I read this at least 25 years ago. It is short fiction, but I think it is a novelette rather than a “short story” per se.

It takes place on a planet where the cycle of the seasons lasts about 30 of our years (or maybe more, I am not sure – or maybe just 20, but no less than that), and the seasons are more extreme than on Earth. Humans from Earth colonised it, then somehow lost the chance to go back and so have to deal with the weather. I don’t remember any conflicts with “locals”; the hardships of the weather are bad enough.

The story focuses on a boy (I think? but maybe it’s a a girl) finding a starship, and the woman living there invites him (her?) in and pretends her ship is working and can take him (her?) back to Earth or off-planet at least. But it is a hoax: she is just showing taped material, though it might be some “virtual reality” that almost convinces the boy/girl. The boy/girl finds out, however, when (s)he finally leaves the woman, because the ship is deeply entangled with vines: it clearly has been there for a very long time.

I first thought I could find it myself through some words I think I remember, like deepwinter and highsummer in a single word to describe the many years (by our reckoning) that a single season lasts there, but Googling them led nowhere. Also the name of the vine that the ship is entangled with: I am almost sure it begins with bitter- as in maybe bittervine or bitterweed.

I have already looked up the Helliconia series, but it does not fit my memories of this rather shortish story – too short for even a novella, probably a novelette, maybe even a “short story”, but on the longish kind.

  • 4
    This sounds like it could be the Helliconia series. At least the part about the extreme and long seasons. You might check the answer at: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/67397/… to see if it rings a bell.
    – beichst
    Dec 21, 2019 at 23:32
  • Well, no that does not ring a bell. As a matter of fact, I did remember once having already investigated the Helliconia and convinced myself it was not the one. I'll edit my question to add this memory. Thanks anyway.
    – Alfred
    Dec 21, 2019 at 23:55
  • You might also like "In the House of the Worm" and "Dying of the Light", which take place in the same universe as "Bitterblooms" (although on different planets).
    – Natural30
    Dec 22, 2019 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


George RR Martin "Bitterblooms"

It's part of his Thousand Worlds series. You have described it very well (after a re-read, noted that protagonist was female).

I remember reading it in the short-lived large format magazine "Cosmos".

  • 2
    Bitterblooms, not bittervines , of course !
    – Alfred
    Dec 22, 2019 at 2:21
  • You remembered it in great detail! Dec 22, 2019 at 2:33

Your Answer

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

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