‘Relativistic Effects’ by Gregory Benford
It takes a few pages to find out what the relativistic effects of the title are and it took me those few pages to embrace the story. ‘Relativistic Effects’ starts as just a day in the office with blunt worldbuilding and a clunky future dialect. I thought I was faced with another competant man Miner of the Future story. But no, Benford is interested in peeling away the surface layer of the universe and looking at what is underneath, not just bashing up an asteroid.
And then it becomes clear what the context of this all is. Our sub-space miner is on a spaceship stuck in fifth gear, they are hurtling forward at almost the speed of light with no way of slowing down. Earth is five million years in the past. In their introductions, Hartwell and Cramer talk of the universe as antagonist being a hallmark of hard SF and it is perfectly demonstrated here. The weight of the implacable universe crushes the characters and turns what could have been another lump of coal into a diamond.