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This is a short story (20 pages maybe) that I read in the mid-1980s in a Dutch anthology. The story is most likely translated from an English original.

It is set on a space-port (possibly an floating platform or artificial island at sea) where the main character is waiting to board a shuttle (or space-elevator?) to orbit. He sees a girl he finds interesting and asks her to get married. She agrees. The "marriage" consists of exchanging some sort of digital IDs that allow them later to enjoy simulated sexual experiences as if they were together.

If I remember correctly there is a third-person narrator that gives background information, including on how that "marriage" works. The narrator also explains that both have made many such marriages and will make many more.

People in this future setting are heavily genetically and bio-tech modified for reasons of fashion, life-style and work. Some are hardly recognizable as humans. Normal biological sex wouldn't even be possible or be very unpleasant for many.

The male character is a space pilot and his skin has metal in it (copper IIRC) as protection against harsh radiation. He also has loads of physical upgrades to enable him to operate under heavy G forces. The girl normally lives underwater and has adaptations to breathe underwater.

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  • This reminds me of John Varley's Hotline universe, but I don't recall seeing an actual story with these elements (though it's been some years since I reread the Hotline collections).
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jul 13, 2021 at 11:14

1 Answer 1

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"Day Million" by Frederik Pohl, first published in 1966. There is a copy on the Baen web site. I read it in Pohl's anthology Day Million but it has appeared in lots of collections.

The Man is Don:

I despair of telling you exactly what it was that Don did for a living—I don't mean for the sake of making money, I mean for the sake of giving purpose and meaning to his life, to keep him from going off his nut with boredom—except to say that it involved a lot of traveling. He traveled in interstellar spaceships. In order to make a spaceship go really fast about thirty-one male and seven genetically female human beings had to do certain things, and Don was one of the thirty-one. Actually he contemplated options. This involved a lot of exposure to radiation flux—not so much from his own station in the propulsive system as in the spillover from the next stage, where a genetic female preferred selections and the subnuclear particles making the selections she preferred demolished themselves in a shower of quanta. Well, you don't give a rat's ass for that, but it meant that Don had to be clad at all times in a skin of light, resilient, extremely strong copper-colored metal. I have already mentioned this, but you probably thought I meant he was sunburned.

The woman is Dora:

And yet there's Dora, hurrying back through the flushing commute pipes toward her underwater home (she prefers it there; has had herself somatically altered to breathe the stuff).

And as you say, they marry then part never to see each other again:

They met at the encoding room, with a couple of well-wishing friends apiece to cheer them on, and while their identities were being taped and stored they smiled and whispered to each other and bore the jokes of their friends with blushing repartee. Then they exchanged their mathematical analogues and went away, Dora to her dwelling beneath the surface of the sea and Don to his ship.

It was an idyll, really. They lived happily ever after—or anyway, until they decided not to bother any more and died.

Of course, they never set eyes on each other again.

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  • Oh man... That's quick. I just checked the fist couple of paragraphs on the Bean site and it is definitely the correct story.
    – Tonny
    Jul 13, 2021 at 11:21
  • Dutch title is "Miljoendag", and all covers of collections it was in are found here and here. According to the ISFDb, it was translated twice: in 1975 by Warner Flamen and in 1986 by Anita C. van de Ven.
    – SQB
    Jul 14, 2021 at 11:18

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