The Peak of Eternal Light • 2012 • Science Fiction novelette by Bruce Sterling


Meta: isfdb. This SF short story appeared 2012 in Edge of Infinity.

Synopsis:  Colonists on Mercury live in a strict matriarchal society, a mixture of 19th century conservativsm and strict Purdah marital tradition with gender segregation and body concealment. Pitar meets his wife Lucy on their tenth wedding anniversy to perform their ceremonial and conjugal duties. Lucy expresses her wish to meet with Pitar more often in a safe environment, perhaps with one of those modern „bicycles“. As a second occasion we witness a subsequent death and funeral of one of the planet’s rulers.

Review:  Sterling is one of my favourite authors since the start of Cyberpunk back in the 80s.

This outstanding social satire concentrates on the protagonists‘ relationship dictated by their cultural background which feels a bit like „Steampunk in Space“. He mixes in grand ideas of colonization which don’t end in Mercury settlements like in Robinson’s 2312 but in plans for settlements within the Sun and spreading out to the stars.

I don’t like the Purdah culture at all and I assume that Sterling doesn’t either, but like in a dystopian fiction it gives reason to think about how our cultures would evolve. It is an enjoyable narration with a humorous and tongue-in-the-cheek tone, especially when he hints at different cultures on Earth, Mars, the Asteroids, etc. and reflects on their traditions from the viewpoint of Mercurian inhabitants.

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