24

Plots Summary/Details

The story is told from the POV of an astronaut who, along with his crew, is launched into orbit to investigate a weird phenomena that has entered local space. Several enormous fields of darkness, probably alien beings (not sure if that is initially understood) are floating near Earth. I'm not sure if they have encircled the Earth at the beginning of the story, or if they move into position after the spaceship has attempted to investigate them.

While encircling the planet, Earth is in total communications blackout with the protagonist and the other astronauts. During this time, the Sun emits a massive solar flare. Tremendous amounts of energy and radiation hurtle towards Earth. It would be a disaster for the planet, but the aliens' nature blocks the incoming energy, saving the planet and everyone on it.

Unfortunately for the astronauts, their spacecraft is not spared the effects of the flare. They absorb lethal doses of radiation and heat, leaving them debilitated and dying. As the alien beings move off, the protagonist, too weak and injured to respond to hails or reply, realizes the people of Earth will never know that the aliens came as saviors. Instead, they will likely blame the aliens for his death and the death of the other crew in the spaceship. The story closes with the protagonist's thought that man will one day seek vengeance on the creatures, thinking them murderers instead of saviors.

Timeframe of Publication

Older story, for sure. I'd guess 50's or 60's, based upon the premise and style of the writing. Might be older than that.

4
  • 2
    I remember a Comic book, in the Late 60s, Early 70s? It used this same idea. In the Comic, the earth is quickly covered by a VERY thick grey fog. No one can see anything, everyone is stumbling around in the dark. It only lasted for a short time. (6 hours? 24 hours?) and then dissipated. No one knew what caused it. THEN cut to the final scene in an alien spaceship tracking another alien spaceship leave. Saying, Its a good thing we did that, those bad aliens would have wiped them out taking over the planet. The humans will never know we saved them. This comic probably based on the same story.
    – NJohnny
    Apr 20, 2018 at 2:13
  • @user14111 I believe it was in an anthology, yes.
    – Helbent IV
    Aug 8, 2018 at 18:48
  • 3
    Though not the story you're talking about, it's eerily similar to the Dr. Who episode "In the Forest of the Night", a sudden overgrowth of trees in this case protecting against the solar flair.
    – Benboy
    Aug 7, 2020 at 4:29
  • Are you sure about the time frame? It sounds like the story 'Spin': en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spin_(novel) Jun 14, 2021 at 17:29

1 Answer 1

7

Your plot summary matches the short story "Nightmares" by Ian Watson almost perfectly.

"Nightmares" is the second story of Ian Watsons second collection "Sunstroke And Other Stories", The collection is from 1982, but the style of the story is very descriptive and poetic, which gives it a vintage impression (i.e. more vintage than the eighties).

Most of your plot summary matches the story so good it could be used as back cover text, so I'll limit myself to pointing out the differences to the story:

I'm not sure if they have encircled the Earth at the beginning of the story, or if they move into position after the spaceship has attempted to investigate them.

The spaceship is launched because the alien beings have blocked out the stars for some time and are inciting fear and anguish in all humanity. The launch is not explorative; the crew is expected to destroy or drive away the aliens. From the story:

At last we are ready to burn them off the worlds 
backside, and see our stars and galaxy again. ...

Instead, they will likely blame the aliens for his death and the death of the other crew in the spaceship.

The death of the crew is unknown to the people of Earth, at least until the story ends. The only reason for vengeance stated by ground control is the perceived attack on earth, the theft of the stars and attempted theft of the day.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.