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Trying to identify a short story, probably from a collection, probably American, probably from the 1990s, about a team of astronauts in a specially built ship that have returned to explore the region around the earth from the asteroid belt, where all surviving humans remain.

Years before, a kind of voracious catalytic spore had reached our solar system from deep space. It did little damage to the outer planets, as they were too cold, but consumed everything in the region of the earth. There was a vivid description of the fantastic pace at which the stuff operated once it settled in earth's biomass, and of the moon, which had sort of puffed out when eaten.

The main characters are in a ship that has been specially designed to resist the spores. The hull is coated with nanostructures to which the spores have trouble clinging, and can be rinsed with chemicals that denature them.

Spoiler of sorts -- in the end the hull is breached and it is revealed that the spores have collective intelligence. They have been recording and preserving everything they "eat".

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    This is making me think of "Bloom" by Wil McCarthy. However that is a full length novel, not a short story (i was reading it last week as an epub!) – DannyMcG May 29 '18 at 10:16
  • As Danny says, the plot you describe is exactly that of the novel Bloom by Wil McCarthy. I'd guess that either you've misremembered it as a short story or McCarthy's novel is based on a similar short story. – John Rennie May 29 '18 at 10:38
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    In the acknowledgements to Bloom McCarthy says Thanks to ... Charles C. Ryan, who purchased the novelette from which this (quite effective) story eventually grew. I wonder if it's this novelette you're remembering. – John Rennie May 29 '18 at 10:55
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    @JohnRennie almost certainly that novelette. The Wikipedia summary of “Bloom” has so much in common it has to be related. – Michael Stern May 29 '18 at 11:01
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    Huh. I tried contacting McCarthy via his website (wilmccarthy.com/contact.htm) but the email bounces, saying the email address is no longer active. – FuzzyBoots May 29 '18 at 11:38

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