A Russia for Yuri Nikolaevich

The idea for A Russia for Yuri Nikolaevich evolved from a com­pan­ion piece, A Solitude of Space, which was itself inspired by a cent­ral theme of Lem’s Solaris: that con­tact between human­ity and an ali­en civil­isa­tion may not bring mutu­al under­stand­ing.

The first draft of A Russia began as a story about a space­craft pro­pelled by the col­lect­ive will of gal­ley slaves. Disruption arrives in the form of a woman whose mind is power­ful enough to alter the course of the ship. The second draft re-ima­gined the story as that of a hus­band and wife tak­ing a final cruise in the dying days of their mar­riage. Again, they sailed an inten­tion-powered craft, this time across the sur­face of an ocean plan­et. The story hinged on the man’s struggle to power the craft with his will, and how he deals with the rev­el­a­tion that his wife also has the power.

In the third draft, I placed the story on a snow plan­et and made the char­ac­ters marooned, Chinese astro­nauts. They named the plan­et wo, which means I, me, myself. The story was fine, but I wasn’t quite happy with it; prob­ably I was uncon­vinced by the abil­ity of the female astro­naut to con­jure great ice struc­tures from the per­ma­frost.

Between the third and fourth draft, I read a bio­graphy of the Soviet rock­et engin­eer and design­er Sergei Korolev. The astro­nauts became cos­mo­nauts in a future Soviet Union. The snow turned to ash. The cos­mo­nauts named their plan­et sushnyek.

I’ll let you find out what sushnyek means when you read the story on the Unsung Stories web­site, if the mood takes you.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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