For a scenic browse, and an answer-page for Guess The World...
...I was desperately weak from lack of food, but dropping quickly into this new, unknown land, I was seized with the excitement of the explorer sighting a strange, uncharted shore. And I wondered what sort of people we could expect to find, for this lost world was certainly inhabited.
Dominating the whole valley, we could see now a great city of skyscrapers that towered up a thousand feet into the sky. Row upon row of them were ranged about a central building that was higher than all the others...
The wind blew us gently across this city, from one side to the other....
on all sides, for mile upon mile, stretched the big, carefully
cultivated regular arable fields. There was little grassland, and no
sign of an animal of any sort...
Bruce Carter, The Perilous Descent (1952)
...We were approaching the wide flight of steps that led up to the vaulted entrance of the great tower. We moved by now in a kind of daze, crushed as we were by the terrific psychic attack that was rapidly conquering our courage.
Then came the climax. The lofty doors of the tower swung slowly open. And from within the building there lurched and shambled a thing, the sight of which froze us where we stood...
It was black, mountainous in bulk, and of a shape that tore the brain with horror. It was something like a monstrous, squatting toad, its flesh a heaving black slime from which protruded sticky black limbs that were not quite either tentacles or arms.
Its triangle of eyes were three slits of cold green fire that watched us with hypnotic intensity. Beneath that hideous chinless face, its breathing pouch swelled in and out painfully as it lurched, slobbering, down the steps toward us.
Our beams lashed frantically at that looming horror. And they had not the slightest effect on it...
"Wait! Look at the thing! It's breathing!"
For a moment, we couldn't understand. And then dimly, I did. The thing was obviously breathing. Yet there was no air here...
Edmond Hamilton, The Dead Planet (Startling Stories, Spring 1946)
...At last, after much wandering and floundering in the dust-cloud, through which they could see nothing, Lapham and his companions drew themselves out on a margin of the strange violet soil. The contrast of this wet, steaming clay with the gulfs of atom-like powder that surrounded it was so inexplicable, so utterly amazing as to baffle and dumbfound all conjecture. The substance was unearthly in its bizarreness, and the heat that emanated from it was almost beyond endurance. The scientists had sweltered in their heavy air-tight suits while crossing the zone of dust, but now they were subjected to actual suffering.
every step their astonishment grew, for the dim landscape beneath the
vapors was such as no human eye had even seen before. Gigantic ledges
of crystallized rock-forms arose in the foreground, and about the
crystals there was something, even apart from their curious black, blue,
red and dark-green coloration, which served to differentiate them from
anything classified by geologists. They were prodigious in size, and
had innumerable facets and a look of geometrical complexity foreign to
all normal rocks. Their was a sinister vitality in their aspect,
too... Somehow, they resembled living organisms as much as minerals...
Clark Ashton Smith, The Metamorphosis of Earth (Weird Tales, September 1951)
we were near enough to the wall and gate to see clearly the two great
plants who guarded the opening. Their slow-waving tendrils showed that
they were still waking and watchful. Blan noiselessly left our side,
gliding away like a white phantom to the right, and then he on one side
and Fairley and I on the other, were creeping toward the gate, keeping
far enough aside from it to be out of range of the strange senses of the
We two reached the metal wall, and hugging it began a slow stealthy progress along it toward the gate-opening. Reaching that opening we hesitated, our swords tight-gripped in our hands. Then we saw Blan appear on the gate's other side, slipping along the wall like ourselves, a gliding white form. He too halted, grasping his blade, and then with one hand made a silent signal to us. Instantly he and we were leaping around the wall's corner onto the two great plants.
great plant that Fairley and I sprang for loomed before us as a dark
many-armed object, whose tendrils whipped wildly as our blades slashed
lightning-like through them...
Edmond Hamilton, Ten Million Years Ahead (Weird Tales, April/May 1931)
It was a house, of course!
He shouted wildly and no one answered, but it was a house, a spark of reality blinking at him through the horrible, nameless wilderness of the last hours. He turned off the road and went plunging cross-country, across ditches, around trees, through the underbrush, and over a creek.
Queer thing! Even the creek glowed faintly - phosphorescently! But it was only the tiniest fragment of his mind that noted it.
Then he was there, with his hands reaching out to touch the hard white structure. It was neither brick nor stone nor wood, but he never paid that the least mind. It looked like a dull, strong porcelain, but he didn’t give a hoot. He was just looking for a door, and when he came to it and saw no bell, he kicked and yelled like a demon.
He heard the stirring inside and the blessed, lovely sound of a human voice other than his own. He yelled again.
There was a faint, oiled whir, and the door opened. A woman emerged, a spark of alarm in her eyes. She was tall and wiry, and behind her was the gaunt figure of a hard-faced man in work clothes… No, not work clothes. Actually they were like nothing Schwartz had ever seen, but, in some indefinable way, they looked like the kind of clothes men worked in.
But Schwartz was not analytical. To him they, and their clothes, were beautiful; beautiful only as the sight of friends to a man alone can be beautiful...
Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky (1950)
They did not realize the full strangeness before they donned spacesuits and went outside. Then, saying very little, they wandered about looking and feeling. Their brains were slow to develop the gestalts which would allow them readily to see what surrounded them. A confused mass of detail could not be held in the memory, the underlying form could not be abstracted from raw sense impressions. A tree is a tree, anywhere and anywhen, no matter how intricate its branching or how oddly shaped its leaves and blossoms. But what is a -
- thick shaft of gray metal, planted in the sand, central to a labyrinthine skeleton of straight and curved girders, between which run still more enigmatic structures embodying helices and toruses and Moebius strips and less familiar geometrical elements; the entire thing some fifty feet tall; flaunting at the top several hundred thin metal plates whose black sides are turned toward the sun?
When you have reached the point of being able to describe it even this crudely, then you have apprehended it.
Eventually Darkington saw that the basic structure was repeated, with infinite variation of size and shape, as far as he could see. Some specimens tall and slender, some low and broad, they dominated the hillside. The deeper reaches were made gloomy by their overhang, but sun speckles flew piercingly bright within those shadows as the wind shook the mirror faces of the plates. That same wind made a noise of clanking and clashing and far-off deep booming, mile after metal mile.
was no soil, only sand, rusty red and yellow. But outside the circle
which had been devastated by the boat's jets, Darkington found the earth
carpeted with prismatic growths, a few inches high, seemingly rooted in
the ground. He broke one off for closer examination and saw tiny
crystals, endlessly repeated, in some transparent siliceous material:
like snowflakes and spiderwebs of glass. It sparkled so brightly,
making so many rainbows, that he couldn't well study the interior. He
could barely make out at the centre a dark clump of... wires, coils,
transistors? No, he told himself, don't be silly...
Poul Anderson, Epilogue (Analog, March 1962)
...Then the trees thinned out and they found themselves in a glade, an "island" of deep grass surrounded on all sides by the green walls of the jungle. It was good to stand in clear sunlight again, after the green, perfumed twilight of the jungle paths. The glade was empty, save for six strange plants, each standing about six feet tall, with barrel-shaped trunks of thick flesh rising to a wide opening lined with wet tissue from which eight long fronds hung down. Karm Karvus had never seen their like.
"Shall we rest for a moment, Karm Karvus?" Sumia asked, leaning against one of the fungoid trunks.
deep within the Tsargolian cried silent warning. His hair prickled at
the nape of his neck and the muscles about his mouth twitched. He felt a
chill wind of uneasiness blowing across his nerves. But, looking
around, he could perceive no visible cause for this feeling of danger...
Lin Carter, Thongor of Lemuria (1966)
first living thing they encountered was a bird, not much bigger than a
skylark, but more like an owl in appearance; for it was grey in colour,
its downy feathers like fur at a distance, and each eye was surrounded
by a ruff, or several rows of stiff concentric feathers. It differed
from an owl, however, in having a straight beak; and differed from any
bird on earth in the manner of its flight. Pointing its beak vertically
upwards, it rose as straight as a stone sinks, and when it had reached a
point about two-thirds the height of the grotto, gyrated swiftly on its
own axis. It descended in a corkscrew motion and invariably took up
its perch on a ledge about six feet from the ground. Another
peculiarity was that it showed not the slightest sign of fear at the
approach of Olivero and the Green Child, and would, indeed, freely allow
itself to be touched and fondled. It was comparatively rare in
distribution, and except during the mating season, solitary in its
Herbert Read, The Green Child (1935)
Constantly buffeted by wind and water, we staggered on until at last we came to a comparatively open space which we felt would be far safer than the denser forest. Here we huddled together with our backs toward the storm, waiting like dumb creatures for the battle of the elements to subside.
Great animals, which ordinarily would have threatened our very existence, passed close by us as they fled before the storm; but we had no fear of them for we knew that they were even more terrified than we, and that hunting and feeding were far from their thoughts. Aside from the danger from flying branches, we felt comparatively safe; and so were not as alert as customarily, although, as a matter of course, we could have heard or seen little above the storm and the blinding rain. The crashing thunder, following peal after peal, almost continuously, combined with the howling wind to drown out any other sound.
the very height of the storm we were suddenly seized from behind by
powerful fingers. Our weapons were wrenched from us and our hands
secured behind our backs; then, at last, we saw our captors. There were
fifteen or twenty of them, the largest men I have ever seen. Even the
smallest of them stood fully seven feet in height. Their faces were
extremely ugly, and a pair of great, tusk-like yellow teeth imparted no
additional beauty to them...
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Land of Terror (1944)
...Another bush rose in front of me - a curious soft thing, with a red stem and red slimy branches. Beyond it, to the right, was a dark clump like a thicket. I avoided this, not knowing what it might conceal. I had noticed no sign of life, since I had heard the distant wailing, but life might be lurking all around me, watching me, perhaps lying in wait for me, ready to spring.
As I went on over the clinging ground in the dim light, I got a curious feeling that I was moving under water, that this was a tropical under-sea prairie. Even the slight movement of the trailers of the thicket on my right was like the soft movement of seaweed rods in deep water.
Suddenly the silence was rent by a piercing scream from the lower ground, some distance in front of me. It rang out high and shrill for a moment, then it stopped as abruptly as it had begun. I listened, every nerve torn by the sudden shock. I hadn't realised how much my nerves had been on edge. I forced myself to relax. Whatever was there, I had to face it.
It stopped, but a chattering noise broke out on my left, and was answered by a series of cacklings and chatterings. I stood, staring round me, but nothing appeared, and gradually the sounds died away.
several minutes I stood there, watching and listening. There were
living creatures all around me - perhaps very dangerous and powerful
creatures. At any moment one of them might appear in my path. I began
to move forward again - very slowly. Whatever creatures produced the
sounds were in front, but I had no choice but to go forward...
Joseph O'Neill, Land Under England (1935)
...I lay in my cave, attending anxiously. Then, abruptly, I was aware that something was descending from above. The instinct of our race to block out thought-transference and seize food before anyone else can know of it, operated instantly. I flowed out of my cave and swept to the space below the Object. I raised my tentacles to snatch it. The whole process was automatic - mind-block on, spatial sensation extended to the fullest, full focused reception of mental images turned upon the sinking Object to foresee its efforts to escape so that I could anticipate them - but every Shadi knows what one does by pure instinct when a moving thing comes within one's ken.
were two caused for my behaviour after that automatic reaction,
however. One was that I had fed, and lately. The other was that I
received mental images from within the Object which were startlingly
tuned to the subject of Morpt's lecture and my own thoughts at the
moment. As my first tentacle swooped upon the descending thing, instead
of thoughts of fright or battle, I intercepted the message of an entity
cogitating despairingly to another...
Murray Leinster, De Profundis (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Winter 1945)
The creator of the great park - the builder, some said, of Diaspar itself - sat with slightly downcast eyes, as if examining the plans spread across his knees. His face wore that curiously elusive expression that had baffled the world for so many generations. Some had dismissed it as no more than an idle whim of the artist's, but to others it seemed that Yarlan Zey was smiling at some secret jest.
The whole building was enigma, for nothing concerning it could be traced in the historical records of the city. Alvin was not even sure what the word "Tomb" meant; Jeserac could probably tell him, as he was fond of collecting obsolete words and sprinkling his conversation with them, to the confusion of his students.
From this central vantage point, Alvin could look clear across the Park, above the screening trees, and out to the city itself. The nearest buildings were almost two miles away, and formed a low belt completely surrounding the Park. Beyond them, rank after rank in ascending height, were the towers and terraces that made up the main bulk of the city. They stretched for mile upon mile, slowly climbing up the sky, becoming ever more complex and monumentally impressive. Diaspar had been planned as an entity; it was a single mighty machine. Yet though its outward appearance was almost overwhelming in its complexity, it merely hinted at the hidden marvels of technology without which all these great buildings would be lifeless sepulchres.
Alvin stared out towards the limits of his world. Ten - twenty miles away, their details lost in distance, were the outer ramparts of the city, upon which seemed to rest the roof of the sky. There was nothing beyond them - nothing at all except the aching emptiness of the desert in which a man would soon go mad.
Then why did that emptiness call to him, as it called to no one else that he had ever met? Alvin did not know. He stared out across the coloured spires and battlements that now enclosed the whole dominion of mankind, as if seeking an answer to his question.
He did not find it. But at that moment, as his heart yearned for the unattainable, he made his decision...
Arthur C Clarke, The City and the Stars (1956)
…Rurak dropped the sweat-sticky circle of his radiophone and peered down at the foul blueness of the swampland. A range of low hills shouldered aside the oozy floor of liquid mud, and blue jungle crept high up along their rocky slopes almost to their barren upper tips. Beyond the hills he could see where the outer limits of the coastal swamp ended and the level stretches of the Mossy Plains spread away endlessly…
Basil Wells, Queen of the Blue World (Planet Stories, Winter 1941-2)
Horatio shuddered. "The practice was different... I don't know what I thought would be at the end of the passage. I don't know what I thought it would be like outside London. I suppose I imagined fields and villages and hills and woods - that kind of thing... It had been a long journey. I - I came to the door and..." Horatio stopped, obviously agitated by the memory and obviously trying to control himself. "And - and I just wasn't prepared for it. I'm sorry, Michael."
Michael put a hand on his shoulder. "Take it easy, Horatio. Nobody doubts your courage."
was just an ordinary door... Just an ordinary door. Unlocked. I - I
turned the handle and opened it..." Horatio put his hand to his
forehead and pressed hard, as if he were trying to press back
nightmares, phantoms. "There were rocks, great rocks and a roaring of
water. And there were these things - I was too shaken to see what they
were at first - these huge lizards... And there was one very near. It
turned its head and looked at me... I think I must have screamed,
because they all looked. Then I slammed the door and I ran. God, how I
ran! I think I was still screaming. Then I heard the footsteps coming
Edmund Cooper, The Overman Culture (1971)
We skirted an expanse of pumice – a desolation of rough grey stone, light and porous but with sharp edges that would have played havoc with our shoes. And what were we going to use to protect our feet once our shoes had worn out?
“I was thinking, Stuart,” the girl said. “That fern thing… We know it was only a fern. But the way it came at me, almost as if it knew what it was doing; as if it could see.”
“It only came your way by chance. Don’t forget it had to pass over me to get to you.” But I had been in a hollow; she had been standing on the crest.
“Could it have been alive in some way, Stuart? I mean, alive like an animal?”
“A cross between a plant and a bird.” I smiled at her troubled expression. “Seeds or eggs?”
“No.” She shook her head a little crossly. “A plant on the way to becoming a bird. They say we were once apes. And before that, something that crawled out of the water.”
“I did enough biology at school to know that animal cells and vegetable cells are two very different things. They can’t mix.” I hoped I was right. “It has to be one or the other.”
“That was in our world,” she said. “Things may be very different here.”
L P Davies, Genesis Two (1969)
She led him to one of the flowing roadways; as they were carried through the city he noticed a boat-shaped hull built of bright metal with four wheels and a transparent-domed compartment.
He pointed. "What is that?"
"It is a magic car. When a certain lever is pressed the wizardry of the older times gives it great speed. Rash young men ride them along the streets... See there," and she pointed to a somewhat similar hull toppled into the basin of a long, dry fountain. "That is another one of the ancient wonders - a craft with the power to fly through the air. There are many of them scattered through the city - on the towers, on high terraces, and sometimes, like this one, fallen into the streets."
"And no one flies them?" asked Ulan Dhor curiously.
"We are all afraid."
Ulan Dhor thought, what a marvel to own one of these air-cars! He stepped off the flowing road....
Jack Vance, The Dying Earth (1950)
“…Only a slightly oily swell rose and fell like a gentle breathing, and showed that the eternal sea was still moving and living. And along the margin where the water sometimes broke was a thin incrustation of salt – pink under the lurid sky. There was a sense of oppression in my head, and I noticed that I was breathing very fast…
“Far away up the desolate slope I heard a harsh scream, and saw a thing like a huge white butterfly go slanting and fluttering up into the sky and, circling, disappear over some low hillocks beyond. The sound of its voice was so dismal that I shivered and seated myself more firmly upon the machine. Looking round me again, I saw that, quite near, what I had taken to be a reddish mass of rock was moving slowly towards me. Then I saw the thing was really a monstrous crab-like creature. Can you imagine a crab as large as yonder table, with its many legs moving slowly and uncertainly, its big claws swaying, its long antennae, like carters’ whips, waving and feeling, and its stalked eyes gleaming at you on either side of its metallic front? Its back was corrugated and ornamented with ungainly bosses, and a greenish incrustation blotched it here and there. I could see the many palps of its complicated mouth flickering and feeling as it moved.
“As I stared at this sinister apparition crawling towards me, I felt a tickling on my cheek as though a fly had lighted there. I tried to brush it away with my hand, but in a moment it returned, and almost immediately came another by my ear. I struck at this, and caught something thread-like. It was drawn swiftly out of my hand. With a frightful qualm, I turned, and saw that I had grasped the antenna of another monster crab that stood just behind me. Its evil eyes were wriggling on their stalks, its mouth was all alive with appetite, and its vast ungainly claws, smeared with an algal slime, were descending upon me…”
HG Wells, The Time Machine (1895)
…The hill fell away at his feet and the road went sweeping down the long slope as if impatient to greet the sea; and there at its end lay Shastar.
It caught the sunlight and tossed it back to him, tinted with all the colours of its makers’ dreams. The spacious buildings lining the wide street seemed unravished by time; the great band of marble that held the sea at bay was still unbreached; the parks and gardens, though long overgrown with weeds, were not yet jungles. The city followed the curve of the bay for perhaps two miles, and stretched half that distance inland; by the standards of the past, it was very small indeed. But to Brant it seemed enormous, a maze of streets and squares intricate beyond unravelling. Then he began to discern the underlying symmetry of its design, to pick out the main thoroughfares, and to see the skill with which its makers had avoided both monotony and discord.
For a long time Brant stood motionless on the hilltop, conscious only of the wonder spread beneath his eyes. He was alone in all that landscape, a tiny figure lost and humble before the achievements of greater men. The sense of history, the vision of the long slope up which Man had been toiling for a milliion years or more, was almost overwhelming. In that moment it seemed to Brant that from his hilltop he was looking over Time rather than Space…
Arthur C Clarke, The Road to the Sea (Tales of Ten Worlds, 1963; originally published as "Seeker of the Sphinx" in Two Complete Science-Adventure Books, Spring 1951)
In its jarring, lurching way the airwagon sped on through the sky. Red sparks streamed by the windows like frantic scarlet insects. The steady metallic screaming of the engines, disconcerting at first, came to seem familiar and almost welcome. Below, all was a green wilderness, with great blankets of snow on the highest elevations. From time to time Nortekku saw a great circular scar, a brown-walled cicatrice in the midst of the greenness: one of the innumerable pockmarks left on the face of the Earth by the falling death-stars.
As he looked down he was struck by an inrushing awareness of the vastness of the world, and of its antiquity, and of the succession of races that had come and gone upon this planet. Down below there was nothing at all, now, but trees and stones. But once all that wilderness had been inhabited, he knew, by the myriad denizens of the long-lost Great World civilization, the unthinkably rich and glorious era of the Six Peoples whom he had studied in school long ago… the Hjjks, the Sea-Lords, the Vegetals, the reptilian race known as the Sapphire-Eyes people, the Mechanicals, and the most enigmatic ones of all, the Dream-Dreamers, who might perhaps have been the last vestiges of the humans who once had ruled this world in a previous epoch.
For some unknowable length of time – half a million years, a million? – the huge cities of the great World, full of quivering vitality, astounding in their opulence and size, their myriad windows sparkling in the sun, had covered the landscape below. They had come, they had flourished, they had disappeared…
Robert Silverberg, A Piece of the Great World (One Million A.D., ed. Gardner Dozois, 2005)