More About Diamond Tear: Cherry LP Cyclone

An art exhibit I visited a decade ago has an influential role in the events of my story, “Diamond Tear,” now free to read at James Gunn’s Ad Astra magazine.

About ten years ago, in the early 2010s, my wife and I made our second or third visit to the Huntsville Museum of Art. While we’d lived in the Huntsville area for ten years by then, we’d only just started checking out some of the local attractions–downtown Huntsville didn’t have a lot going for it before then…

Photo by Munoz Photography

We visited on a Thursday night, when the Art Museum stays open late and admission is half price. There was an exhibit of art glass, along with works from other artists. The glass came from the studio of Stephen Rolfe Powell, born in Birmingham, Alabama, and then working out of the glass studio he’d founded at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Powell created glass works in a handful of whimsically named styles: Whackos, Zoomers, Screamers, and…Echoes.

The museum had enclosed a portion of one gallery, leaving it dark but for overhead full spectrum lights projecting straight down onto the Echoes exhibited in the room. Echoes are glass bowls. And they are…stunning.

Cherry LP Cyclone, by Stephen Rolfe Powell

“Stunning” is the right word because when I stepped into that room I literally (literally literally, not figuratively literally) stopped in my tracks.

There’s an episode of the 90s SF series Babylon 5 where Kosh, the enigmatic Vorlon ambassador, brings B5‘s Commander Sheridan to a place to experience “one moment of perfect beauty.” (There All The Honor Lies, S2 E14.)

That’s what I experienced when I stepped into that room: one moment of perfect beauty.

When I came back to myself I just immersed myself in that exhibit. I don’t recall the names of the pieces I saw, and I didn’t have a camera at the time, so that experiences lives–and is savored–solely within my memory.

There are some **spoilers** for Diamond Tear just ahead, so if you haven’t already, you ought to go read the story.

At the Remembrance service, Jezendra needed to get away from the well-meaning, supportive, and sympathetic crowd, there for her and her lost husband. It can be a bit overwhelming. As I wrote this story I knew that Jez needed to briefly step away, to go somewhere quiet to catch her breath, to regain some stamina before returning to the crowd. She needed…one moment of perfect beauty.

And I had one for her.

I don’t recall if the the piece in the story, Cherry LP Cyclone, was part of that Huntsville Art Museum exhibit all those years ago, but when I went looking for images of Powell’s glass bowls, I spotted it in an art catalog. It had the colors that were deeply meaningful to Jez and Alonde: the dark red for Pluto’s moon Charon, blue for the color of Neptune that hung above Alonde’s birthplace on Triton, and white for the frozen nitrogen plains of Sputnik Planitia, where the two met, fell in love, raced together, and where Alonde all too soon set off on his solo ride with eternity.

Cherry LP Cyclone, by Stephen Rolfe Powell

This was such a perfect fit for the story–the experience I had at the art museum, the colors of this piece, the story that I was telling, all built on a foundation of the discoveries of the New Horizons spacecraft on its lone journey to the furthest reaches of the solar system.

Stephen Powell himself passed away unexpectedly in 2019, leaving a legacy of art and artists that will forever enrich the beauty of this world.

And perhaps, in two hundred years or so, another…

Pluto Sunrise, by Don Davis

About Diamond Tear

Diamond Tear, a story about ice skimmer racing on Pluto, random tragedy, art, and recovery is now available on James Gunn’s Ad Astra website.

Source: NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft

The genesis of this story came about a little differently from how I typically come up with one, and due to that approach even has two siblings. It went something like this:

I tried to write a story that took place in the outer solar system a few years ago. It dealt (or tried to) with joy, loss, and recovery set against a backdrop of interplanetary travel. The writing did not go well. I couldn’t rein it in, couldn’t come up with a good direction for it, so I finally just put it on the shelf. Thought that maybe I could revisit it after a while and something then might click–after all, doing just that did work for The Gardener of Ceres.

But nope, in this case it just wasn’t happening. However, there were some sections in it that I thought had some potential–not really vignettes that could be extracted and molded into a story, but seeds I could transplant that might sprout up into their own story.

The first story that grew from this scrapped story was a drabble, “Mercury’s Ice,” that was published in Martian Magazine. It captured the experience of just the loss that was present in the original.

The joy, then, appeared in another drabble, “Falling In Love At Verona Rupes,” also published in Martian Magazine.

Pluto had worked its way into the original story at the end, and from that grew a whole new story, Diamond Tear, that was simply set on Pluto, and that incorporated one of my science fictional hoped-for-someday activities: racing ice boats–skimmers–across that world’s frozen nitrogen ice sheet, Sputnik Planitia.

Diamond Tear ended up with all the joy, loss, and hope of the initial aborted attempt at a story. And after several productive back-and-forths with the Ad Astra editorial team, captured what I was going for in that original story way back when.

Along the way it ended up merging in the secret language that a heart-bonded couple can’t help but create, pineapple pizza, and a stunningly beautiful (and real!) piece of art glass.

Cherry LP Cyclone, by Stephen Rolf Powell

While the original story never itself saw the light of day–nor beta readers–it’s heritage lives on here in Diamond Tear and the two sibling drabbles.

PS: There’s more about Diamond Tear I’d like to talk about, but I’ll save that for another post.