Excerpt from The Milky Way by Moiya McTier, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Milky Way

An Autobiography of Our Galaxy

by Moiya McTier

The Milky Way by Moiya McTier X
The Milky Way by Moiya McTier
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2022, 256 pages

    Aug 2023, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Lyndal Martin
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

You likely can't relate, but even being the best at something gets old after a while. So, when the beautiful chaos I'd created stopped exciting me, I put it all on autopilot. That's why I became much less active nine billion years ago. Your astronomers have noticed that I slowed down my star production back then, but they all chalked it up to a decrease in available star-forming gas. They're technically not wrong, but did they ever think to ask me why I lost so much gas? How I was feeling at the time? No, none of you ever think to ask me anything anymore. That's the problem.

You might be wondering what I was doing in those nine billion years. Well, while what I do in my sleep is orders of magnitude more impressive than anything you could ever accomplish, I spent most of my time thinking. You know, reflecting on past deeds and reveling in my triumphs. I passed the occasional message back and forth with other galaxies in my neighborhood, mostly the dwarf satellites who hang around because they're just so attracted to me. Literally. It's a gravity thing. I've grown a bit fond of some of them.

That might not seem like much activity to fill nine billion years, but you must remember that our lives don't operate on the same timescales. I've already lived for more than ten billion years and I'll still be living at least a trillion years from now, long enough after your puny sun has self-destructed that an exact date is meaningless. It would be generous of me to compare your life span to a blink of my eye, except I don't actually have eyes. You can call someone on the other side of your world and talk to them immediately with the help of signals traveling at the speed of light. It takes me more than twenty-five thousand years to send a light message to my nearest neighbor. Taking a million years to think about that one time I said, "You too," when another galaxy told me to enjoy my supernova? That's nothing.

I'm getting carried away, which you'll realize happens often. My point is that I was steeping in my own thoughts for literal eons until you humans popped up about two hundred thousand years ago.

It was…astounding how much you didn't understand. And I wouldn't say you've come much closer to solving the deepest mysteries of the universe, but at least back then humans knew the most important thing: that I'm incredible.

Through your stories, you taught your children to look up at me when they lost their way. It took you ages to stop chasing all those four-legged creatures—some of you still do—but eventually you figured out that you could track my motion to determine the best time to plant your crops. And I saved thousands of lives once you learned you could use me to predict oncoming disasters. That wasn't just your ancestors attempting a kind of magic; it was their knowing that my movement aligned with cyclical events in nature like regular floods or insect swarms, even if they did often end up explaining away such events with magic or religion.

Your stories made me feel loved and needed and, perhaps for the first time in my long existence, more helpful than I was ruinous. Every galaxy should feel so lucky as to know it has positively affected the universe. Well, for other galaxies, it's luck. For me, it's just raw beneficent talent.

It's not that I craved your attention or needed a group of people to worship the ground that I don't walk on. I wasn't just waiting for ten billion years for you to come around and stroke my ego. But once you did, it was comforting to know that I could help you along. So much of what I do is destroy.

Then, in what felt like no time at all, that feeling dissipated. It started in the 1300s when you made the first mechanical clocks, and it only became worse when you invented telescopes three hundred years later and finally saw me in more detail. Once you could keep your own time and realized I wasn't merely a celestial reflection of divine will, most of you assumed you didn't need me anymore. You stopped looking up, stopped telling my stories, stopped letting me guide you. At first, I thought it was just a phase, that you were lost and would come back to me when you were ready. I've gone through enough phases of my own to afford you a brief neglectful period. Patience, after all, is one of my best qualities.

Excerpted from The Milky Way by Moiya McTier. Copyright © 2022 by Moiya McTier. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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