Glory Season

by David Brin

We would have every path lain open to women. … Where this done … we would see crystallization more pure and of more various beauty. We believe the divine energy would pervade nature to a degree unknown in the history of former ages, and that no discordant collision, but a ravishing harmony of spheres, would ensue.

—Margareth Fuller

To Cheryl Ann

who rescued Maya from Flatland

and me from loneliness

Twenty-six months before her second birthday, Maia learned the true difference between winter and summer.

It wasn’t simply the weather, or the way hot-season lightning storms used to crackle amid tall ships anchored in the harbor. Nor even the eye-tingling stab of Wengel—so distinct from other stars.

The real difference was much more personal.

“I can’t play with you no more,” her half sister, Sylvina, taunted one day. “ ’Cause you had a father.”

“Did n-not!” Maia stammered, rocked by the slur, knowing that the word was vaguely nasty. Sylvie’s rebuff stung, as if a bitter glacier wind blew through the creche.

“Did so had a father, dirty var!”

“Well… then you’re a var, too!”

The other girl laughed harshly. “Ha! I’m pure Lamai, just like my sisters, mothers an’ grandmas. But you’re a summer kid. That makes you U-neek. Var!”

Dismayed, too choked to speak, Maia could only watch Sylvina toss her tawny locks and flounce away, joining a cluster of children varied in age but interchangeable in appearance. Some unspoken ritual of separation had taken place, dividing the room. In the better half, over near the glowing hearth, each girl was a miniature, perfect rendition of a Lamai mother. The same pale hair and strong jaw. The same trademark stance with chin defiantly upraised.

Here on this side, the two boys were being tutored in their corner as usual, unaware of any changes that would scarcely affect them, anyway. That left eight little girls like Maia, scattered near the icy panes. Some were light or dark, taller or thinner. One had freckles, another, curly hair. What they had in common were their differences.

Maia wondered, Was this what it meant to have a father? Everyone knew summer kids were rarer than winterlings, a fact that once made her proud, till it dawned on her that being “special” wasn’t so lucky, after all.

She dimly recalled summertime’s storms, the smell of static electricity and the drumbeat of heavy rain on Port Sanger’s corbelled roofs. Whenever the clouds parted, shimmering sky-curtains used to dance like gauzy giants across distant tundra slopes, far beyond the locked city gates. Now, winter constellations replaced summer’s gaudy show, glittering over a placid, frost-decked sea. Maia already knew these seasonal changes had to do with movements of Stratos round its sun. But she still hadn’t figured out what that had to do with kids being born different, or the same.

Wait a minute!

Struck by a thought, Maia hurried to the cupboard where playthings were stacked. She grabbed a chipped hand mirror in both hands, and carried it to where another dark-haired girl her own age sat with several toy soldiers, arranging their swords and brushing their long hair. Maia held out the mirror, comparing her face to that of the other child.

“I look just like you!” she announced. Turning, she called to Sylvina. “I can’t be a var! See? Leie looks like me!”

Triumph melted as the others laughed, not just the light-haired crowd, but all over the creche. Maia frowned at Leie. “B-but you are like me. Look!”

Oblivious to chants of “Var! Var!” which made Maia’s ears burn, Leie ignored the mirror and yanked Maia’s arm, causing her to land hard nearby. Leie put one of the toy soldiers in Maia’s lap, then leaned over and whispered. “Don’t act so dumb! You an’ me had the same father. We’ll go on his boat, someday. We’ll sail, an’ see a whale, an’ ride its tail. That’s what summer kids do when they grow up.”

With that surprising revelation, Leie returned contentedly to brushing a wooden warrior’s flaxen hair.

Maia let the second doll lay in her open hand, the mirror in the other, pondering what she’d learned. Despite Leie’s air of assurance, her story sounded easily as dumb as anything Maia herself had said. Yet, there was something appealing about the other girl’s attitude… her way of making bad news sound good.

It seemed reason enough to become friends. Even better than the fact that they looked as alike as two stars in the sky.


Never understate the voyage we’re embarked on, or what we knowingly forsake. Admit from the start, my sisters, that these partners cleaved to us by nature had their uses, their moments. Male strength and intensity have, on occasion, accomplished things both noble and fine.

Yet, even at best, wasn’t that strength mostly spent defending us, and our children, against others of their kind? Are their better moments worth the cost?

Mother Nature works by a logic, a harsh code, that served when we were beasts, but no more. Now we grasp her tools, her art, down to its warp and weft. And with skill comes a call for change. Women—some women—are demanding a better way.

Thus we comrades sought this world, far beyond the hampering moderation of Hominid Phylum. It is the challenge of this founding generation to improve the blueprint of humanity.

—from the Landing Day Address, by Lysos


Sharply angled sunlight splashed across the table by Maia’s bed, illuminating a meter-long braid of lustrous brown hair. Freshly cut. Draped across the rickety night-stand and tied off at both ends with blue ribbons.

Stellar-shell blue, color of departure. And next to the braid, a pair of gleaming scissors stood like a dancer balancing on toe, one point stabbed into the rough tabletop. Blinking past sleep muzziness, Maia stared at these objects—illumined by a trapezoid of slanting dawn light—struggling to separate them from fey emblems of her recent dream.

At once, their meaning struck.

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