what to see on
ganymede

For a scenic browse, and an answer-page for Guess The World...

a murky maze on ganymede

...Tok led the way swiftly, doubling back toward the lower side of the bazaar.  Here was a section that Harrah never visited - the Quarter of the Sellers of Dreams.  Poetic name for a maze of filthy rat-runs stinking with the breath of nameless substances.  The sliding roofs were always closed and what few voices could be heard were beyond human speech.

They came to a house that stood by itself and the end of an alley.  It looked as though it had stood a long time by itself, the fecund weeds growing thick around the door, rooting in the chinks of the walls.

There was no light, no sound.  But Tok stopped and pointed.

After a moment Kehlin nodded.  With that gesture he dismissed Tok, forgot him utterly, and the aboriginal went with three loping strides into the shadows and was gone...

Leigh Brackett, The Dancing Girl of Ganymede (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1950)

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farming on ganymede

...We were on the move the whole time.  I still hadn't managed to take my merit badge tests and I hadn't done much better about getting in to Scout meetings.  There was just too much to do.  Building a pond, for example - Laguna Serenidad was being infected with plankton and algae but there weren't fish in it yet and it would be a long time, even after the fish were stocked, before fishing would be allowed.  So we did fish-pond gardening, Chinese style, after I got the pond built.

And there were always crops to work on.  My cover grass had taken hold all right and shortly after we moved in the soil seemed ready to take angle worms.  Dad was about to send a sample into town for analysis when Papa Schultz stopped by.  Hearing what we were about he took a handful of the worked soil, crumbled it, smelled it, tasted it, and told me to go ahead and plant my worms.  I did and they did all right; we encountered them from time to time in working the fields thereafter.

You could see the stripes on the fields which had been planted with pay dirt by the way the grass came up.  You could see that the infection was spreading, too, but not much.  I had a lot of hard work ahead before the stripes would meet and blend together and then we could think about renting a cud-chewer and finishing off the other acre and a half, using our own field loam and our compost heap to infect the new soil.  After that we could see about crushing some more acres, but that was a long way away...

We hoped to have a hive of bees some day and the entomologists on the bionomics staff were practically bursting their hearts trying to breed a strain of bees which would prosper out of doors.  You see, among other things, while our gravity was only a third Earth-normal, our air pressure was only a little better than a fifth Earth-normal and the bees resented it; it made flying hard work for them...

Robert A Heinlein, Farmer in the Sky (1950)

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wind-swept flood-swept ganymede

...Slowly, they continued down the mountain, reaching now and then a bleak plateau which wind and water had swept to glassy smoothness.  The flying mammals which always heralded the flood swooped overhead.

As they crossed one of the plateaus, above the roar of the wind they heard a loud beating.  A mammoth bird, jet black against the mountain, its two sets of wings flapping alternately at a spread of thirty feet, came toward them.  Flying the gale, it neared them quickly.  For a second, the men sat transfixed; then, wrenching themselves from the coma of fear, drew guns...

Stanley G Weinbaum and Helen Weinbaum, Tidal Moon (Thrilling Wonder Stories,
December 1938)

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deadly ganymedean plant-animal

...the instant he had consumed in rescuing the girl had been enough for the thing to seize him, and he found himself battling for his very life.  No soft-leaved infant this, but a full-grown monster, well equipped with mighty weapons of offence and defence.  Well it was for the struggling man that he was encased in armour steel as those saw-edged, hard-spiked leaves drove against him with crushing force; well it was for him that he had his own independent air supply, so that that deadly perfume eddied ineffective about his helmeted head!  Hard and fiercely driven as those terrible thorns were, they could do no more than dent his heavy armour.  His powerful left arm, driving the double-razor-edged dirk in short, resistless arcs, managed to keep the snaky tendrils from coiling about his right arm, which was wielding the heavy, trenchant sword.  Every time that mighty blade descended it cleaved its length through snapping spikes and impotently grinding leaves; but more than once a flailing tendril coiled about his neck armour and held his helmet immovable as though in a vice, while those frightful, grinding saws sought to rip their way through the glass to the living creature inside the peculiar metal housing.  Dirk and sabre and magnificent physique finally triumphed, but it was not until leaf had been literally severed from every other leaf that the outlandish organism gave up the ghost...

E E "Doc" Smith, Spacehounds of IPC (1931, 1947)

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the dying culture of ganymede

Other races have always held a feeling of pity for the Ganymedans.  Yet, in respect to material things, they are not to be pitied.  They are the richest race in the solar system, and if they had not insisted on cherishing dreams which, in their hearts, they must have known as futile, and if the slowly coming death of their race had not been looming above them, they would have known complete happiness.

Their government, as might be expected, was anarchistic.  They were such a closely unified people, with identical ambitions and hopes, that no other form would have worked as well.

Food was plentiful.  They had vast fields of several different types of vegetables which grew rapidly, and needed not even the tiny amount of sunlight they received.  There was a minimum of physical labor, since they possessed up-to-date, wholly automatic machinery. 

They possessed television sets, a public library fed from book and magazine marts on the other planets.  They possessed two or three ships of ancient design, which maintained constant commerce with the rest of the solar system, freighting vast supplies of food exports to the markets, where, being considered delicacies by the inhabitants of the other worlds, they commanded fabulous prices. 

As for religion, I doubt if they had one, unless it were one centering about their dreams of empire.

Carrist willingly showed me about the city, and even walked with me to the vast agricultural fields.  The city, in its prime, must have been huge…

Ross Rocklynne, The Forgotten Dream (Planet Stories, Summer 1940)

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doomed gelatinous oppressors of ganymede

...He led them back, through twisting corridors, through rooms where terrified Lanoor whispered and asked questions.  They had heard the screams of the maddened shleath.  The news was spreading.  Then they reached a barred gate, a grillwork of locked bars that closed off the corridor.  Beyond it they looked into a great courtyard a quarter of a mile across.  The vast ramifications of the palace surrounded it on every side.  And in it half a hundred of the giant shleath wavered and stirred uneasily, crowding down at the gate beyond which they had heard the strange shrieks of their fellows.

Somehow those giant masses of jelly had a brain and understanding.  And they were restless.  The glow-lamps cast only dim sparkles of light on hulking masses of greenish jelly...

John W Campbell, The Double Minds (Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1937)

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estival changes on ganymede

…The wind which blew over the flute-mouthpiece of rock on this side of the mountain was as gentle and variable as a flautist’s breath, and did not stir the enormous tangled stolons and runners which filled the bottom of the great valley, or the wrap-around leaves which were plastered to them like so many thousands of blue-green Möbius strips.

It was not quiet down there, but it seemed quiet.  There were many more thrums and rummums of rolling rocks and distant avalanches than one heard during the cold weather. The granite-skinned roots were growing rapidly while their short time was come, burrowing insistently into the walls of the valley, starting new trees and new rocks.  In the cliffs, the warm weather changed water-of-crystallisation from Ice IV to Ice III, the bound water snapping suddenly from one volume to another, breaking the rock strata apart….

James Blish, The Seedling Stars (1957)

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domed resort on ganymede

Pete leaned back in his chair and looked out through the yard-thick quartz of the dome which enclosed Satellite City, Ganymede's only place of habitation. That is, if one didn't consider Ganymede prison, which, technically speaking, probably was a place of habitation. Other than for the dome which enclosed Satellite City and the one which enclosed the prison, however, there was no sign of life on the entire moon, a worthless, lifeless globe only slightly smaller than the planet Mars.

He could see the top of the prison dome, just rising above the western horizon. To that Alcatraz of Space were sent only the most desperate of the Solar System's criminals. The toughest prison in the entire system, its proud tradition was that not a single prisoner had escaped since its establishment twenty years before. Why risk escape, when only misery and death lurked outside the dome?
The Chamber of Commerce offices were located in the peak of the city's dome and from his outer office, against the quartz, Pete had a clear view of the preparations going forward for the reunion which was to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Battle of Ganymede.

Far below, at the foot of the magnetically anchored dome, work was progressing on the vast outdoor arena, which would be enclosed in a separate dome, with heat and atmosphere pumped from the larger dome.

On one of the higher snow-swept hills, a short distance from the arena, reared a massive block of marble, swarming with space-armored sculptors. That was the Battle Monument, to be dedicated in the opening ceremonies.

Drift snow, driven by the feeble winds which always stirred restlessly over the surface of this satellite from which the atmosphere was nearly gone, swept over the brown, rolling hills and eddied around the dome. It was cold out there. Pete shivered involuntarily. Down close to 180 degrees below, Fahrenheit. The snow was frozen carbon dioxide.

An inhospitable place to live, but Satellite City was one of the greatest resorts in the entire System. To it, each year, came thousands of celebrities, tens of thousands of common tourists. The guest lists of the better hotels read like the social register and every show house and cafe, every night club, every concession, every dive was making money.

And now the Ganymede reunion!

That had been a clever idea. It had taken some string-pulling back in London to get the Solar Congress to pass the resolution calling the reunion and to appropriate the necessary money. But that had not been too hard to do. Just a little ballyhoo about cementing Earth-Mars friendship for all eternity. Just a little clever work out in the lobbies.

This year Satellite City would pack them in, would get System-wide publicity, would become a household word on every planet.

He tilted farther back in his chair and stared at the sky. The greatest sight in the entire Solar System! Tourists came millions of miles to gaze in wonder at that sky. 

Jupiter rode there against the black of space, a giant disk of orange and red, flattened at the poles, bulging at the equator. To the right of Jupiter was the sun, a small globe of white, its searing light and tremendous heat enfeebled by almost 500 million miles of space. Neither Io nor Europa were in sight, but against the velvet curtain of space glittered the brilliant, cold pin-points of distant stars. Pete rocked back and forth in his chair, rubbing his hands gleefully.

'We'll put Ganymede on the map this year,' he exulted.

Clifford D Simak, Reunion on Ganymede (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1938)

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a startling apparition on ganymede

Feeling unusually light he walked over to an enormous tear in the side of his space-cruiser. A bleak scene met his eyes. Short, grotesquely hewn hills and crags. Rocky pitted plains. And a bitter, wild wind blew constantly, streaming his long hair into disarray.

He cursed through tight lips. Fate! He had been on his way to Vesta, largest city of Jupiter, when his fuel had given out. He had forgotten to check it, and here he was.

Despondently he kicked a small rock in front of him. It rose unhindered by the feeble gravitation fully thirty feet in the air.

Suddenly there were a dozen scuffing sounds, and a dozen stones winged themselves painstakingly through the air and began to descend in slow motion.

Surprise struck, he gazed furtively about him. Momentarily his heart seemed caught in some terrible vise.

There was a sudden movement behind a close ridge. Momentarily John Hall was rendered paralyzed. Then he backed slowly toward the ship and safety behind a Johnson heat ray. The vague form abruptly materialized, etched in black against the twilight horizon of Ganymede. The effect was startling. The creature stood upright, on two legs, with two gnarled, lengthy arms dangling from its bony shoulders. Human? The question registered itself on his brain, and the thing in front of him gave unwitting reply, as it moved to a clearer position. No, not human. Maybe not even animal. Two great eyes bulged curiously from a drawn, shrunken, monkey-like face. The body was as warped and distorted as the bole of an old oak tree. With pipe-stem arms and legs, bulging at the joints. Its most natural position seemed to be a crouch, with the arms dragging on the ground. Somehow this travesty of human form struck him as being humorous. He chuckled throatily, and then stopped with a start as the same chuckle crudely vibrated back, echo-like. But it was no echo! No, that wasn't possible. John raised his hand to scratch his head through force of habit; forgetful that this was impossible through the thick glassite helmet he wore. The tall, gangling creature in front of him watched closely for a moment, then stretched one preposterously long limb up and scratched briskly on his leathery skull in imitation of John Hal.

The answer struck him instantly. Why hadn't he thought of it. This animal, this thing, whatever it was, was a natural mimic. 

Sam Moskowitz, World of Mockery (Planet Stories, Summer 1941)

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stalking a spiny critter on ganymede

The commander’s description of a spinyback was concise and accurate, but it left out several interesting details. For one thing, a spinyback has a long, mobile snout, two large ears that wave back and forth gently, and two emotional purple eyes. The males have pliable spines of a deep crimson color along the backbone that seem to delight the female of the species. Combine these with a scaly, muscular tail and a brain by no means mediocre, and you have a spinyback – or at least you have one if you can catch one.

It was just such a thought that occurred to Olaf Johnson as he sneaked down from the rocky eminence toward the herd of twenty-five spinybacks grazing on the sparse, gritty undergrowth. The nearest spinies looked up as Olaf, bundled in fur and grotesque with attached oxygen nosepiece, approached. However, spinies have no natural enemies, so they merely gazed at the figure with languidly disapproving eyes and returned to their crunchy but nourishing fare. 

Isaac Asimov, Christmas on Ganymede (Startling Stories, January 1942)

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Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:
A funny little story from the early Asimov's OSS fiction. But it doesn't seem to be related to his other two Ganymedean tales. One of the differences is that in this version there is native life on Ganymede.

a poisonous atmosphere on ganymede

Captain Hew Mills, UN Space Arm, currently attached to the Solar System Exploration Program to the moons of Jupiter, stood gazing out of the transparent dome that surmounted the two-story Site Operations Control building.  The building stood just clear of the ice, on a rocky knoll overlooking the untidy cluster of domes, vehicles, cabins, and storage tanks that went to make up the base he commanded.  In the dim gray background around the base, indistinct shadows of rock buttresses and ice cliffs vanished and reappeared through the sullen, shifting vapors of the methane-ammonia haze.  Despite his above-average psychological resilience and years of strict training, an involuntary shudder ran down his spine as he thought of the thin triple wall of the dome – all that separated him from this foreboding, poisonous, alien world, cold enough to freeze him as black as coal and as brittle as glass in seconds.  Ganymede, largest of the moons of Jupiter, was, he thought, an awful place…

James P Hogan, Inherit the Stars (1977)

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a restless astrogator on ganymede

Scott Hernandez paused in his work, as he did at the end of every long day, to watch Jupiter set and the sky transform from its usual light orange to brief crimson, and then deep, starry black. It was this magnificent display he was waiting for; the luminous river of the milky way, the dancing aurora caused by Jupiter’s colossal magnetic field, the constellations brilliant in the thin Ganymedean sky. He looked for the roving stars that would be Amalthea, Pasiphae, bright Callisto, or any of a myriad of sister worldlets orbiting their shared primary. He imagined, as he always did, what it would have been like to be one of the early explorers he had idolized as a child, Natasha Hin or Viron Zuff, and be the first to set foot on one of those spinning orbs.

But he had missed his chance. He had come home from Occator Flight Academy on Ceres, a certified astrogator, to discover his mother was sick and his brother Bradley had barely been keeping the farm together on his own. He was furious with them for keeping their troubles from him, but his dream of boarding an exploratory rocket and blasting off for the frontier was well known to them. His brother told him they would sooner have lost the farm than call him back from school. It was that very selflessness that made him realize he had to stay, that he couldn't let them lose the farm.

It wasn’t that he was too old to make a spacer, he was only forty, and astrogators were welcome everywhere, from the oldest ice hauler to the most advanced government vessel. It was that he felt too old. Rocketry had evolved since his days at Occator, and he suspected his skills, already rusty from disuse, would be utterly useless on a modern vessel.

Bradley sometimes half-heartedly suggested he look for a job on one of the “Grand Tour” cruise ships that luxuriously floated between Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. He would argue that they would provide a suitably low pressure environment for Scott to bring his abilities up to date. But they both knew that wouldn’t be enough for him. Flying several thousand tons of rocket for the entertainment of the rich wasn’t the same as penetrating the unknown.

Besides, Scott had learned to be content on the farm. He spent his time trouble-shooting the harvester drones and going down to New Memphis, the nearby capital, for drinks with his friends. Sometimes, when his friends had gone home, he would find his way to the Mary Down Docks and watch the sleek, silver rockets push their way to the sky.

Dylan Jeninga and Zendexor, Mission to the Tenth Planet [this excerpt from part I, by Dylan]

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