Authors: Spider & Jeanne Robinson
Spider & Jeanne
a Baen Books
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
copyright © 1977, 1978, 1979;
copyright © 1991,
copyright © 1994, by Spider & Jeanne Robinson.
A Baen Book Original
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403 Riverdale, NY 10471
ISBN 10: 1-4165-2082-1
ISBN 13: 978-1-4165-2082-2
Cover art by Kurt Miller
First Baen printing, September 2006
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The stardance trilogy / by Spider & Jeanne Robinson.
“A Baen Books original.”
ISBN-13: (invalid) 978-1-4165-2082-2
1. Science fiction, American. I. Robinson, Jeanne. II. Title.
PS3568.O3156S725 2006 813'.54--dc22 2006012263
Distributed by Simon & Schuster 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020
Printed in the United States of America
Lady Slings the Booze
The Stardance Trilogy (with Jeanne Robinson)
Very Bad Deaths
This one’s for Luanna Mountainbourne,
who may well make prophets of us one day…
“In order to find one’s place in the infinity of being,
one must be able both to separate and unite.”
What we’d like to do here is thank all the people without whom this book could not have been finished, as opposed to, but not excluding, that general gang of friends and relatives who kept us alive during its writing; they would have done so anyway, book or no book, and should be thanked in different ways.
Among the former and sometimes the latter are: Ben Bova, Gordon R. Dickson, our agent Kirby McCauley, our editor and friend Jim Frenkel, Joe W. Haldeman, Jerry Pournelle, Ph.D., and Laurence Janifer, all of whom donated information, advice, and assistance above and beyond the call of friendship, all at the cost of working time or leisure or both. It should be clearly understood that none of the above people are to blame for what we have done with their information and aid: any errors are ours.
On a less personal but just as basic level, this book could also never have become what it is without
A House In Space,
Henry S.F. Cooper’s fascinating account of zero-gee life in Skylab; G. Harry Stine’s
The Third Industrial Revolution,
which built Skyfac in our minds; the recent works of John Varley and Frank Herbert, who roughly simultaneously pioneered (at least as far as we know) the concept on which the ending of this book depends; Murray Louis’s exquisite and moving columns in
; the books, past advice and present love of Stephen Gaskin; the inspirational dance of Toronto Dance Theatre, Murray Louis, Pilobolus, the Contact Improv Movement, and all of our dancing buddies in Nova Scotia; the lifework of Robert Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, Edgar Pangborn, and John D. MacDonald; the whiskey of Mr. Jameson, the coffee of Jamaica, and the music of Frank Zappa, Paul Simon, and Yes.
I can’t really say that I knew her, certainly not the way Seroff knew Isadora. All I know of her childhood and adolescence are the anecdotes she chanced to relate in my hearing—just enough to make me certain that all three of the contradictory biographies on the current best-seller list are fictional. All I know of her adult life are the relatively few hours she spent in my presence and on my monitors—more than enough to tell me that every newspaper account I’ve seen is fictional. Carrington probably believed he knew her better than I, and in a limited sense he was correct—but he would never have written about it, and now he is dead.
But I was her video man, since the days when you touched the camera with your hands, and I knew her backstage: a type of relationship like no other on Earth or off it. I don’t believe it can be described to anyone not of the profession—you might think of it as somewhere between co-workers and combat buddies. I was with her the day she came to Skyfac, terrified and determined, to stake her life upon a dream. I watched her work and worked with her for that whole two months, through endless rehearsals, and I have saved every tape and they are not for sale.
And, of course, I saw the Stardance. I was there. I taped it.
I guess I can tell you some things about her.
To begin with, it was not, as Cahill’s
and Von Derski’s
Dance Unbound: The Creation of New Modern
suggest, a lifelong fascination with space and space travel that led her to become her race’s first zero-gravity dancer. Space was a means to her, not an end, and its vast empty immensity scared her at first. Nor was it, as Melberg’s hardcover tabloid
The Real Shara Drummond
claims, because she lacked the talent to make it as a dancer on Earth. If you think free-fall dancing is easier than conventional dance, you try it. Don’t forget your dropsickness bag.
But there is a grain of truth in Melberg’s slanders, as there is in all the best slanders. She could
make it on Earth—but not through lack of talent.
I first saw her in Toronto in July 1989. I headed Toronto Dance Theater’s video department at that time, and I hated every minute of it. I hated everything in those days. The schedule that day called for spending the entire afternoon taping students, a waste of time and tape that I hated more than anything except the phone company. I hadn’t seen the new year’s crop yet, and was not eager to. I love to watch dance done well—the efforts of a tyro are usually as pleasing to me as a first-year violin student in the next apartment is to you.
My leg was bothering me more than usual as I walked into the studio. Norrey saw my face and left a group of young hopefuls to come over. “Charlie…?”
“I know, I know. They’re tender fledglings, Charlie, with egos as fragile as an Easter egg in December. Don’t bite them, Charlie. Don’t even bark at them if you can help it, Charlie.”
She smiled. “Something like that. Leg?”
Norrey Drummond is a dancer who gets away with looking like a woman because she’s small. There’s about a hundred and fifteen pounds of her, and most of it is heart. She stands about five-four, and is perfectly capable of seeming to tower over the tallest student. She has more energy than the North American Grid, and uses it as efficiently as a vane pump (do you know the principle of a standard piston-type pump? Go look up the principle of a vane pump.) There’s a signaturelike uniqueness to her dance, the only reason I can see why she got so few of the really juicy parts in company productions until Modern gave way to New Modern. I liked her because she didn’t pity me. We lived together once, but it didn’t work out.
“It’s not only the leg,” I admitted. “I hate to see the tender fledglings butcher your choreography.”
“Then you needn’t worry. The piece you’re taping today is by…one of the students.”
“Oh fine. I knew I should have called in sick.” She made a face. “What’s the catch?”
“Why did the funny thing happen to your voice just as you got to ‘one of my students’?”
She blushed. “Dammit, she’s my sister.”
Norrey and I go back a
way together, but I’d never met a sister—not unusual these days, I suppose. My eyebrows rose. “She must be good then.”
“Why, thank you, Charlie.”
“Bullshit. I give compliments right-handed or not at all—I’m not talking about heredity. I mean that you’re so hopelessly ethical you’d bend over backward to avoid nepotism. For you to give your own sister a feature like that, she must be terrific.”
“Charlie, she is,” Norrey said simply.
“We’ll see. What’s her name again?”
“Shara.” Norrey pointed her out, and I understood the rest of the catch. Shara Drummond was ten years younger than her sister—and a good eighteen centimeters taller, with fifteen or eighteen more kilos. I noted absently that she was stunningly beautiful, but it didn’t lessen my dismay—in her best years, Sophia Loren could never have become a Modern dancer. Where Norrey was small, Shara was big, and where Norrey was big, Shara was bigger. If I’d seen her on the street I might have whistled appreciatively—but in the studio I frowned.
“My God, Norrey, she’s enormous.”
“Mother’s second husband was a football player,” she said mournfully. “She’s awfully good.”
“If she is good, that is awful. Poor girl. Well, what do you want me to do?”
“What makes you think I want you to do anything?”
“You’re still standing here.”
“Oh. I guess I am. Well…have lunch with us, Charlie?”
“Why?” I knew perfectly well why, but I expected a polite lie.
Not from Norrey Drummond. “Because you two have something in common, I think.”
I paid her honesty the compliment of not wincing. “I suppose we do.”
“Then you will?”
“Right after the session.”
She twinkled and was gone. In a remarkably short time she had organized the studio full of wandering, chattering young people into something that resembled a dance ensemble if you squinted. They warmed up during the twenty minutes it took me to set up and check out my equipment. I positioned one camera in front of them, one behind, and kept one in my hands for walk-around closeup work. I never triggered it.
There’s a game that you play in your mind. Every time someone catches or is brought to your attention, you begin making guesses about them. You try to extrapolate their character and habits from their appearance. Him? Surly, disorganized—leaves the cap off the toothpaste and drinks boilermakers. Her? Art-student type, probably uses a diaphragm and writes letters in a stylized calligraphy of her own invention. Them? They look like schoolteachers from Miami, probably here to see what snow looks like, attend a convention. Sometimes I come pretty close. I don’t know how I typecast Shara Drummond, in those first twenty minutes. The moment she began to dance, all preconceptions left my mind. She became something elemental, something unknowable, a living bridge between our world and the one the Muses live in.