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Some time ago I read an interesting story in which the spirits of volunteers/astronauts have been separated from their bodies and somehow converted into beings called "Angels", who work in coordination with other astronauts inside spacecraft, caring for stars. Does anyone know what the story and who the author might be?

I read this probably between 1986-2000. As best I can remember, it was published in English, in a single-author short story collection, and I read it in the USA. I think it was a US author, but might have been from the UK.

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  • Hi, welcome! I recently read G.R.R. Martin's short story "Fast-Friend" which is about select astronauts merging with spaceborne creatures to become semi-corporeal faster-than-light beings, who would occasionally visit with astronauts and former companions. Incidentally, the story also includes a being referred to as an "angel" by the main character. There's nothing about "caring for stars" as I recall but it may be worth looking into. Jan 26 at 19:53

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It may be "Fast-Friend" by George R. R. Martin.

I couldn't find a great synopsis online, but here's one of my own from memory:

On Changeling Station, astronauts attempt to merge with spaceborne creatures. Those lucky enough to merge become "fast-friends": semi-corporeal beings capable of travelling the stars faster-than-light. These fast-friends travel to extrasolar human colonies, established by slow generation ships, to convey messages to and fro. As time passes, the fast-friends become more estranged from their former humanity, eventually leaving known space for parts unknown.

The plot revolves around and astronaut named Brand, whose partner became a fast-friend, but who had backed out himself after seeing a failed merge. Guilt-ridden, he becomes more and more desperate to find a way to join her.

While the fast-friends themselves are not referred to as angels, Brand has a genetically engineered fairy-like being with him on his ship for companionship, which he consistently refers to as his/an angel.

Brand woke in darkness, trembling, and called out. His angel came to him.

She floated above him, smiling, on wings of soft gauze gold. Her face was all innocence, the face of a lovely girl-child, softness and light and wide amber eyes and honeyed hair that moved sinuously in free-fall. But her body was a woman’s, smooth and slim and perfect; a toy woman fashioned on a smaller scale.

“Brand,” she said, as she hovered above his sleep-web. “Will you show me the fast-friends today?”

He smiled up at her, his dreams fading. “Yes, angel,” he said. “Yes, today, I’m sure of it. Now come to me.”

The story was published in 1976 but has been reprinted in several of Martin's anthologies, including Sandkings, as well as in a back-to-back "double feature" book with his story "Starlady".

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    Thanks for the response! I don't believe that's it, though. In the story I read they were referred to explicitly as Angels, and I remember they were indeed caretaking star-systems, trying to get them not to go nova, or something like that. What was striking about the story -- as I remember it -- is its austere nature, the austere nature of the writing.
    – Cerulean
    Jan 27 at 11:10

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