Looking for a particular short-story in an anthology (I don't think it was an entire novel). Set in the future, a planet was colonized by accident that is essentially like Mercury ... too close to a sun to support human life. Two mobile cities were built by the survivors that keep moving across the entire diameter of the planet to stay on the "night-side" of the planet each "day". They follow a trail that includes going up and down switchbacks across mountains and craters. They are not on rails (such as in Kim Stanley Robinson's moving Terminator city on Mercury); they move via wheels or treads or even "feet" (I don't remember which) and the trail has treacherous portions that are key to part of the plot.
The cities are old and badly maintained. Their populaces have lost a lot of their technical knowledge and barely keep the cities operational. I seem to remember the cities are called or considered cathedrals or citadels, and have adopted ritualistic/church-like practices for social order and city maintenance.
And of course, the denizens of the two cities now hate each other, and attempt to disable the competing city from moving ahead of the sunrise. For the plot, the protagonist is attempting to prevent the antagonist from disabling his city, and of course the antagonist is initially successful in disabling the city's movement. With sunrise nearing, the protagonist needs to somehow save the city yet has to deal with the rigid city hierarchy.
I was sure this story was in my personal Sci FI library (over 600 books), but for the life of me I cannot re-find this short-story and its author. It was certainly written before the 2000's but I think it was more recent than "golden-age" 50s and 60s Sci-Fi. It's style might seem like steampunk from what I described, but I read this before the steampunk craze.
=== FOLLOW-UP Dec'15 Rev 2 ===
There is a useful Wikipedia posting on "Walking Cities" which contains a nice list of fictional stories that involve large moving structures the size of cities. Also two Trope Pages documenting similar stories with literature citations: "Base On Wheels" and "Mercurial Base". I have checked out all the cited stories from all these links, and no joy in finding what I was looking for.
To help ensure I get an actual answer rather than reputation-grabbing answers, since apparently I need to be specific, these stories are NOT the one I'm looking for as I've researched each of them:
- Kim Stanley Robinson: Mars trilogy, 2312, Mercurial, The Memory of Whiteness
- Alastair Reynolds: Absolution Gap
- Christopher Priest: Inverted World
- Greg Bear: Strength of Stones
- Charles Stross: Saturn's Children
- Philip Reeve: Mortal Engines quartet
- Timothy Zahn: The Thrawn Trilogy (e.g. Heir to the Empire)
- Storm Constantine: Calenture
- Anthology "Periodic Table of Science Fiction": Michael Swanwick: Mercury
- William Hope Hodgson: The Night Land
- William Nicholson: Wind on Fire series
There are two stories I am in the process of researching.
I just finished re-reading Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds. Its Hela storyline is not exactly what I was trying to locate (I distinctly remember a short story form), but the Cathedrals in Absolution Gap (especially the "walking" Lady Morwenna cathedral) are very similar. In particular, in the short story I'm looking for, the writing describes the Cathedrals going down something similar to the "Devil's Staircase", with one nearly falling off.
However, it got me thinking. Alastair Reynolds has written an extensive number of short stories over the years. Perhaps he had explored the concept of moving "cities" across a small planet or moon in an early short story. Or even an early short story of the Quaiche Cathedrals on Hela set before the timeframe of Absolution Gap, effectively making it a prequel.
So I sent Mr Reynolds an email asking if he had written a short story about the Cathedrals, and he was kind enough to promptly send me a thorough answer:
From: Alastair Reynolds
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 7:46 AM
Subject: Re: Prequel short story of the Cathedrals in Absolution Gap?
It's not one of mine, as I've never done a prequel featuring the cathedrals. My first thought was it might be an early Kim Stanley Robinson story called "Mercurial" which features a moving city, but I can't find a detailed synopsis of it and don't have a copy of it to hand to check. I don't think there were two cities in that story, though, just the one, so it's probably not the piece you're thinking of.
I myself have a vague recollection of a story featuring a race between two ice-schooners, which involved a descent down some kind of steep wall, but that's probably something else again.
If you don't mind, I'll put a query out on my Twitter account as there are some very knowledgeable SF readers there.
thanks, and best wishes, Al
Its wonderful that many authors such as Mr. Reynolds take time to interact with their fans, and even take an interest in their inquiries. I'll report back if an actual answer turns up from his three Twitter posts (One Two Three).