First of all, I want to say that as I was writing the title of this post, the page suggested an already solved question whose answer is World Without End by Gwynplaine MacIntyre, but despite the striking similarities, it's almost certainly not it, because that short story was published in 2010 and I read this one back in the nineties or the early 2000s. (Now, it's possible that MacIntyre's story is actually older than the publication date I found, but the details I remember are still different; perhaps this short story inspired his?)

So, this short story has a woman who has a capsule made of nanobots, designed to preserve her life in a variety of external conditions. I thinks she travels across space so it makes sense that the capsule must adapt itself to different environments.

The capsule is successful in preserving the woman's life to the point that when it becomes necessary, it melts with the surrounding landscape in order to get materials and energy to keep itself functioning.

The woman is kept alive until the Sun dies, or even beyond that.

EDIT: I live in Argentina. I read this story in a digital SF magazine called Axxón, which started publishing around 1989 (in diskettes!). The magazine is in Spanish. I wish I could check the old issues but they don't run anymore on modern machines.

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    I wonder if the date for the MacIntyre story is wrong in ISFDB. It does only show 2010, but that is for an inclusion in a "best of apocalyptic SF" anthology published that year; it seems likely the story was published before that elsewhere. 2010 was also apparently the year MacIntyre died, so again seems likely the story was published eariler. Mar 4 at 13:49
  • Do you mean “melds” instead of “melts”?
    – RLH
    Mar 4 at 21:31
  • Maybe. English is not my fist language. The device fuses with its surroundings. The Spanish translation says: “Vaina se había visto forzado a reparar subsistemas esenciales con materias primas tomadas del planeta. Pudo ver, a través de la cubierta, que parecía como si la base de Vaina hubiera sido derretida y hubiera fluido por metros cuadrados del terreno, filtrándose en el cuerpo de ese mundo.” Mar 4 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


I found it! It's The Spacetime Pit by Stephen Baxter and Eric Brown.

I installed DOSBox and I managed to open the old issues of Axxón so I ended up scouring my collection that I hadn't been able to read for years. Issue 80, from 1996, includes the story. It's long and it includes lots of stuff I didn't describe in the post (or remember), but the details I gave were pretty much exact.

Huge spoilers for the story up to the ending:

This woman gets stranded in a primitive planet with her capsule, and with no way to get to the mothership, so she decides to push evolution forward and wait for the natives to develop space travel for her as she waits inside the capsule. When this fails and all life in the planet is destroyed, she is forced to wait more and more while evolution generates the nutrients she needs to be kept alive by the system. In the end she makes it to the end of the planet itself -- when its sun becomes a red giant and swallows it (and her).

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