Enceladus and Europa - The Last OSS Worlds?

by Dylan Jeninga
(Chicago, Illinois, USA)

A Europan Beast, as featured in The Europa Report

A Europan Beast, as featured in The Europa Report

The news today was full of exciting news from Enceladus. The ingredients for life were detected - there may be life under the ice!

The same has long been said of Europa, that beneath the protective shell of ice organisms may lurk, hidden from the rest of the universe.

It puts me in mind of Venus, and its concealing layer of cloud. Of course, in that case, the planet we found beneath was a disappointment, but for our two promising moons, the story might be different.

Most people limit their optimism to microbial life, so as to be hopeful while not being overly so. But that doesn't mean our imaginations need be chained down in the same manner. For all we know, there could be people of a sort beneath the ice, Enceladans and Europans buidling aquatic civilizations the likes of which we've never dreamed. They would look strange to us, being water-bound, but one hopes that if contact were made, a rapport could be established. After that - adventure!

Hell, even if we couldn't understand each other, room for adventure remains!

You may ask, is this opportunity being taken advantage of? Are stories of Europans and Enceladans being published? The answer is no, not that I know of. Most stories assume, as most scientists do, that any life found would be microscopic. I can think of only a single story with complex Europan life, a movie called "The Europa Report". The Europan in that movie makes only a brief appearance, but it is striking.

I have adopted a number of projects - too many, I need to trim the fat - but I should like to write a proper Europa or Enceladus story. One should be written, at least, before we look beneath the ice and learn the truth.

{Zendexor comments: And you might not be far wrong to suppose that such life, if it exists, would most likely have progressed beyond the microbial stage by now, even in an environment where solar energy is scarce. After all, if enough tidal energy exists to create these outer-moon subsurface oceans in the first place, who's to set a limit on the biological implications? There might even be intelligence, especially as we don't even really know why intelligence evolved on Earth; it's all guesswork, so it might happen anywhere, for all we know. Finally, suppose there is intelligence, who's to set a limit to that? It might have the capacity to capture our minds when we look for it, so that an explorer might find himself looking out through Enceledan eyes, finding that he's been mind-swapped like the narrator of The Shadow Out of Time...}

Comments for Enceladus and Europa - The Last OSS Worlds?

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

May 08, 2017
They've been burned before
by: Dylan Jeninga

I couldn't agree more! Sadly, I think sci-fi has suffered a bit of trauma and is afraid to be hurt again.

To put it another way, the "death" of the OSS left storytellers overly cautious.

Science Fiction, in part, takes its identity from basing itself in what really could be, more so than fantasy does. That's fine, even compelling, until new discoveries are allowed to limit the genre rather than expand it.

So, when it was discovered that Mars and Venus are not as we dreamed they were, it was a blow to the credibility of the genre, one which sci-fi writers seem determined never to repeat. They are hesitant when it comes to bestowing planets in our solar system with life, choosing a pessimistic route so as to be "either right or pleasantly surprised," to quote George Will.

I am admittedly making sweeping generalizations, and I hope the reader will understand that I do not mean to critique ALL science fiction writers. There are always exceptions to gripes like this one. Perhaps it is more rightly a criticism of publishers who won't pick up stories they deem too "risky".

And, of course, the NOSS exists, so it's not all as bleak as it seems to be. It's just unfortunate that the icy moons must suffer neglect because the genre is frightened of being factually "wrong".

Apr 15, 2017
Microbes? Bah!
by: John Michael Greer

Dylan, I hope you find the time to write a story set under the ice of Europa or Enceladus! You're right that it's a great opportunity -- and equally correct that science fiction in general is falling down on the job when an opportunity like that isn't being leapt upon by a baker's dozen or so of enthusiastic authors. Maybe it's just that middle age is setting in, but a lot of the SF mainstream these days really seems to be spinning its wheels in hard vacuum, rehashing a handful of currently popular tropes.

The insistence that the only other life that can possibly exist in the solar system must be microbial is par for the course. I can't think of a good reason for scientists to assume that, much less authors of SF. Great Ghu, where has the sensawunder gone???

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to join the conversation.