This is a short story that I read as part of a story collection. I read it like 10 years ago, but the collection was a bit older. I cannot remember the cover.

In the story, there are people living on a planet, and other people living either on a spaceship or a space station. The main thing is that people in space are either hibernating or experiencing time very slowly relative to ground people, due to effect of a nearby black hole or something. The consequence is while generations pass down on the planet, only a couple of days pass in the space people's lives. Once in generation (or generations), the space people wake up and come downstairs and mingle with the ground people in a kind of ball or meeting.

There are romantic or other relationships being experienced among individuals of spacers. While these relationships or love stories are mundane normal interactions for space people, their actions are scrutinized closely by grounders. After a couple of hours or days, the spacers leave for space. And it is couple of generations for the planet people until they descend again. In this time period the love affairs of space people creates a gigantic body of literature, theories, hypotheses, even followers of thought schools and even rival factions of supporters of different views.

At the beginning of the story I vaguely remember that planet people from rival thought schools are traveling to the descent location and are constantly trying to undermine or stop the other party from reaching to the destination.

This was a very interesting premise of how time difference changes people's perception of the world.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! This is a very well-written question, but you should check out the suggestions for story-id questions to see if they help you recall any more details you can edit into your question. For example, approximately when did you read it? What did the cover look like?
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 22:39
  • Thanks for your comment David. I will try to add more detail
    – Sarpus
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 22:50
  • 1
    Sounds like a scifi version of the 1947 musical Brigadoon, in which a Scottish village magically reappears for one day every century. Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 0:15
  • possibly related to scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/97099/…
    – Otis
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


This looks very much like Between the Strokes of Night by Charles Sheffield, a story published in 1985 on Analog, based if memory serves on an earlier shorter story which I think might very well be the one you got.

The "ball or meeting" is called Planetfest. The "constant undermining" actually takes place in Selection phase II and is where one of the characters, Peron, gets injured.

The story takes place in AD 30K, but was then given a prequel and a sequel (in AD 20 billion or so, IIRC) and became a full length novel.

From Wikipedia:

On a planet called Pentecost in the Eta Cassiopeiae system, a large human civilization of indeterminate technological level now exists. A standout feature of their culture is "Planetfest" a series of grueling endurance challenges. The top 25 finalists are given large prizes like high government positions or land holdings. This civilization is only aware of their Earth origins in a legendary sense. They have limited space travel capacity, and citizens who go to work in space come back with rumors about beings called Immortals, who apparently live forever and can travel light years in days, and have some kind of shadowy influence on their planetary government.

The story follows a Planetfest contestant, Peron, who has just found he finished in 3rd place. This year the winners are all taken to space, where further competition will send the top 10 to meet and work with the mysterious Immortals. Peron makes fast friends with the other top finalists and during their next cycle of challenges begin to uncover suspicious elements of the Immortals, Planetfest, and their entire society.

  • Note that it is a plot point that none of the people in the the S-space community (called "Immortals" on-planet) ever make themselves visible to the people on the planet, so there are definitely no love affairs with them.
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 0:11

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