guess where and by whom
the
oss
competition

Preliminary note:

Sorry, folks, that this quiz has so far been mostly too hard!  But now take heart - I am making it one stage easier.

Here are the surnames of the authors of the excerpts that you haven't yet guessed.

Aldiss, Burroughs, Clarke, Hamilton, Heinlein, Hogan, Kuttner, Lewis, Moore, O'Neill, Temple, Williamson, Wyndham.

Armed with these clues, I suggest you have another go!


Vacancies exist for the post of Archon for each Solar System body.

Those who get the most answers right will be appointed Archon for the relevant body (or group of bodies, as in the case of the Asteroids).  However, Archons are not appointed for life, only for how long they can retain the post of top scorer.

If more than one person submits correct answers before my next session on the site, I shall use discretion in sharing the points.  I can envisage a situation in which an Archonship might have to be shared, like Caesar and Pompey shared power for a while. 

Even where there is a clear winner, I might also list the also-rans as - I don't know - Powers, or something.

If you want to give only part of the answer to a competition, e.g. you can guess the planet but not the author or the story, or you can guess the author but not the rest of it, feel free to send your partial answer.

About my choice of material:

Lest too much of my own bias creeps in, I shall use the random key on a calculator to send me to points on my bookshelves, so that a certain proportion of my choices are random.

I shall also retain some room for personal bias, maybe 50%, but the rest will be, as I say, randomly chosen.

current competitions

competition no.4

From which story is the following extract?  1 point for the author and 1 for the name of the story.

"...Might there be something on the Moon - or something psychological about the experience of landing on the Moon - which drives men fighting mad?"

"I see.  You mean Fox looked round just in time to see Trevor and Woodford preparing to knock him on the head?"

"Exactly.  And Traill - for it was Traill - just in time to see Henderson a split second before Henderson murdered him.  And that's why I'm not going to risk having a companion; least of all my best friend."

"That doesn't explain Sandford."

"No.  That's why one can't rule out the other hypothesis."

"What's it?"

"Oh, that whatever killed them all was something they found there.  Something lunar."

"You're surely not going to suggest life on the Moon at this time of day?"

"The word 'life' always begs the question.  Because, of course, it suggests organization as we know it on Earth - with all the chemistry which organization involves.  Of course there could hardly be anything of that sort.  But there might - I at any rate can't say there couldn't - be masses of matter capable of movements determined from within, determined, in fact, by intentions."

competition no.5

1 point each for naming the world, the name of the story and who wrote it:

"Half a mile of forest equals a hundred miles of beach hiking," he remarked.

"That bad, sir?  I've never tackled it."

"Nobody does, unless they have to.  Keep your eyes open and your gun ready.  Don't wade through water, even when you can see bottom.  There are some little devils that are pretty nearly transparent - vampire fish.  If a few of those fasten on you, you'll need a transfusion in less than a minute.  I wish the volcanoes would kick up a racket.  The beasties generally lie low when that happens."

competition no.7

1 point each for world, story and author.

The humans saw its distorted eye break from the celeries.  Then they turned and fled.

Even when the danger was left behind, they still moved rapidly, not knowing what they sought.  Once they slept, ate, and then again pressed on through the unending growth, the undying daylight, until they came to where the jungle gaped.

Ahead of them, everything seemed to cease and then go on again.

Cautiously they went to see what they had arrived at.  The ground underfoot had been uneven.  Now it broke altogether into a wide crevasse.  Beyond the crevasse the vegetation grew again - but how did humans span that gulf?  The four of them stood anxiously where the ferns ended, looking across at the far side.

competition no.8

1 point each for the author and the story.

..."Let us suppose that you had to entertain a dozen representatives of each intelligent race in this planetary system and you wanted to make each one of them completely comfortable and happy.  Could you do it?"

Clare thought aloud.  "Air pressure, humidity, radiation densities, atmosphere chemistry, temperatures, cultural conditions - those things are all simple.  But how about acceleration?  We could use a centrifuge for the Jovians, but Martians and Titans - that's another matter.  There is no way to reduce Earth-normal gravity..."

competition no.9

1 point each for the world, the story and the author.

...What could he do?  His thoughts raced wildly, and one idea leapt into his mind.

The body of the giant brain was the mechanism that surrounded it.  The thick tubes were obviously its veins, the throbbing pumps its heart, the violet liquid in the tanks its blood.  If the mechanism had some vulnerable part...

If he could break the glass tanks...

His body was still stiff with the icy, numbing deadness in which the soundless music had left him.  And the stalking, mechanical, half-transparent men were near.  He staggered toward the nearer tank, grasping the heavy revolver by the barrel.

He stumbled against the side of the tank, hammered desperately upon it with the gun.  Apparently it was glass, but very thick and tough.  White cracks radiated from the points of impact, but it did not shatter.

Then the monsters were clawing at him with gleaming, skeletal talons - shocking him with the contact of their death-cold bodies.  They dragged him back...

competition no.10

1 point each for story and author.

Perhaps you can still remember the astonishment when the first Martian expedition found the remains not of one ancient civilization, but of two.  Both had been highly advanced, but both had perished more than five million years ago.  The reason was unknown (and still is).  It did not seem to be warfare, as the two cultures appear to have lived amicably together.  One of the races had been insect-like, the other vaguely reptilian.  The insects seem to have been the genuine original Martians.  The reptile people - usually referred to as 'Culture X' - had arrived on the scene later.

competition no.11

1 point each for the tale and the author:

...Such a hundred years had never been before, and could scarcely come again.  One by one the dams had burst, the last frontiers of the mind had been swept away.  When the century dawned, Man had been preparing for the conquest of the air; when it died, he was gathering his strength upon Mars for the leap to the outer planets.  Only Venus still held him at bay, for no ship had yet been built which could descend through the convection gales raging perpetually between the sunlit hemisphere and the darkness of the Night Side.  From only five hundred miles away, the radar screens had shown the pattern of continents and seas beneath those racing clouds - and Venus, not Mars, had become the great enigma of the Solar System...

competition no.12

1 point each for the tale and the author:

The  view was not much.  To eyes which had seen the landscapes of Earth it was not a view at all so much as just another section of the regular Martian backdrop.  In front and to the left smooth water spread like a silk sheet to the horizon.  A mile or more to the right lay a low embankment with yellow-red sand showing through rush-like tufts of skimpy bushes.  Far in the background rose the white crowns of purple mountains.

In the mild warmth of noon Bert let his boat carry him along.  Behind him, a fan of ripples spread gently and then lapsed back into placidity.  Still further back the immense silence closed in again, and nothing remained to show that he had passed that way.  The scene had scarcely changed for several days and several hundred miles of his quietly chugging progress.

competition no.13

1 point each for the planet, the tale and the author:

Looking back on the adventure afterwards it seemed to him that he floated out of blackness into greyness and then into an inexplicable chaos of semi-transparent blues and greens and whites.  There was a hint of arches above his head and faintly shining columns, but all vague and all obliterating one another as soon as seen.  It looked like a cave of ice, but it was too warm for that.  And the roof above him seemed to be itself rippling like water, but this was doubtless a reflection.  A moment later and he was rushed out into broad daylight and air and warmth, and rolled head over heels, and deposited, dazzled and breathless, in the shallows of a great pool.

He was now almost too weak to move.  Something in the air, and the wide silence which made a background to the lonely crying of birds, told him that he was on a high mountain top.  He rolled rather than crawled out of the pool on to sweet blue turf.  Looking back whence he had come he saw a river pouring from the mouth of a cave, a cave that seemed indeed to be made of ice.  Under the water it was spectral blue, but near where he lay it was warm amber.  There was mist and freshness and dew all about him.  At his side rose a cliff mantled with streamers of bright vegetation, but gleaming like glass where its own surface showed through.  But this he heeded little.  There were rich clusters of a grape-like fruit glowing under the little pointed leaves, and he could reach them without getting up.  Eating passed into sleeping by a transition he could never remember.

competition no.14

One point each for the planet, the author and the tale.

When I awoke, it was no longer pitch dark.  A pale, dim light was coming from above.  I looked round me.  I was on sloping ground covered by trailing growths.  I stood up.  I was stiff, and my body ached, but I was refreshed in my sleep.  On my right hand, lower down, I saw something that looked like the Central Sea.  On my left, the slope on which I was standing seemed to mount gradually, but the light was too dim for me to see far. 

I felt hungry.  I had eaten nothing since I left the city.  I took the food they had packed for me out of my knapsack, and began to eat.  It was slabs of snake-flesh, prepared with some sort of seasoning to preserve it.  They had also put a large skin bottle of some sort of liquor into my knapsack.  I took a drink.  It was a thin, sharp liquor, like rather sour wine, but it satisfied me.  I put the rest of the food and drink back into my sack and strode up the slope towards the left.

Thus began my second day's quest in the darkness.

The light was no so dim that I could not walk fairly quickly.  The ground was slimy under my feet and clogged my steps somewhat, but not sufficiently really to hamper my going.  My mind was cold and steady.  Its hysteria of the previous day had arisen from the loss of its foolish illusions.  As I plodded on now, I surveyed the new situation calmly.

The salient facts were that, while I had the freedom of the barren lands, and the darkness and dimness that lay over them alternately, I had no other freedom or access to any other place.  There was only one thing that I could attempt in these lands.  I could search for an exit from them into regions beyond the territory of this people.  Search for my father was out of the question.  He could hardly be in these lands, unless he were an outlaw...

competition no.15

1 point each for the author and the tale.

...I drove on.  Presently I saw, stretched across the horizon ahead, a bright line under the earthlight.  The Tycho streak.

As we neared it, the effect became spectacular.  We were coming upon the bank of a frozen river of metal so wide that we couldn't see the other side.  It appeared so effulgent to my eyes - accustomed to the dull rock bed - that I was forced to shade them for a while.

I could imagine how the first sight of this golden splendor must have smitten Colonel Marley.  Not just elusive specks in the riffles of his sluicing box, this, but the sudden and overpowering spectacle of the shining towers of El Dorado itself.

It was strange that while, unlike he, I knew it wasn't gold at all, I yet felt a surge of excitement.  Perhaps, at second-hand through Marley's daughter and Pettigue, I sensed that here was an abundance of something even more precious than gold.

competition no.16

1 point each for the tale and the author.

...He walked where certainly no Earthman had ever walked, and where probably no human being had been since the last true men left Chelorne.  He walked through an astonishing remnant of the glory that had been Mars, not all ruined and broken and faded, but bright and whole, the carvings sharp and the colors clear, the splendid frescoes and the golden building ornaments untouched by wear and thieving hands.

He walked, and behind him were Ylva and the guns, and ahead, around every turn and lurking in every doorway, might wait a swift and vengeful death from unhuman hands.

They entered a number of buildings along the way, but there was nothing in them but what had been too massive for the departing owners to carry with them.  Brancato cursed the lack of easily portable loot, and Skene said,

"That ain't what we came for.  We want the secret of how they made androids, and when we get it you can buy all the gold in the Solar System if you want it."

competition no.17

1 point each for the planet, the author and the story:

...She held him, after all, by nothing stronger than the clasp of her fingers, if he could keep his eyes turned from hers.  Therein lay her real power, but he could fight it if he chose.  And he began to hear more clearly than ever the queer note of warning in the rustling whispers of the tree-folk who still fluttered in and out of sight among the leaves.  The twilight place had taken on menace and evil.

Suddenly he made up his mind.  He stopped, breaking the clasp of the girl's hand.

"I'm not going," he said.

She swung round in a sweep of richly tinted hair, words jetting from her in a gush of incoherence.  But he dared not meet her eyes, and they conveyed no meaning to him.  Resolutely he turned away, ignoring her voice, and set out to retrace the way they had come.  She called after him once, in a high, clear voice that somehow held a note as warning as that in the rustling voices of the tree-people, but he kept on doggedly, not looking back.  She laughed then, sweetly and scornfully, a laugh that echoed uneasily in his mind long after the sound of it had died upon the twilight air.

After a while he glanced back over one shoulder, half expecting to see the luminous dazzle of her body still glowing in the dim glade where he had left her; but the blurred tapestry-landscape was quite empty.

competition no.18

1 point each for the world, the author and the tale.

I took one end of the rope in my left hand where I grasped the frame of the window, and held the hook in my right hand, permitting the slack of the rope to fall free beneath me against the side of the tower outside the window.

I gauged the distance upward to the sill of the window above.  It seemed too far for me to hope to make a successful cast from the position in which I was sitting, and so I arose and stood on the sill of the window.  This brought me a few feet nearer my goal and also gave me a little more freedom of action.

I was very anxious to be successful at the first cast; for I feared that if I missed, the rattling of the metal hook against the side of the tower might attract attention.

I stood there several minutes gauging the distance and going through all the motions of throwing the hook except actually releasing it. 

When I felt that I had the timing and the distance as accurately gauged as it was possible to do in this manner, I swung the hook upward and released it.

I could see the sill above me, because a faint light was coming from the room beyond it.  I saw the hook swing into this light; I heard it strike the sill with a metallic ring; then I pulled down  upon the rope.

The hook had caught!  I put considerable weight upon the rope, and still the hook held...

competition no.19

1 point each for the author and the story.

Perhaps the Venusians had been lucky.  They never knew the Dark Age that held Man enchained for a thousand years; they missed the long detour into chemistry and mechanics, but came at once to the more fundamental laws of radiation physics.  In the time that Man had taken to progress from the Pyramids to the rocket-propelled spaceship, the Venusians had passed from the discovery of agriculture to anti-gravity itself - the ultimate secret that Man had never learned.

competition no.20

1 point each for the tale and the author:

The professor moistened his lips, then went on:  "The Ganymean ship has been opened up fully, and we now have an extremely comprehensive inventory of practically everything it contained.  The ship was constructed for large freight-carrying capacity and was loaded when it met with whatever fate befell it on Ganymede.  The cargo that it was carrying, in my opinion, constitutes the most sensational discovery ever to be made in the history of paleontology and biology.  You see, that ship was carrying, among other things, a large consignment of botanical and zoological specimens, some alive and in cages, the rest preserved in canisters.  Presumably the stock was part of an ambitious scientific expedition or something of that nature, but that really doesn't matter for now.  What does matter is that we now have in our possession a collection of animal and plant trophies the like of which has never before been seen by human eyes: a comprehensive cross section of many forms of life that existed on Earth around the late Oligocene and early Miocene periods, twenty-five million years ago!"

competition no.21 - a match

The following extract is from a previous competition's story.  1 point for stating which competition-number .  Extra points if you also give the name of the author and the story.

..."We will leave the ship in couples, roped together, while one remains aboard to relay messages back to Earth.  Our spacesuits carry air for twelve hours, and will insulate us against the whole range of temperatures encountered on the Moon - that is, from boiling point to a couple of hundred degrees below zero, Fahrenheit.  Since we'll be there during the daytime, we won't run into the low temperatures unless we stay in shadow for long periods.

"I can't hope to mention all the work we intend to do during our week on the Moon, so I'll merely touch on some of the high-lights.

"First of all, we're taking some compact but very powerful telescopes and hope to get clearer views of the planets than have ever been possible before.  This equipment, like much of our stores, will be left behind for future expeditions..."

competition no.22

1 point for the world, 1 for the tale and 1 for the author:

...she tried to turn away her eyes, but she could not.  They were held as in horrid fascination upon the glittering, lidless orbs of the great brain that faced her.  Slowly, every step a painful struggle of resistance, she moved towards the horrific monster.  She tried to cry aloud in an effort to awaken her numbing faculties, but no sound passed her lips.  If those eyes would turn away, just for an instant, she felt that she might regain the power to control her steps; but the eyes never left hers.  They seemed but to burn deeper and deeper, gathering up; every vestige of control of her entire nervous system.

As she approached the thing it backed slowly away upon its spider legs.  She noticed that its chelae waved slowly to and fro as it backed, backed, backed, through the round aperture in the wall.  Must she follow it there, too?  What new and nameless horror lay concealed in that hidden chamber?  No! she would not do it.  Yet before she reached the wall she found herself down and crawling upon her hands and knees straight towards the hole from which the two eyes clung to hers.  At the very threshold of the opening she made a last, heroic stand, battling against the force that drew her on; but in the end she succumbed...

competition no.23 - a match

The following extract is from a previous competition's story.  1 point for stating which competition-number .  Extra points if you also give the world, the name of the author and the story.

...There was a long gallery open to the fire-pit on one side and a terrible place where clouds of steam went up for ever and ever.  Doubtless one of the many torrents that roared in the neighbourhood here fell into the depth of the fire.  Beyond that were great halls still dimly illuminated and full of unknown mineral wealth that sparkled and danced in the light and mocked his eyes as if he were exploring a hall of mirrors by the help of a pocket torch.  It seemed to him also, though this may have been delirium, that he came through a vast cathedral space which was more like the work of art than that of Nature, with two great thrones at one end and chairs on either hand too large for human occupants.  If the things were real, he never found any explanation for them.  There was a dark tunnel in which a wind from Heaven knows where was blowing and drove sand in his face.  There was also a place where he himself walked in darkness and looked down through fathom below fathom of shafts and natural arches and winding gulfs on to a smooth floor lit with a cold green light.  And as he stood and looked it seemed to him that four of the great earth-beetles, dwarfed by distance to the size of gnats, and crawling two by two, came slowly into sight.  And they were drawing behind them a flat car, and on the car, upright, unshaken, stood a mantled form, huge and still and slender.  And driving its strange team it passed on with insufferable majesty and went out of sight.  Assuredly the inside of this world was not for man.  But it was for something...

competition no.25 - a match

The following extract is from a previous competition's story.  1 point for stating which competition-number .  Extra points if you also give the world, the name of the author and the story.

...For five more of their days they brought me around the schools, but the critical period had passed.  Fear encompassed me, pressed in on me, but I was not at any time in serious danger of being overcome by it.

The understanding that had come to me on the second day had given me a psychological strength to meet it, and I walked amongst them much more securely.

It was clear now that their system had arisen from the deep fear of the darkness, and the forces of destruction and death that they dreaded in the darkness.  Under the pressure of this fear they had gradually withdrawn themselves from ordinary life by putting away all thought and feeling about everything except the things that were needed to protect them.

When they had once entered on this downward course, the rest of their story was easy to understand.  The system that had been created by their fear grew, until in the end, it began to function for its own sake and to suppress, not merely irrelevant or unnecessary things, but all tendencies, emotions, actions, whether essential or not, so that it might control completely the social, mental, and emotional life of its people.

The driving-force behind it was the throb of this dread, the mass-hysteria of the race, that kept welling up through the ever-present darkness...

closed competitions

competition no.1  [answered]

In which story does the following extract appear?  1 point for the author, 1 for the name of the story. 

The Martian astronomers - for there are astronomers on Mars, although they are very different beings from men - were naturally profoundly interested by these things.  They saw them from their own standpoint of course.  "Considering the mass and temperature of the missile that was flung through our solar system into the sun," one wrote, "it is astonishing what a little damage the earth, which it missed so narrowly, has sustained.  All the familiar continental markings and the masses of the seas remain intact, and indeed the only difference seems to be a shrinkage of the white discoloration (supposed to be frozen water) round either pole."

Answered correctly by Dylan Jeninga: the story is "The Star" by H G Wells.

competition no.2 [answered]

On what world, and in which story, is the following scene set?  1 point for the world, 1 for the author and 1 for the name of the story.

And then I noticed something that set the scalp crawling at the back of my neck - something so trivial and so innocent that many would never have noticed it at all.  I have said that the plateau was scarred by meteors; it was also coated inches deep with the cosmic dust that is always filtering down upon the surface of any world where there are no winds to disturb it.  Yet the dust and the meteor scratches ended quite abruptly in a wide circle enclosing the little pyramid, as though an invisible wall was protecting it from the ravages of time and the slow but ceaseless bombardment from space.

Answered correctly by Dylan Jeninga:

  the story is "The Sentinel" by Arthur C Clarke; the world is the Moon.

competition no.3 [answered]

On what world, and in which story, is the following scene set?  1 point for the world, 1 for the author and 1 for the name of the story.

It was no common series of mischances which had made me lose my way in this roofless, unseen tangle of corridors.  Far from it.  Beyond doubt, the place was a genuine maze - a labyrinth deliberately built by these hellish beings whose craft and mentality I had so badly underestimated.  Might I not have suspected this before, knowing of their uncanny architectural skill?  The purpose was all too plain.  It was a trap - a trap set to catch human beings, and with the crystal spheroid as bait.  These reptilian things, in their war on the takers of crystals, had turned to strategy and were using our own cupidity against us.

Answered correctly by Dylan Jeninga: the story is H P Lovecraft's In the Walls of Eryx, set on Venus.

competition no.6 [anwered]

1 point each for the world, the story and the author.

Someone was watching me.  Some one of those indifferent shadows was not a shadow.

I went on.  Wide streets led off from the plaza.  I took one of them.  I tried the trick of shifting pace and two or three times I caught the echo of other steps than mine.  Once I knew it was deliberate... 

Answered correctly by Dylan Jeninga:  it's from the Mars adventure, The Last Days of Shandakor by Leigh Brackett.  3 points.  {Dylan tightens his grip on the Red Planet.}

competition no.24 [answered]

1 point for the world, 1 for the author, 1 for the tale.

...The sabretooth people are not very bright, but they do know what a volcano is; because there is an intermittently active one in the mountains not far from their own crater; so, putting two and two together, they assume that their own volcano was about to become active.  Had they been just a little bit more intelligent, they would have reasoned that wood smoke does not come from a volcano; but all they knew was that it was smoke and smoke meant fire; and they were afraid.

The best thing to do, then, was to get out of the crater; so they turned to the low point in the crater's rim.  It was then that they discovered that their prisoners had escaped.

As they swarmed out of the crater, they were not only frightened but angry.  No prisoner had ever escaped before, and they didn't purpose letting these prisoners get away with it.  Being good trackers capable of moving with great speed, they had no doubt but that they would soon overhaul the fugitives.  The latter, however, were also fleet of foot; and they had two advantages: they did not have to watch for spoor to follow, and they were fleeing for their lives.  There is no greater spur to honest and concentrated effort than this.  Even the old man revealed amazing possibilities as he scampered in the wake of the others.

Answered partially by Dylan Jeninga:  the world is Pellucidar, the author Edgar Rice Burroughs.  2 points.  The point Dylan did not get was for the title of the tale: Savage Pellucidar.

archonates

Archon of PellucidarDylan Jeninga [2 points]  {someone tell David Innes}

Archon of the MoonDylan Jeninga [3 points]  {a wake-up call for Captain Future in his base at Tycho}

Archon of MarsDylan Jeninga [5 points]  {Note to other competitors: I foretell this guy will end up controlling the System}

Archon of VenusDylan Jeninga [3 points]  {Earth now surrounded by Dylan-controlled space}

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This is from The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke, on the moon. {Correct! Your Archonship now extends to the Moon. - Z.}

Click here to write your own.