrifugal spin
to simulate rolling a ship on its side in the void.
Magnetise your boots outside, Anne, use a long tether!
Anne remembers mad HAL.  Compliance may be wise.

Outside, as stars wheel around the hull, Anne discovers
scarcely visible stiff black jelly polyps (sessile ones,
not pedunculated with a stalk) which may be dark matter
—this is a bit like a colonoscopy of interstellar space.
While scrubbing and scraping, Anne collects samples;
returns inside after three hours, job one-sixth complete.
More espresso.  Lab analysis.  Dark matter revealed!
Whatever else the crew may find at Alpha C,
Careening is the climax of Anne's career.

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