science fiction
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Cold Light of the Stars

This tale of space conquest brims with dramatic events and stunning reversals

The mishaps started all at once. Even before District Secretary Marian Jaworski had composed himself from the scandal awaiting him at the Konstanty Ciolkowski Space Center, Victor Dobrowolski was already snug in his spacesuit. In a matter of hours, he was seated, raring to go, in the pilot’s chair of a classified military spacecraft that the Bureau of Engineers had been developing in secrecy since the mid-1970s. Netze-2015 – so went its code name. It was a hideous piece of work known to site personnel as “Slipper” due to its oddly boot-like shape. A shape that, for the moment, was invisible, for Netze was sheathed inside its service structure, mated to a Siren-5B rocket. This formidable body of staggering height was braced by four solid-propellant rockets in radial formation that would propel the ship into the orbit of the Onarna Space Station. From there, a third-stage Siren rocket would set Netze on a Mars-bound course, at which point the spacecraft would manoeuvre on its own fuel. Equipped with sealed hatches designed to carry military surveillance devices, Netze could, in a pinch, double as a rescue vessel so that Dobrowolski could escort Novotko and her crew to low orbit, where they could dock to the International Space Station Europa. Netze’s initial acceleration was so great that its effects on the pilot inside would exceed the typical discomforts of liftoff. Success was hardly guaranteed. This is why Dobrowolski, a world-class cosmonaut of the democratic world, second only to Nowicki, had been chosen for

mission command.

He was sitting in the Slipper’s cabin, listening to the countdown, when he heard a bang. A distorted sound

penetrated the cabin, drowning out Flight Control’s numerical chant. Victor, alarmed, turned his head inside the helmet of his spacesuit. It sounded like someone was banging right on the vessel’s casing. But that was impossible. At least theoretically impossible, for the banging resounded still and was growing louder. And there – yes – some other sound, could it be a woman’s voice?

‘Control?’ he spoke tentatively into his headset.

‘Vic?’ came the muffled voice of Maciek Strzępa, communications officer and Vic’s old friend. ‘Listen, Vic, you’re breaking up…Do you read?’

‘Maciek, hold on, you’re not coming through. Something’s banging on the hull! Hey, listen!’ Victor craned his head inside the helmet, as if to bring his ear up to the hull.

‘There. Hell, we’re live!’ came Maciek’s garbled voice.

And at that moment the clamour grew louder. Dobrowolski heard a slam, and a harsh light assailed his eyes. In the haze an image took shape before him, something resembling an angel. ‘Nonsense,’ he thought. ‘There’s no such thing.’ But what else could it be? Shadowed against a radiant block of light was an elegant figure with long, wavy hair.

A block of light? Long hair? But surely, an angel should have wings…

‘Victor, oh hell!’ The angel caught him by the collar. By what collar? Shit. Victor raised a gloved hand to his helmet visor and was surprised to find that both glove and helmet had vanished. He blinked. The image before him blurred, as if smeared to one side. Noise rushed in his ears. Shit, must be the G-force, he thought in a fog. Hallucinations from the solitude of flight, he resolved. He managed to focus his vision and made out a tangle of dark hair and eyes glinting with anger, fixed dead on him.

‘Victor, what the hell!’ Finally he recognised the owner of those incensed eyes. It was Gloria. His friend from the second year of Flight School, which he had just finished. Yes, only just finished, that’s right! They’d sailed through their exams and test flights and pulled it all off. Gorgeous Gloria, who turned the heads of all her male classmates.

‘What… what’s going on here?’ he moaned while all around them, the world was spinning like a centrifuge into which their trainers and instructors had thrown them to the mercy of the G-force.

Excerpt translated by Eliza Rose

science fiction
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Cold Light of the Stars

This tale of space conquest brims with dramatic events and stunning reversals

Publisher: Wydawnictwo IX, Kraków 2020
Translation rights: Bartosz Biedrzycki,

World War II is over, but the situation on the front remains unstable. So opens the novel Cold Light of the Stars. The war’s aftermath is not the only point where this world diverges from our own. Classified data from the Nazi space programme has been intercepted by Polish forces. In a postwar Europe bisected by the Iron Curtain, the Socialist Bloc enjoys ample freedom, and the emerging field of space exploration is hardly monopolised by the United States or Soviet Union. The men and women of Poland are at the vanguard of the new Space Age.

Biedrzycki’s highly original alternative history rides the momentum of two current trends: popular culture’s nostalgia for retro fantasy and the 21st century revival of space exploration. Cold Light of the Stars tells the story of Galactic Gloria (the first Polish woman in space), her husband Victor and their close friend Jerzy, who are all embroiled in a complex triangle of fierce attachments. This episodic tale of space conquest brims with dramatic events and stunning reversals. Reminiscent of the Oscar-winning Gravity, the novel reveals that the gravest threats lurking in space are not little green aliens but glitchy technology, human error and the vacuum itself – that place where even the loudest scream falls on deaf ears. Yet the novel’s heroes are not on a doomsday course. On their side is the headstrong socialist spirit, bravura of youth and idealism of the wild frontier.

English-language readers have Andy Weir’s The Martian. Biedrzycki, aided by rich supplemental materials (diagrams, illustrations, apocryphal articles from the described period), spins a similar story that is nonetheless rooted in an alternative reality – one that holds great allure today.

Michał Cetnarowski

Translated by Eliza Rose

Selected samples

Julita Deluga
Wojtek Wawszczyk, Tomasz Leśniak
Anna Kańtoch
Andrzej Bobkowski
Wisława Szymborska
Zdzisław Kranodębski
Andrzej Nowak
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jarosław Jakubowski
Anna Piwkowska
Roman Honet
Miłosz Biedrzycki
Wojciech Chmielewski
Aleksandra Majdzińska
Tomasz Różycki
Maciej Hen
Jakub Nowak
Elżbieta Cherezińska
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
作者:沃伊切赫·維德瓦克(Wojciech Widłak), 插圖:亞歷珊德拉·克珊諾夫斯卡(Aleksandra Krzanowska)
文字:莫妮卡·烏特尼-斯特魯加瓦(Monika Utnik-Strugała), 概念和插圖:皮歐特·索哈(Piotr Socha)
作者:亞格涅絲卡·斯特爾馬什克(Agnieszka Stelmaszyk)
尤安娜·日斯卡(Joanna Rzyska)、阿嘉妲·杜德克(Agata Dudek)、瑪格熱妲·諾瓦克(Małgorzata Nowak) Druganoga出版社,華沙2021
艾麗莎·皮歐特夫斯卡(Eliza Piotrowska)
米科瓦伊·帕辛斯基(Mikołaj Pasiński)、瑪格熱妲·赫爾巴(Gosia Herba)
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
瑪麗安娜·奧克雷亞克(Marianna Oklejak)
拉法爾·科希克(Rafał Kosik)
亞歷珊德拉·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Aleksandra Woldańska-Płocińska)
巴托米耶·伊格納邱克(Bartłomiej Ignaciuk), 阿嘉塔·洛特-伊格納邱克(Agata Loth-Ignaciuk)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
羅珊娜·延澤耶夫斯卡-弗魯貝爾 (Roksana Jędrzejewska-Wróbel)
作者:普舎米斯瓦夫·維赫特洛維奇(Przemysław Wechterowicz) 插圖:艾米莉·吉烏巴克(Emilia Dziubak)
尤斯提娜·貝納雷(Justyna Bednarek) 插圖:丹尼爾·德拉圖爾(Daniel De Latour)
尤安娜·巴托西克(Joanna Bartosik)
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Jan Kochanowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Olga Tokarczuk
Władysław Stanisław Reymont
An Ancient Tale
Stanisław Rembek
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Henryk Sienkiewicz
Maria Dąbrowska
Stefan Żeromski
Bronisław Wildstein
Zbigniew Herbert / Wisława Szymborska
Karol Wojtyła
Wiesław Myśliwski
Czesław Miłosz
Anna Świrszczyńska / Melchior Wańkowicz
Tadeusz Borowski / Gustaw Herling-Grudziński
Wiesław Helak
Góra Tabor
Adriana Szymańska
Paweł Rzewuski
Mariusz Staniszewski
Radek Rak
Urszula Honek
Kazimierz Orłoś
Rafał Wojasiński
Antonina Grzegorzewska
Józef Mackiewicz
Tobiasz Piątkowski, Marek Oleksicki
Daniel Odija
Bronisław Wildstein
Józef Mackiewicz
Józef Mackiewicz
Witold Szabłowski
Andrzej Muszyński
Wiesław Helak
Bartosz Jastrzębski
Dariusz Sośnicki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Jakub Małecki
אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jakub Małecki
Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło


Marta Kwaśnicka
Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
Jakub Małecki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Wojciech Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Weronika Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Anna Kamińska

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Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
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Anna Bikont
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Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
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Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
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Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
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