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)