Ice age Venus?

by James M. Jensen II

First, let me join those who've said thanks for putting this site together. I always loved the old SF stories and wished something like them were still plausible. Thanks for not only advocating for reviving the genre but putting together such a nice resource for doing it.

I do have a question: could a setting where Venus was not only habitable but with an ice age climate (that is, not completely frozen over, but similar to the last ice age Earth went through) qualify as NOSS?

To my knowledge, no story has ever portrayed Venus in this way, and certainly all common sense rails against it... but without a runaway greenhouse effect and given a material composition and rotation closer to that of Earth (in line with many OSS-era assumptions), the high albedo from the Venusian cloud cover, which is over twice that of Earth, suggests to me that under the clouds, a habitable Venus could actually have a significantly lower temperature than Earth.

The question is: if explained like this to the reader, could this still be within the "wrap" of Venus? Or would it violate common sense and OSS tradition too greatly?

{Comment from Zendexor: Let's have some other readers' thoughts on this! Central issues are raised here. By the way, James, your use of the word "wrap" is so handy, I think I'll shamelessly borrow it from now on. The "wrap" of Venus: that indeed is the nub of the matter. My immediate reaction is: successful wrapping-enlargement will depend upon the treatment of the theme, and specifically the degree to which the element of surprise is portrayed. If a deviation from the normal limits of the "wrap" is presented with a respectful degree of homage to the archetype which it is apparently flouting, then I suspect the author will get away with it. And "getting away with" things is after all the name of the game in the OSS! But as I said before, it would be good to have others' thoughts on this.

One related observation: the Mars of the French writer Gustave Le Rouge, in the first decade of the twentieth century, portrays regions of the Red Planet quite tropically hot. This apparently flouts the archetype just as much as an ice-age Venus, so it's interesting that (to my mind at any rate) Le Rouge gets away with it.}

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Oct 31, 2021
Ice Age Venus in Robert Scheckley
by: Anonymous

There is a short story by Robert Sheckley from 1955, called "Earth, Air, Fire and Water", set on Venus, where the planet is described as a snow world, caught in eternal winter. I've always wondered about that and why Sheckley choose Venus for his story, as the plot has actually nothing to do with it, and he could name any imaginary planet instead. So in my speculations I got to the same idea, that in some period before the space probes it may have been thought, that the eternal clouds of Venus reflect most of the sunlight and thus its surface is paradoxically colder than the Earth's. But whether there actually was such an astronomical theory at that time, I don't know...

[Comment from Zendexor: The idea actually sounds quite plausible when put this way! At any rate, qualitatively plausible; whether any physicist who did the sums would agree is another question. From the OSS science fiction point of view, the idea is - I'd say - definitely usable. I don't remember ever coming across that Sheckley story, but it's in his collection "Pilgrimage to Earth" which (I suppose) I don't possess...]

Jul 24, 2017
Bad news
by: Anonymous


For what it's worth, I doubt I'll get to run an RPG session set in an OSS setting either; it's actually difficult right now to get a group together out of my friends due to both work schedules and personality conflicts, and selling them on a homebrew setting would only add to the difficulty.

The 8000+ word story I wrote is unfortunately Lovecraftian horror of an entirely terrestrial nature. I'm considering submitting it to a magazine, but almost all of them cap their word limit at significantly less than 8000 words, and I can't figure out how to cut out enough to meet their limit without mutilating the story.


ERB had a point about the atmosphere: the Martian albedo is significantly lower than Earth's, about 0.25 vs. Earth's 0.30 or 0.35. Sadly, it's so much farther than the sun that it still receives only about half the solar energy that we do.

That said, if the Martian atmosphere contained a higher concentration of greenhouse gasses, it could conceivably be warmer than Earth. It's thought that this might have been the case at some point in the past.

Come to think of it, a NOSS story set during the past, when a now-lost Earth civilization could travel between a hot Mars and a cold Venus could be interesting, running together several themes as it does. Hmmm.

{Z: Vast possibilities exist for stories set in Earth's geological past and portraying advanced, space-faring societies. If the civilization(s) of that past had evolved ways of cleaning up after themselves, like sensible folk after a picnic though on a larger scale, then that would explain why we don't detect the traces of their cultures, either on Earth or elsewhere in the System.}

Jul 23, 2017
RPGs and Podcasts
by: Dylan Jeninga

Ah, a fellow tabletop RPG gamer! Nothing like a well-run campaign to get the brain firing and churning out stories. I currently participate in and run my own system (rulebooks are expensive and I'm a poor actor), but I've never played an OSS campaign, much to my chagrin.

I'd like to read that 8000 word tale, a podcast is an interesting format! If it's OSS, you might even be able to get Zendexor to publish it on the site!

{Z: Right - the site is always hungry for more stories, and they always count among the most popular pages.

And to answer Dylan's earlier point about hot days on Mars - come to think of it, yes, I was forgetting that Barsoom must be quite warm, since most of its people go around with next to nothing on. ERB's excuse: the thin atmosphere permits lots of sunshine.}

Jul 21, 2017
Ice Beneath a Yellow Sky
by: James M. Jensen II

Dylan, thanks for the welcome!

Your concerns are exactly mine: Venus is just so obviously hot, whether desert or jungle or just ocean with tropical islands, that an icy Venus might be almost as much a letdown as the real thing.

That said, I'm starting to think that a cold Venus that otherwise played up uniquely Venusian characteristics could work. This is the one time space probes could be our friend: the Venera 13 photos show a Venus with a dusky yellow sky. The light-level was described as "Moscow in a thunder-storm" -- light enough to easily see, but fairly dim.

This suggests to me that the day-night cycle on an otherwise Earth-like Venus would be dominated by night and twilight. And remember: there would be no moon and no stars; the darkness at night would be near-total, which provides a perfect place for bioluminescence to take up the slack. All in all, Venus would be an eerie place for a casual visitor from Earth.

Also, the jungles and deserts of Venus would not necessarily be completely gone on an icy Venus: areas near the equator would still host a tropical climate. According to , during the last ice age here on Earth, the tropical zones were only 2.2 degrees C cooler than they are now.

As for my writing, I don't do much but I've been trying to change that. I actually finished the first draft of an 8,000+ word story just a couple of months ago, but that was an exceptional flurry of inspiration that happens quite rarely.

As for icy Venus, I'm currently trying to get a sense of what such a world would be like. I basically want to get enough structure available to me that I could run a tabletop roleplaying game set there, before I try to write a story. I like having my boundaries set in advance. For example, one enormously helpful conceit I used in the aforementioned 8,000+ word story was that it was in the form of a transcript of a podcast. I wrote the whole thing with the voice of Brian Reed from This American Life and the S-Town Podcast in my head as narrator.

Once I get a firmer sense of the world, well, we'll see what happens.

Jul 21, 2017
Snowball Venus
by: Dylan Jeninga

Kaor, James! Always nice to meet a friendly face out here, for space is wide and good friends few!

Ice Age Venus - now there's an idea! Certainly possible - there are astronomers who think Venus may indeed have once been chillier than Earth, thanks to its slow rotation, which would create a layer of highly reflective water vapor.

But would it be OSS?

Hard to say, that. I think I'd have to read it to know for sure. Perhaps if it's stated that Venus was tropical until an impact caused the ice age to begin? Or maybe it's a periodic thing, like on Earth, and when it isn't snowing the whole planet is overrun with plant life?

It's an interesting question!

I think, Zendexor, that an icy Venus is different from a warm Mars because temperature isn't as much a part of Mars' character. You can go a whole novel without mentioning that Mars is cold, and since deserts on Earth are often hot, imgaining Mars to be the same isn't much of a stretch. OSS Venus, on the other hand, is known for jungles, clouds, and heat. The heat nearly always comes up, and one can always feel it while reading Venusian adventures.

I'd really like to read about an Icy Venus, both because it would clear this up a bit and because it sounds downright interesting. Pardon my asking, James, but do you do any writing?

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