City of Light
July 2, 2009 10:54 PM   Subscribe

SF short story filter: I read this sci-fi short story a long time ago. It's fairly memorable...I'm hoping someone on AskMeFi knows of it.

Here's the synopsis.
The story begins with the protagonist attempting to enter a distant city, an alien one on our planet. The aliens have destroyed civilization and planted their cities on the planet in various places.
In the first passage, the hero is attempting to cross a field guarded by a floating energy being. Another traveler warns him the only way to get across is to move in a haphazard fashion with no particular pattern to his movement. He gets across safely and into the city.
Here's where it gets interesting. The city is composed of what I remember being described as solidified light that is responsive to concentrated will or focus. Our hero takes up residence and meets other humans living there who have pretty much the same status as rats in a human city.
The humans are generally ignored by the aliens who seem to be composed of complex energy patterns and have no point of reference for communication with earth folks.
Over time the hero learns to manipulate the alien city's light substance and performs various tricks like creating a sled through mental control that whisks him through the city at one point.
Finally, he learns the secret of the aliens is that when you can form circles of certain colors of the solid light energy and pass one inside the other, energy is emitted. The suggestion at close is that the hero has found a way for humanity to win back control of the planet.
I'd love to find and read this short story again.
posted by diode to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's a novel by John Brunner, "Age of Miracles" (also known as The Day of the Star Cities). Maybe the novel was an expansion of the short story, or maybe you're remembering wrong :)

I couldn't remember the name either, but I remembered the quote: "rats get on ships." And somehow, that was enough for google!
posted by moonmilk at 5:55 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

There was a short story; I remember reading it. Sorry, I don't have a name.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:46 AM on July 3, 2009

I believe The Day of the Star Cities is a shorter version of Age of Miracles, if that's what you're thinking of when you're thinking "short story."
posted by pemberkins at 1:04 PM on July 3, 2009

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