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I remember reading a novel from maybe the 80s about a village on Earth in the far future, after the Sun has gone red giant. The protagonist discovers that an 'alien' visitor is a descendant of humans who left Earth millennia ago. The visitor brings 'magic' technology that causes an existential crisis in the village and the protagonist eventually leaves to find an underground city or space elevator to leave Earth or something.

I thought the title had something to do with the protagonist's job of protecting the village from the constant wildfires, like 'Fire Guardian' or 'Watcher' or something, but that didn't come up with anything.

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I think you might be talking about Magician by Allan Baillie. If a 'magic staff' rings a bell, its definitely this one.

it's been a while since I've read it, but the opening premise is that the protagonist lives in a primitive village built into a canyon, named Howling Gap. There is a Magician who lives in a tower nearby, and the seas are full of dangerous black fish who replaced the other fish generations ago. The sun is a red giant, and most.of the world is a baked desert. They mistake an 'Alien' arriving as the feared 'Darkness' of their mythologies, and end up embarking on a revelatory adventure to ancient subterranean cities, like Hobart, which were domed and later naturally buried.

The 'magic staff' is revealed to be a high tech construction tool that had at some point started to become used as a weapon. The magician, despite being the most educated of the people in the village, was barely more aware of the true history.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F! This sounds promising; you should add some specific details of the book to your answer to demonstrate how it matches the question.
    – DavidW
    Dec 7, 2023 at 20:31
  • @Rantarian: Edit those details into your answer instead of posting them as comments.
    – jwodder
    Dec 7, 2023 at 20:46
  • @jwodder done, thanks. Interface is a bit clunky on my phone.
    – Rantarian
    Dec 7, 2023 at 20:52
  • @Rantarian Very nice! +1.
    – DavidW
    Dec 7, 2023 at 20:59
  • This seems to be the one I remember, thanks so much! Dec 9, 2023 at 2:29
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This is a long shot, but parts of your description remind me of City at World's End, a novel by Edmond Hamilton which was also the answer to the old questions Wake up a planet by detonating deep down in the core? and 50s Sci Fi book: "Superbomb" sends town to far future with Sun a red giant star and Book about a town that is transported by an explosion into a freezing desert. The text is available for free from manybooks.net, or you can read the original magazine version (possibly shorter) at the Internet Archive, or listen to a reading at Librivox.

I remember reading a novel from maybe the 80s

City at World's End was originally published in 1950, but you might have read the 1974 Fawcett Crest edition or the 1983 Del Rey / Ballantine edition.

about a village on Earth in the far future,

Not a village but a 20th century American small town named Middletown was propelled to the far future by a "super-atomic bomb."

after the Sun has gone red giant.

I don't know about the astrophysics, but in the story the sun is bigger and redder and colder than it used to be:

It wasn't the Sun — not the Sun they and all the generations of men had known as a golden dazzling orb.

They could look right at this Sun without blinking. They could stare at it steadily, for it was no more than a very big dull-glowing red ball with flames writhing around its edges. It was higher in the sky now than it had been before. And the air was cold.

The protagonist discovers that an 'alien' visitor is a descendant of humans who left Earth millennia ago.

The Middletowners are visited by a delegation composed of humans and various kinds of space aliens. The human visitors are indeed descended from people who abandoned Earth long ago:

Piers Eglin was speaking on. "We didn't dream of such a possibility when we were sent to investigate the signals from Earth. No one has lived on this planet for thousands of years."

[. . . ,]

Piers Eglin eagerly explained. "I'm an historian, specializing in the pre-Atomic civilization of Earth. I had to learn its language, from the old writing and speech-records still preserved. It's why I asked leave to accompany this party."

"But why is Earth lifeless? What happened to its peoples in these ages that have passed?"

The other told him, "Earth's people in those ages spread out to other worlds. Not so much to the other planets of this System — the outer ones were cold, and watery Venus had too tiny a land-surface. But to the worlds of other stars, across the galaxy.

"But as time went on Earth itself grew so cold that even in these domed cities life was difficult. So the Board of Governors evacuated the remaining people of Earth to other, warmer star-worlds."

The visitor brings 'magic' technology

One of the space-humans has a plan to make Earth habitable again using magic technology :

"Most planets, like your Earth, have a central core of iron and nickel. Now a transformation of iron to nickel in cyclic reaction had been achieved in the laboratory, liberating much energy. I asked myself — instead of in a laboratory, why not start that reaction inside a planet?"

"Then it woul reproduce the basic solar reaction inside such a planet?" Kenniston said incredulously.

"Not really, for the iron-nickel cycle does not yield such terrific radiation as your Solar Phoenix," Arnol corrected. "It would, however, create a giant solar furnace inside a planet and raise the surface temperature of that world by many degrees."

that causes an existential crisis in the village

Conflict arises because the proposed technological fix is considered dangerous and has been outlawed, so most of the spacers want to evacuate the Middletowners to another world, but they are reluctant to leave Earth.

and the protagonist eventually leaves to find an underground city or space elevator to leave Earth or something.

There is no underground city or space elevator in the story. There is a domed city and a very deep hole in the ground which in ages past brought subterranean heat to the surface.

I thought the title had something to do with the protagonist's job of protecting the village from the constant wildfires, like 'Fire Guardian' or 'Watcher' or something

That doesn't seem to match anything in the story.

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It's only somewhat on point, but the "space elevator" makes me wonder if you are remembering Arthur C. Clarke's The Songs of Distant Earth, initially a novella (1958), and later (1986) published as a full novel.

A human colony half a millennium old, which has been out of touch with Earth for centuries is visited by a human generation ship which has left Earth as Sol has gone nova.

A space elevator to the ship figures, as does some drama & tragedy related to the visitors.

Songs of Distant Earth paperback cover first UK edition

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  • This was the first I thought of. The visitors were actually from an FTL ship though, and one of the major plot points was that the people from earth (with all their emotional baggage and their history of conflict) essentially "corrupted" the natives who were living an idyllic existence. Dec 7, 2023 at 20:31

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