This is a short story I desperately want to read this story again, by William Gibson or Bruce Sterling (80% sure it's one of these two).

There's a part where some of the workers in a space setting (asteroid mining?) are described as listening to signals from stars or some such, as a form of entertainment or relaxation.

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    I don't have time to look through all of those guys' stories either, so could you possibly narrow down the time frame a little? Can you give us a definite "no later than" date? Do you remember if you read it in an anthology book, or if it was in an original magazine like Analog or Asimov's or Omni?
    – user14111
    Mar 27, 2019 at 1:58

4 Answers 4


Cicada Queen by Bruce Sterling. Also identified as the answer to Story with people called "lobsters" who are welded into spacesuits for life? although that didn't mention the listening to stars.

It's the aforementioned Lobsters who listen to the stars. The relevant part of the story is:

The Crowned Pawn was like a ship turned inside out. It centered around a core of massive magnetic engines, fed by drones from a chunk of reaction mass. Outside these engines was a skeletal metal framework where Lobsters clung like cysts or skimmed along on induced magnetic fields. There were cupolas here and there on the skeleton where the Lobsters hooked into fluidic computers or sheltered themselves from solar storms and ring-system electrofluxes.

They never ate. They never drank. Sex involved a clever cyber-stimulation through cranial plugs. Every five years or so they "molted" and had their skins scraped clean of the stinking accumulation of mutated bacteria that scummed them over in the stagnant warmth.

They knew no fear. Agoraphobia was a condition easily crushed with drugs. They were self-contained and anarchical. Their greatest pleasure was to sit along a girder and open their amplified senses to the depths of space, watching stars past the limits of ultraviolet and infrared, or staring into the flocculate crawling plaque of the surface of the sun, or just sitting and soaking in watts of solar energy through their skins while they listened with wired ears to the warbling of Van Allen belts and the musical tick of pulsars.

  • Yep, that's the story I read! What really strikes me is how much the description of the Lobsters (starting with 'Their greatest pleasure...') reminded me of amateur astronomers (and that includes me). Thanks for posting!
    – CForbin
    Mar 28, 2019 at 23:30

Perhaps you are thinking of Red Star, Winter Orbit which is written by both William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. It takes place on a Soviet space station which, I believe matches the description you provided. Here is the synopsis from Wikipedia:

The story takes place on the Soviet space station Kosmograd ("Cosmic City"), which consists of a number of Salyuts linked together. The station has both civilian and military roles; the military portion is a base for the operation for two large particle beam weapons for shooting down ICBMs. The civilian side, once a hub for space exploration, is now reduced to a maintenance role for the engineers running the station. Most of the story takes place in one of the Salyuts that has been set aside as the "Museum of the Soviet Triumph in Space". Its caretaker is cosmonaut Colonel Yuri Vasilevich Korolev, the first man on Mars. | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Star,_Winter_Orbit

P.S. Welcome to Sci-Fi Stack Exchange!

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    Maybe that's it. Unfortunately, the Wikipedia summary doesn't mention anything about geeks listening to space noise. Maybe you can find something like that in the text of the story? (I didn't see anything on a quick look-through with my weak eyes, but that doesn't mean much.)
    – user14111
    Mar 27, 2019 at 1:55
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    Thanks for the welcome, and thanks for the tip. Even though this wasn't the story, it was close, and helped me remember more details of the story I was thinking about (oh, the mysteries of human memory). I was about to post these additional story details when I saw the above reference to Cicada Queen.
    – CForbin
    Mar 28, 2019 at 23:25

Perhaps Beacon 23, by Hugh Howey? Here's the summary from Goodreads:

For centuries, men and women have manned lighthouses to ensure the safe passage of ships. It is a lonely job, and a thankless one for the most part. Until something goes wrong. Until a ship is in distress. In the 23rd century, this job has moved into outer space. A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at many times the speed of light. These beacons are built to be robust. They never break down. They never fail. At least, they aren't supposed to.

I can't find a relevant quote, but the main character relaxes by laying his head against some sort of gravity-wave based beacon. He thinks he gets a high of some kind from this.

  • Beacon 23 is a novel not a short story, and the character isn't listening to anything. The quote is: I doubt I’m the only one who sits with my back to the machine, letting it soothe my head like a straight-up whiskey while I gaze out at the dull gray stones of the asteroid field that makes an awful mess of astral navigation. Mar 27, 2019 at 17:44

Probably not what you're looking for, but Contact by Carl Sagan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contact_(novel) has an astronomer (not quite space setting), who listens to signals from stars for "entertainment or relaxation".

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