Two stories in particular stayed with him. In one, a young woman on Saturn’s giant moon Titan discovered one of the fabled gardens created by the great gene wizard Avernus, hidden inside a bubble habitat buried at the bottom of a deep rift. When she cycled through its airlock the young woman found that it still lovely and perfect centuries after the gene wizard’s death: groves of slender birch trees standing amongst black rocks and lawns of thick black moss, lit by bright chandeliers. But as she walked through it, it began to die. Chandelier light dimmed to an eldritch glow. Her p-suit boots left white prints in the moss that began to grow like puddles of spilt milk. The fresh green leaves of the birches around her darkened, turned red, and began to fall, a red snow fluttering down across the dying, piebald lawns. And the paper-white bark of the trees began to darken too, turning black as soot. The young woman realised that she had triggered the garden’s death, that she had become Avernus’s collaborator in a work of art. That she was the sole witness to its transient beauty. The spills of white widening across the floor. The red leaves fluttering down. The skeletons of the leafless trees blackening as if consumed by an invisible fire. She sat in the middle of the garden, aching with sorrow and wonder and awe.
The second story began in a holy city threatened with invasion by a True battle fleet. The city's two priest-kings burned the sole copy of the sacred book at the heart of their religion, so that it would not fall into the hands of the infidels, and divided their people into two groups and fled into the Kuiper belt. The priest-kings had memorised every word in the book; each established a refuge where the children and children’s children of their followers learned the sacred text by heart. But as generation succeeded generation errors crept into the memorised text, subtly changing it, subtly changing the creed and customs of the religion. A million years passed. At last, the long, slow orbits of the icy kobolds of the refuges brought them close. After first contact the two groups immediately declared war, each convinced the other was a nest of heretics, and the bitter battles left no survivors.