idea for another site:

the stellar neighbourhood

[ + link to:  An Unorthodox World ]

Here's a suggestion for another website, on the lines of this one but for the "nearby" interstellar scene.

Stid:  Wait, before you go on: how near is "nearby"?  That word - in the absence of any natural frontier - isn't going to save the proposed new site from dissipating into generality as it rambles off into the interstellar vastness... unless, somehow, you give it shape.


Zendexor:  I was thinking, "stellar neighbourhood" could mean "out as far as the most distant named star." 

Stid:  Ah, the familiar folkloric stars.  Sirius, Procyon, Vega, Arcturus and so on, all the way out to Deneb.  Naturally at the bright end of the scale, with high intrinsic luminosity, spectral type F, A or B, these stars are precisely the ones most likely too hot and short-lived to have planets with intelligent life; on the other hand they do have instant name-glamour, and I can visualise, now, the kind of website we're most likely talking about: a celebration of all that cutely unrealistic sf featuring planets and aliens around Rigel and Betelgeuse and so on.  You're going to have fun, Zendexor.

Zendexor:  I'm not, but someone is, I hope.  I'm throwing the suggestion into the arena, in the hope that it will be picked up by a webmaster with more time to spare than I have.

Harlei:  Stid, you mentioned Deneb, but isn't that a bit far for the "neighbourhood"?

Stid:  Not a bit of it!  2500 light-years away; that's only one fourtieth the size of the Galaxy.  Stars with names are all close by as galactic distances go.

Zendexor:  I agree with Stid here: you could count Deneb as the "stellar neighbourhood".  You could, in fact, regard it as the frontier.  That would permit the inclusion of some famous nebulae and star clusters within the site's permissible range.  You could then have pages on the Pleiades (see Samuel R Delany's Nova) and the Horsehead Nebula (see Asimov's The Stars Like Dust)...

Stid:  Before we get carried away, might I suggest an alternative?  Doubtless the Sun was born alongside other stars in a molecular cloud... Don't tell me, I know, that association has long since dispersed.  But - might it have left traces?  Wisps of slightly greater than usual concentration in the interstellar medium?  You could use that as an excuse for a smaller range... say as far as Aldebaran.

Zendexor:  A nice idea, but forget it, Stid.  The Rigellians and Denebians would be up in arms - it would never do.  Let's not exacerbate interstellar tensions.  Rather, let's draw up a preliminary list of sources to give a start to the site... always in the hope that someone might take up the suggestions and add to them.

named stars

The sources listed here are of literary references to stars which have proper names.  The stories don't always have scenes actually set around those stars; e.g. Wasp is set in the Sirian Empire, not at Sirius itself; but it thereby shows that star's importance.  Similarly there's not much about Vega in Agent of Vega, but you feel it somehow...  So anyhow, here's a preliminary listing.  I'll no doubt be adding to it as more stuff occurrs to me.

Achernar - Edmund Cooper, Transit   

Alcyone - Hal Clement, Cycle of Fire; planet Abyormen.

Aldebaran - E E 'Doc' Smith, Galactic Patrol, in which the Lensman meets the Wheelmen of Aldebaran I.

Algol - H P Lovecraft, Beyond the Wall of Sleep.

Altair - Hal Clement, Close to Critical; the film Forbidden Planet (set on Altair IV);
                      Leigh Brackett, The Woman From Altair.

Antares - Edmond Hamilton, Kaldar, World of Antares; The Star Kings and Return to the Stars; Donald Wandrei, The Red Brain.

Arcturus - David Lindsay, A Voyage to Arcturus; planet Tormance.

Canopus - Frank Herbert, Dune; planet Arrakis.  Has the planet which is the seat of the Council of Suns in Edmond Hamilton's Within the Nebula.

Capella - Jack Vance, Emphyrio; planet Maastricht.

Fomalhaut - Edmond Hamilton, The Star Kings and Return to the Stars.

Polaris - Clark Ashton Smith, The Red World of Polaris.

Procyon - John and Dorothy Cowey, Goma's Follicles (for Procyon IV); Edmund Cooper, Seed of Light (for Procyon II).

Rigel - John Brunner, The Long Result; Eric Frank Russell, Next Of Kin; Jack Vance, the Demon Princes series (for the 'Rigel Concourse': 26 planets, the initial letters of their names running from A to Z).

Sirius - Larry Niven, The World of Ptavvs. planet-sized moon Jinx; Eric Frank Russell, Wasp, planet Diracta; Jack Vance, Space Opera,the "Sirius Planet" episode; Robert G Temple, The Sirius Mystery (perhaps the most respectable of "Alien Visitors" speculations); Edmund Cooper, Seed of Light (in which a generation-starship from Earth visits a planet that turns out to be deadly).

Vega - James Blish, Earthman, Come Home features the sinister Vegan Orbital Fort; James H Schmitz, Agent of Vega - planet Jeltad; Jack Vance, the Demon Princes series (planets Aloysius, Boniface, Cuthbert); the friendly Hazers of Clifford Simak's Way Station come from Vega XXI; the general in Edmond Hamilton's Battle for the Stars has a home on Vega Four; and Vega figures largely as an advanced governing world in Heinlein's young-adult novel Have Spacesuit - Will Travel.  An interesting non-organic intelligence inhabits the minerals of Vega Five in John Rackham's Computer's Mate.

designated stars

This section is for stars which are referred to by designation - i.e. a Greek letter plus the genitive of the constellation, or other identifier.  Authors keener on scientific plausibility, who would turn up their noses at the thought of setting their tales around Vega, are likely to be happier with Tau Ceti or Epsilon Eridani.

Alpha Centauri - Leigh Brackett, Alpha Centauri or Die! Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

61 Cygni - Clifford D Simak, Time and Again.

Eta Piscium - for the planet Kolama in Jack Vance's Magnus Ridolph story The Spa of the Stars; Vance refers to it as "Eta Pisces".

Pi Aquarii - for the planet Moritaba in Jack Vance's The King of Thieves, a Magnus Ridolph story to be found in the collection The Many Worlds of Magnus Ridolph.

Pi Sagittarii - for the planet Kokod in Jack Vance's The Kokod Warriors, one of his tales featuring the detective / troubleshooter Magnus Ridolph.

Proxima Centauri - the tale of that name by Murray Leinster.  Plus Now Wait for Last Year by Philip K Dick.

Tau Ceti - John Greer, Star's Reach ; Ursula LeGuin, The Dispossessed.


So far, we've sketched out an idea for a site in which, just as Solar System Heritage is about the literary characters of worlds in our System, the Stellar Neighbourhood Heritage would mainly consist in exploration of the characters of various well-known, named stars.

Here are some further thoughts regarding themes to be pursued.

You could explore "crosswise"...  e.g. in thematic pages on "Type A Stars" or "Type F Stars", etc.  Poul Anderson's Hunters of the Sky Cave is a memorable attempt to portray life forms which evolved (if I remember correctly) round an F star. 

A page on Dark Nebulae...  e.g. the Coal Sack and the Horsehead; Niven and Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye as well as Asimov's The Stars Like Dust; and the good old villains from the Dark Nebula in Edmond Hamilton's The Star Kings.

Of course you'd want a whacking great page on Niven's Known Space series, a topic tailor-made for a Stellar Neighbourhood site.


Stid:  Well, your eyes are lighting up as the ideas start to flow, Zendexor!  Looks like quite a job, but you're no doubt eager to wade into it.  I wish you every success.

Zendexor:  I told you, I have no absolutely intention of undertaking the project myself.  Looking after the OSS is more than enough for me without the OSN as well.  I'm simply sketching out some of the possibilities, so that someone else may take them up.  But if that does happen, I'd be happy to support the new site with contributions.

Harlei:  "OSN", you say?  Not the New SN too?

Zendexor:  Ah, now that's a point.  A vital point, which I could have made at the start.  Do we actually need the word "Old" here?  No, actually we don't!  Our current dreams still envelop the stars!  Space probes haven't snapped away the romantic views of the stars as they have those of the planets.  (And in John Greer's view, they never will, because we'll never really get out there.)  Even the old ideas of life around Vega and Sirius might be true after all.  So we're in the happy position of being able to avoid contradictions to all our visions of what those stars' worlds may be like. 

Therefore - the Stellar Neighbourhood, pure and simple.  Not the "O" SN, but the SN, full stop!  Though admittedly some of the literature is delightfully old-style...



...Of all the stars in all the countless host that once had spotted the heavens, there remained only Antares. Antares, immensest of the stars, alone was left, the last body in the universe, inhabited by the last race ever to have consciousness, ever to live...   [The Red Brain]


For all that I had visited it many times before, it was with something of awe that I contemplated the great white sun, as our ship flashed on toward it. Its colossal blazing bulk, I knew, was greater far than the whole of our own little solar system, millions of times larger than our own familiar little star, infinitely the most glorious of all the swarming suns. It seemed fitting, indeed, that at Canopus had been located the seat of the great Council of Suns of which I was myself a member, representing our own little solar system in that mighty deliberative body whose members were drawn from every peopled star...  [Into the Nebula]

stellar cluffs

The S.N. site could have a page for more "glancing" references e.g:


...the putty-plastic from Aldebaran VII

Clifford Simak, Time is the Simplest Thing (1961), p.123-4


...Procyon pin-heads...

Robert A Heinlein, Starman Jones (1953)

Poul Anderson, Hunters of the Sky Cave (1965); Isaac Asimov, The Stars Like Dust (1951); Leigh Brackett, "The Woman From Altair" (Startling Stories, July 1951); Alpha Centauri or Die! (1963); John and Dorothy de Cowey, Goma's Follicles (Planet Stories, Summer 1948); Edmund Cooper, Seed of Light (1959); Edmond Hamilton, "Within the Nebula" (Weird Tales, May 1929); "Kaldar, World of Antares" (Magic Carpet Magazine, April 1933); The Star Kings (1949); Robert A Heinlein, Starman Jones (1953); Ursula LeGuin, The Dispossessed (1974); Murray Leinster, "Proxima Centauri" (Astounding Stories, March 1935); Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Mote in God's Eye (1974); John Rackham, "Computer's Mate" in New Writings in SF - 8 (1966), ed. John Carnell; Clifford Simak, Time And Again (1951); Time is the Simplest Thing (1961); E E 'Doc' Smith, Galactic Patrol (originally serialized in Astounding, 1937); Jack Vance, The Many Worlds of Magnus Ridolph (1966 collection of six stories featuring the character of that name); Emphyrio (1969); Donald Wandrei, "The Red Brain" (Weird Tales, October 1927).

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