19

From the 70s or early 80s. Set on a world where deadly missiles wink into being, seemingly out of nowhere. They originate from a place, or places, where physical laws are wildly different: there a missile might fly at high speed, but here they hang unsupported and near-motionless in the air. Children make a game of climbing on them. Graffiti is scratched in the soft metal of their casings.

It is found that warring parties in a different continuum are firing these missiles at each other. For reasons unknown, they briefly pop into existence here on this world. For the most part they vanish away as mysteriously as they came. But sometimes, without warning, they explode, leaving nothing but a vast skating rink of molten glass in their wake.

The peaceful people, whose lives and world are slowly being annihilated, must find a way to reveal their existence and to beg an end to the conflict. I forget how they do it, but eventually they succeed.

An Internet search for the story turned up this question

... from Omnificer last year. I can rule out the same lengthy list of stories, as none of them come close to what I recall.

1
  • Sounds 'Perfectly Normal' to me. Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 10:50

1 Answer 1

26

This immediately makes me think of Ian Watson's "Slow Birds" (1983), which I remember matching quite well.

The blurb on Goodreads says:

They were called slow birds because they flew through the air - at a pace of three feet per minute. Slow birds always kept the same height above the ground and they would bank to avoid substantial buildings, but frailer obstructions they would push on through. No one could keep track of a single slow bird. After each one appeared it would fly onward slowly for any length of time between an hour and a day. And vanish again. To reappear somewhere else unpredictably.

And in one of the reviews:

The "Slow Birds" are slow floating objects which teleport in random places and vanish after a short time. Sometimes they explode the surrounding landscape into glass craters. The people live in little villages on the remaining islands of unexploded land. The craters are employed as the grounds for inter-village glider races. One such race is interrupted by a slow bird. A young boy, differentiated from the other hucksters by his curiosity in where the slow birds come from and where they go, grabs onto one and vanishes with it.

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  • 5
    Yes, that’s it exactly! Much richer in detail than I remember, and part of a collection, to boot. Thank you!
    – user147074
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 5:47

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