Wolfe's comments from the Introduction to Starwater Strains

"Castaway is about birds and spaceships. It's a story not many people like, although those who like it seem to like it a lot."


A space-faring man is haunted by the story about a woman told to him by an old survivor from a spaceship crash.


  • The "dead world nobody ever goes to" where the castaway was found is Earth. We know this because the air is very breathable and the world year is a near-perfect match to a standard year. However, the fact that the standard year has been lengthened by half an hour suggests that the space-farer's time has become completely dissociated from concepts like Earth's rotation and orbit. It was probably changed for some bureaucratic accounting reason.
  • The sun has apparently become a red giant, since it was "red and real close, but there didn't seem to be a lot of heat in it." This is somewhat like the red sun of Urth, though that was artificially created by implanting a black hole.
  • The woman is Gaia, spirit of the living Earth. She is dying because of human neglect. They cast her away.
  • Man has traveled at least to the galactic rim. They have abandoned other settled plants, including the castaway's own home world. "We're not there anymore, I told him."
  • The narrator has no concept of trees or birds. His world is colorless and utilitarian.
  • "Atrothers" is close in pronunciation to a French phrase: "Se l'accrocher", to have to do without something. Possibly the enemy was a French colony.

Unresolved Questions

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