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


meeting a mighty martian

...I went down on my knees.  Terror, when it reaches a certain stage, paralyses all the impulses, so that the mind operates seemingly in a vacuum, conscious of nothing but its own existence.  Blinded, bowed, I knelt there.

The light flicked on, flicked off.  As I had seen it do already, it ran up and down the visual scale.  But the creature had stopped.  It was not approaching me.

I think it must have been for a minute that I knelt like that.  I was conscious only of the changing colours of the light and its intermissions.  Somehow - how can I convey this? - I gained from those steady changes, unhurried and unstartling as they were, a sense of peace.

A thought broke through the mask that seemed to have settled on my brain.  I put my torch before me and pressed the switch.  I pressed it and flicked it off again.  It was my final throw of madness, to attempt to communicate...

...I received a signal that seemed to me to be a meaningless jumble.  I tried to imitate it, and must have succeeded, for I got another one, more difficult.  I failed at that, and we both paused, waiting...  What 'she' knew, I can't imagine... she had discovered some strange and puny, dim-witted creature in her domain.

She backed away and went carefully round me and away into the night...  an intelligence of some kind, and radiating a body heat which told of a metabolism and power beyond my dreams...

Rex Gordon, No Man Friday (1956)

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viewing memories on mars

...He seemed to be seeing a grove... from a viewpoint about a foot off the ground.  The viewpoint shifted steadily and erratically as if the camera were being trucked on a very low dolly here and there through the stalks...  The viewpoint would shift quickly for a few feet, stop, then change direction and move again, but it never got very far off the ground.  Sometimes it would wheel in a full circle, a panorama of three hundred and sixty degrees.

It was during one of these full rotations that he caught sight of a water-seeker.

It would not have been strange if he had not recognized it as such, for it was enormously magnified.  As it charged in, it filled the entire screen.  But it was impossible not to recognize those curving scimitar claws, the grisly horror of the gaping sucker orifice, those pounding legs - and most particularly the stomach-clutching revulsion the thing inspired....

The viewpoint from which he saw it did not change; it was frozen to one spot while the foul horror rushed directly at him in the final death charge.  At the last possible instant, when the thing filled the screen, something happened.  The face - or where the face should have been - disappeared, went to pieces, and the creature collapsed in a blasted ruin.

The picture was wiped out completely for a few moments, replaced by whirling coloured turmoil...

Robert A Heinlein, Red Planet (1949)

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sinister encounter on mars

...The avenue was wide.  On either side the buildings marched, or on occasion fell back to form an odd-shaped square.  Here where they were undamaged and free of ice the strangeness of their shaping was more vividly apparent...  Some of the structures seemed to have no useful purpose at all.  They shot up in twisted spires, or branched in weird spiky arms like giant cacti done in pink and gold, or looped in helical formations, sometimes erect, sometimes lying on their sides... 

Passing by one of the cactus-shapes, he saw that the metal spikes were long and very sharp, and that there were traces on them of some dark stain...

....Back beyond the pink-and-gold structure with the bloodstained spikes, five figures had appeared in the street.  Three of them held longish tubes with globed ends that might be weapons.  They were very tall, these figures...  but they were excessively slender and they moved with swaying motion like reeds before the wind.  They were dressed in an assortment of bright-colored garments and queer tall caps that exaggerated their elongated narrow skulls.  Their skin was a pale golden color, stretched tight over a structure of facial bones that seemed to be all brow and jaw with little in between but two great round eyes like dark moons...

One of them spoke.  His voice was a kind of high-pitched fluting, quite musical, like the call of some strange bird...

"Our weapons are invincible.  We can destroy you all..."

Leigh Brackett, People of the Talisman (1964)

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machine-city on mars

...They had called themselves the Machine-masters because all labor in their metropolis was eventually performed by imperishable, self-powered machines that worked in fixed, unalterable routines.

But the Machine-masters, with no toil or struggle to stimulate their energies, soon fell into decadence.  There was no need to worry about food.  It was all raised and brought to them by machines.  Their clothing was made by other machines.  They had not even any enemies to fear.  Around their city, mindless machine guards patrolled which would instantly slay any intruder.

So the Machine-masters, sinking further into decadence, had finally passed away.  But their wondrous Machine City remained.  In it, the imperishable machines continued the unalterable routine of labor and guarding that their masters had started.  For age upon age, the machines of this place had been working on in the same old way.  Everyone in the System had heard of the Machine City.  But few had dared even to approach it, so formidable were the great mechanical guards that still protected the place...

Edmond Hamilton, Galaxy Mission (1940, 1967)

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motto of the martian emperors

...Ahead of them, gold-robed warriors wearing masks like the faces of mantises and long ceremonial spears of translucent crystal stood before the huge circular gate of the fastness, graven with the solar disk.  Above it was a symbol that looked like a figure eight laid on its side, surrounded by a glyph in the High Speech of ancient times:  SH'U MAZ.  Sustained Harmony, from time out of mind the motto of anyone who wished to claim the status of Acknowledged Ruler.

A much smaller portal accommodated the real traffic.  The guards beside it carried swords and dart pistols, and one of them held a beast on a leash.  It looked a little like a dog, perhaps a starved, elongated greyhound with teeth like a shark, a high forehead, and disturbingly versatile paws.  All four of the party stood while it approached and sniffed them over...

S M StirlingIn the Courts of the Crimson Kings (2008)

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a martian seeking shelter from a storm

...It was cold in the shadow of the ridge, and the grak's long fur fluffed out automatically to provide extra insulation.  He looked like a big black owl as he stood scanning the western sky, sniffing the wind with his beaklike nose.  There was a tawny band low on the horizon, brightening as the sun rose.  He had smelled a storm early in the night, for he had all the uncanny weather-wiseness of his race and was sensitive to every subtle change in the quality of the atmosphere.  He had started for the nearest arm of the greenlands, intending to claim the hospitality of the first village he could find, but the storm front was moving faster than he could run.  He had seen the ridge only just in time...

P Schuyler Miller, The Cave (Astounding Science Fiction, January 1943)

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an underground martian sea

...Leaving Zuarra, who was cautiously sampling the fleshy meat of the great fungus growths, Brant climbed the mossy slope of the hill to where Will Harbin stood awestruck, staring with wondering gaze into the luminosity.

And Brant stopped short, uttering a grunt of amazement.

From a gemmy shore at the foot of the other side of the hill, for as far as the eye could reach, there stretched a shining sea.

The water was milky-white, quite opaque, and was clearly the source of the mysterious luminance, for the radiant fluit was like the essence of light itself, curdled into pearly fire.

"A... sea," whispered Brant faintly.  "Here at the bottom of the world...!"

"Yes.  In fact, it is the Last Ocean," said Will Harbin softly...

Lin Carter, Down to a Sunless Sea (1984)

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a mysterious park-like area on mars

...As I walked slowly down the imperceptible slope toward the sea I could not help but note the park-like appearance of the sward and trees.  The grass was as close-cropped and carpet-like as some old English lawn and the trees themselves showed evidence of careful pruning to a uniform height of about fifteen feet from the ground, so that as one turned his glance in any direction the forest had the appearance at a little distance of a vast, high-ceiled chamber...

The trees of the forest attracted my deep admiration as I proceeded...  Their great stems, some of them fully a hundred feet in diameter, attested their prodigious height, which I could only guess at, since at no point could I penetrate their dense foliage above me to more than sixty or eighty feet.

As far aloft as I could see the stems and branches and twigs were as smooth and as highly polished as the newest of American-made pianos.  The wood of some of the trees was as black as ebony, while their nearest neighbours might perhaps gleam in the subdued light of the forest as clear and white as the finest china, or, again, they were azure, scarlet, yellow, or deepest purple.

And in the same way was the foliage as gay and variegated as the stems, while the blooms that clustered thick upon them may not be described in any earthly tongue, and indeed might challenge the language of the gods...

Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Gods of Mars (1913, 1918)

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silent remains of a lost martian civilization

...Below us was a city!

I can recall as a child the pictures in the story books I read.  And always in such books there was the great castle in which the prince lived or the princess was imprisoned.  Dream castles they were, all slender spires, graceful minarets, sweeping towers, things of sheer unreal beauty against the picture-book sky.

So this city was, somehow ethereal, breath-taking.  A small fertilized area surrounded it, like green velvet about a fragile piece of carved ivory.  Yet in spite of its beauty there was a bizarre unearthly quality to the city that no terrestrial artist could have conceived...

Very cautiously we circled the strange city.  No signs of life greeted us.  On the alert for any hostile move we settled the ship on the red plain just beyond the circle of green that surrounded the cluster of tall spires...

Frederick Arnold Kummer, Jr., Signboard of Space (Startling Stories, May 1950)

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guardians of the martian underworld

...They rose from the rocky bottom to the height of giraffes, with shortish legs that were vaguely similar to those of Chinese dragons, and elongated spiral necks like the middle coils of great anacondas.  Their heads were triple-faced, and they might have been the trimurti of some infernal world.  It seemed that each face was eyeless, with tongue-shaped flames issuing voluminously from deep orbits beneath the slanted brows.  Flames also poured in a ceaseless vomit from the gaping gargoyle mouths.  From the head of each monster a triple comb of vermilion flared aloft in sharp serrations, glowing terribly; and both of them were bearded with crimson scrolls.  Their necks and arching spines were fringed with sword-long blades that diminished into rows of daggers on the tapering tails; and their whole bodies, as well as this fearsome armament, appeared to burn as if they had just issued from a fiery furnace.

A palpable heat emanated from these hellish chimeras, and the Earthmen retreated hastily before the flying splotches, like the blown tatters of a conflagration, that broke loose from their ever-jetting eye-flames and mouth-flames...

Clark Ashton Smith, Vulthoom (Weird Tales, September 1935)

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warm season at the martian equator

...They plunged into the depths of the forest.  It was not difficult going, despite the size of the vegetation.  Most of the trees' vigor was concentrated in the broad, flat leaves that made a ceiling far overhead to catch the Sun's rays.  It was a green, dim twilight through which they moved, resembling the vague depths of the hydrosphere. 

Above the jungle, Quade knew, it was pleasantly warm, but at ground level an icy breeze chilled him.  Some of the trees, he noticed, were thickly coated with a furry kind of moss, which apparently served to keep the cold from penetrating through the bark - a striking form of true symbiosis, mutual aid between parasite and host.

The Bouncer hopped along quietly, subdued and a little frightened.  His huge eyes, capable of seeing into the infra-red and ultra-violet, found the gloom no handicap, but more than once the two humans were forced to use light-tubes...

Henry Kuttner, The Star Parade (Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1938)

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mad martian's palace

...we were escorted into the interior of the palace.  The furnishings were striking, but extremely fantastic in design and execution.  The native wood of the forests had been used to fine advantage in the construction of numerous pieces of beautifully carved furniture, the grain of the woods showing lustrously in their various natural colours, the beauties of which were sometimes accentuated by delicate stain and by high polishes, but perhaps the most striking feature of the interior decorations was the gorgeously painted fabric that covered the walls and ceilings.  It was a fabric of unbelievable lightness, which gave the impression of spun silver.  So closely woven was it that, as I was to learn later, it would hold water and of such great strength that it was almost impossible to tear it.

Upon it were painted in brilliant colours the most fantastic scenes that imagination might conceive.  There were spiders with the heads of beautiful women, and women with the heads of spiders.  There were flowers and trees that danced beneath a great red sun, and great lizards, such as we had passed within the gloomy cavern on our journey down...

>>  Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Fighting Man of Mars (1930)

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>>  Barsoom

illusion-trap on mars

...Their boots were deadened of all sound in the thick green grass.  It smelled from a fresh mowing.  In spite of himself, Captain John Black felt a great peace come over him.  It had been thirty years since he had been in a small town, and the buzzing of spring bees on the air lulled and quieted him, and the fresh look of things was a balm to the soul.

They set foot upon the porch.  Hollow echoes sounded from under the boards as they walked to the screen door.  Inside they could see a bead curtain hung across the hall entry, and a crystal chandelier and a Maxfield Parrish painting framed on one wall over a comfortable Morris chair.  The house smelled old, and of the attic, and infinitely comfortable.  You could hear the tinkle of ice in a lemonade pitcher.  In a distant kitchen, because of the heat of the day, someone was preparing a cold lunch.  Someone was humming under her breath, high and sweet.

Captain John Black rang the bell...

Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles (1950)

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a blue city on the red planet

...Varnal is more real to me, even in my memories, than ever Chicago or New York can be.  It lies in a gentle valley in the hills.... the Calling Hills.  Green and golden, they are covered with slender trees and, when the wind passes through them, they sound like sweet, distant, calling voices as one walks past.

The valley itself is wide and shallow and contains a fairly large, hot lake.  The city is built around the lake, from which rises a greenish stream, a delicate green that sends tendrils curling around the spires of Varnal.  Most of Varnal's graceful buildings are tall and white, though some are built of the unique blue marble which is mined close by.  Others have traceries of gold in them, making them glitter in the sunlight.  The city is walled by the same blue marble, which also has golden traceries in it.  From its towers fly pennants, gay and multicolored, and its terraces are crowded with its handsome inhabitants, the plainest of whom would be a sought-after beau or belle in Wynnsville, Ohio - or, indeed, Chicago or any other great city of our world...

Michael Moorcock, City of the Beast (also known as Warriors of Mars)  (1965)

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trudging through the martian desert

Fraser began to walk again. He walked a lot at night. The days were ugly and depressing and he spent them inside, working. But the nights were glorious. Not even the driest desert of Earth could produce a sky like this, where the thin air hardly dimmed the luster of the stars. It was the one thing he would miss when he went home.

He walked, dressed warmly against the bitter chill. He brooded, and he watched the stars. He thought about his diminishing whisky supply and the one hundred and forty six centuries of written history gone into the dust that blew and tortured his sinuses, and after a while he saw the shadow, the dark shape that moved against the wind, silent, purposeful, swift.

Out of the northern desert someone was riding…

Leigh Brackett, Mars Minus Bisha (Planet Stories, January 1954)

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furry bio-fabricators of mars

..."That bag of stuff, Bill... Who puts it beside the track?"

I'd been wondering if he would show any curiosity.  "A race of small, furry creatures," I answered.  "They're very shy.  They live underground, and dig ore for us."  I grinned at his puzzled expression.  "We don't want the ore, because it's usually only rock.  We're interested in the material of the bags.  It's as thin as paper, completely transparent, and yet it can withstand the weight of tons of rock.  They manufacture it from their own bodies, much the way spiders produce webs.  We can't seem to make them understand that we want only the bags..."

A E van Vogt, The First Martian (written 1939, published in The Far Out Worlds of A E van Vogt (1973))

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a robot intelligence on mars

Even before the storm set in, Ivan had no destination in sight. He picked his way carefully along an endless stretch of cracked road, climbing over the debris of broken-down speeders and fighters left over from the war. The alien metal shimmered a strange green-black even without light. Ivan raised the collar on his duster as if thin fabric would add protection that his chromium shell could not. He couldn't perceive anything beyond a few feet through the curtain of sand and wind that whipped around him, but there was a chirping signal in his quantum processors, clear and immediate over anything else. The satellites had been the first casualties of the invasion, though; there should be no signals.

Further on, Ivan crested a hill. The wind died down and he found himself overlooking the twisted metal carcass that had been Damascus, the first city...

Peter C Aitken, Perchance To Dream in Vintage Worlds ed. John Michael Greer and Zendexor (2018)

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primordial martian sages

One of the Three held in his supple, nine-fingered hand a glittering thing.  A hoop of pure crystal, struck across with crystal bars from which hung tiny rings of glassy stuff.  A crossbar and a handle, also of crystal, completed the curious instrument.  It reminded me of the mystic crux ansata, the Looped Cross, which the ancient Egyptians called the ankh, the Cross of Life.  It reminded me also of the sistrum used by the priests of the Nile in certain ceremonies...

We said nothing to each other.

We knew who the three gaunt mummies frozen in the misted amber expanse of crystal were - or who they had been aeons before.

The Timeless Ones...

Lin Carter, The Man Who Loved Mars (1973)

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setting up a base on worn-out mars

...In their favor, they had the low gravity and the loose, friable earth; against them was the same crumbly texture, with its tendency to collapse, and the incredible dryness.  Ordinary concrete wouldn't set decently, before it had dried the ravenous dust had sucked half the water from it and you got a flimsy stuff which the erosion of temperature extremes would soon ruin.  So you devised molds of plastic board which would act as a shield till the concrete was properly set.  One of the furtive, tiny animals chewed the insulation off power lines, so you had to bury them in concrete too.  Then you ran out of cement and had to scout round looking for some local substitute: a clay which mixed with water and baked into bricks.

But you couldn't spend water that lavishly, so you had to find it elsewhere, you had to extract it from the fluid-hoarding cells of certain trees.  Quickly growing rootlets with some unknown dowsing sense would split open any pipe or container with moisture in it, so you had to eradicate all plants for miles around and lay the pipes in open tunnels where they could be inspected.  And so on, and on, and on.

And slowly the base was growing...

Poul Anderson, Twilight World (1961)

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domesticated humanoids penned on mars

"When I saw that mesh I got my revolver ready, for it seemed to me a pretty obvious protection against some powerful animal.  Otherwise, I thought, why not walk about in the open instead of that narrow enclosure?

"There were about thirty of them there, dressed simply and gracefully, though their dress was a bit oriental from our point of view.  Everything about them was graceful except that dingy-looking flat house.  I came up to the mesh and greeted them.  I knew that taking my hat off would probably have no meaning to them, but I took it off with a wide sweep and bowed.  It was the best I could do, and I hoped that it might convey my feelings.  And it did too.  They were sympathetic and quick, and every sign that I made to them, except when too utterly clumsy, they understood at once.  And when they didn't understand they seemed to laugh at themselves, not me.  They were like that.  Here was I utterly crude and uncouth, half savage, compared to them; and they treated me with every courtesy that they could get my poor wits to understand... Well, I stood there with my hands on the mesh, and found it was good stout metal though much less than half an inch wide: I could easily get my thumb through the round apertures, so that we could see each other quite clearly.  Well, I stood there talking to them, or whatever you call it, as well as I could, and remembering all the time that there must be something pretty bad in those forests for all that thick wire to be necessary.  I never guessed what.

"I pointed to the sky, in the direction in which they would have seen Earth shining at night; and they understood me..."

Lord Dunsany, Our Distant Cousins (Saturday Evening Post, 23 November 1929)

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involuntary adaptation on mars

The nights were full of wind that blew down the empty moonlit sea-meadows past the little white chess cities lying for their twelve-thousandth year in the shallows.  In the Earthmen's settlement, the Bittering house shook with a feeling of change.

Lying abed, Mr Bittering felt his bones shifted, shaped, melted like gold.  His wife, lying beside him, was dark from many sunny afternoons.  Dark she was, and golden, burnt almost black by the sun, sleeping, and the children metallic in their beds, and the wind roaring forlorn and changing through the old peach trees, the violet grass, shaking out green rose petals.

The fear would not be stopped.  It had his throat and heart.  It dripped in a wetness of the arm and the temple and the trembling palm.

A green star rose in the east.

A strange word emerged from Mr Bittering's lips.

"Iorrt.  Iorrt." He repeated it.

It was a Martian word.  He knew no Martian...

Ray Bradbury, Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed (in The Day it Rained Forever (1959));
the story first appeared as The Naming of Names in Thrilling Wonder Stories (April 1949)

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explorers arrive at a desert city on mars

"...We ate breakfast, called out our location to you, and started over to have a look at the city.

"We sailed toward it from the east and it loomed up ahead of us like a range of mountains.  Lord, what a city!  Not that New York mightn't have higher buildings, or Chicago cover more ground, but for sheer mass, those structures were in a class by themselves.  Gargantuan!

"There was a queer look about the place, though.  You know how a terrestrial city sprawls out, a nimbus of suburbs, a ring of residential sections, factory districts, parks, highways.  There was none of that here; the city rose out of the desert as abruptly as a cliff.  Only a few little sand mounds marked the division, and then the walls of those gigantic structures.

"The architecture was strange too.  There were lots of devices that are impossible back home, such as set-backs in reverse, so that a building with a small base could spread out as it rose..."

Stanley G Weinbaum, Valley of Dreams (Wonder Stories, November 1934)

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captured by intelligent martian machines

Joan's captor sped over the desert with scarcely a sound save the scraping of its metal feet on the coarse sand and an occasional clink as they struct fragments of stone.  Only the faintest low-pitched hum told of the machinery at work within the casing; machinery which was acting with a flawless accuracy and judgement beyond the capacity of any animal creation.  Not once did it hesitate and not once did it err in placing the six hurrying legs.  The smooth, relentless perfection of its progress over the rough ground was uncanny; every climb and every descent was made without a suggestion of a slip or stumble.

After her first shock she had struggled desperately, but, held as she was, it was impossible for her to reach the pocket where her pistol lay.  In her panic she battered on the casing until her hands became sore even in their thick gloves, but upon the machine it had no effect whatever.  After that, she relapsed into a fatalistic acceptance of the situation.  At the rate they had travelled it would take her hours to find her way back over the desert.  As far as she could, she resigned herself to face whatever fate the machine intended for her.

Once in the journey she had caught sight of a group of machines to the west: and they had seen her captor, too.  They came scuttering awkwardly but speedily to investigate.  Her machine swerved and put on speed.  It left them behind easily...

John Beynon Harris (John Wyndham), Stowaway to Mars (1935)

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coaxed towards a zoo-cage on mars

...He got slowly to his feet, careful to make no sudden movements.  They were alert, wary, but not afraid.  They had eyes of a particularly clear sea-green, and behind these eyes was intelligence.  They paid no attention to the ship, having evidently inspected it to their satisfaction while he slept.  They watched Marcusson and discussed him between themselves in a musical language - a pleasant, bird-like warble that gave off most ably the nuances of mood, thought, and inflection for which anyone unfamiliar with a language always listens.

Marcusson tentatively extended a hand, thinking, with elation, that all was well.  People were the same everywhere.  These could be two Earthmen inspecting an interplanetary arrival on Terra.  Their reactions, their natural caution, their instincts, were of the same pattern exactly.

One of them was eyeing the gun on Marcusson's hip.  Quite obviously, the Martian knew what it was.  Marcusson made no motion towards it.  Rather, he smiled and raised his hand, palm outward.

"I am Charles Marcusson.  I come from Earth.  I come in peace and with a spirit of brotherhood."  He didn't expect them to understand, but he had invented that speech during the long hours in void and wanted to get it off his chest.

The Martians glanced at each other with bright interest.  They did not speak to Marcusson but discussed something between themselves, glancing now and again at the spires of the city beyond the rolling hills.

It was obvious to Marcusson that they were attempting to arrive at some decision.  A moment later he knew this had been accomplished because they nodded in agreement and turned their attention to the Earthman. 

...The one with the weapon motioned - a beckoning motion - after which he pointed across the hills toward a spot somewhat to the right of the city.

Then, both Martians invited Marcusson to walk in that direction by doing so themselves.  They stopped, glanced back expectantly, and both of them smiled.

Marcusson chuckled inwardly at these hospitable and kindly gestures.  Without hesitation, he moved in the indicated direction.  The Martians registered, between themselves, a marked satisfaction.  An almost childlike elation, Marcusson thought, at getting their simple ideas across to him.  They did not come close, but moved to a point on either side of him and well out of harm's way if he made a quick movement.  The armed one kept his weapon ever at ready, but his smile mirrored the friendliness in his mind.

Marcusson estimated they had travelled about four miles when they moved over a low hill and came to the house.  Obviously it was a house, but it was like nothing Marcusson had ever seen in the way of a dwelling.

It was a perfect square and no attempt had been made to achieve beauty.  Each side ran about twenty feet, and beside it was a smaller square, identical in every respect except size.  Grayish windowless walls about ten feet high.  Marcusson got the impression of a stockade with a roof, and a tool shed hard by.

The door was merely a section of the wall that pushed inward...

Paul W Fairman, Brothers Beyond the Void (Fantastic Adventures, March 1952)

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a terran on mars, possessed by a native mind

"Come out of it, Jones.  Snap it.  We got to move!"

"Yes," I say, hypnotized with the way the word forms like water on the tongue and falls with slow beauty out into the air.

I walk and it is good walking.  I stand high and it is a long way to the ground when I look down from my eyes and my head.  It is like living on a fine cliff and being happy there.

Regent stands by the stone wall, looking down.  The others have gone murmuring to the silver ship from which they came. 

I feel the fingers of my hand and the smile of my mouth.

"It is deep," I say.


"It is called a Soul Well."

Regent raises his head and looks at me.  "How do you know that?"

"Doesn't it look like one?"

"I never heard of a Soul Well."

"A place where waiting things, things that once had flesh, wait and wait," I say touching his arm...

Ray Bradbury, The One Who Waits (The Arkham Sampler, 1949; Machineries of Joy, 1964)

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a quest for animate jewels on mars

It grew dark quickly with the sand clouds masking the twilight.  Streamers of fire began to lace the mountain top.  A continuous purple corona gave it the aspect of luminescence.

The mountain rose slowly out of the desert and the sand gave way gradually to a trail of broken rocks that ground and protested against the runners of the sled.

“We’ll go from here on foot in the morning,” said Firebird.  As she brought the sled to a halt she leaped quickly out and started tugging at a huge boulder nearby.

Nathan stared in puzzlement.  The boulder slowly tipped on its side, exposing a small cavern.

“We’ll hide the sled in here.  I’ll show you why in the morning.”

They prepared a place to sleep for the night and alternated watches.  At dawn they gathered their packs of food and water and the weapons.  Firebird carefully closed the cavern over the sled.

She led the way along the trail that soon rose to increasing heights above the desert.  They came across the burned and blackened ruins of a sand sled, destroyed with all its equipment.

“That belonged to someone who came up here for the first time as well as the last,” said Firebird.  “There is no love lost between searchers for the Seven Jewels.  They burn each others’ sleds when found.”

The corona lightning increased with terrible streamers of blue and violet light that twisted about the peaks like living things…

Raymond F Jones, The Seven Jewels of Chamar (Planet Stories, Winter 1946)

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existing on mars, neither alive nor dead

...there is a light burning in the low stone hut on the edge of the burned New New York, and in that hut, as the wind roars by and the dust sifts down and the cold stars burn, are four figures, a woman, two daughters and a son, tending a low fire for no reason and talking and laughing, and this goes on night after night for every year and every year, and some nights, for no reason, the wife comes out and looks at the sky, her hands up, for a long moment, looking at the green burning of Earth, not knowing why she looks, knowing nothing, and then she goes back in and throws a stick on the fire and the wind comes up and the dead sea goes on being dead.

Ray Bradbury, Dwellers in Silence (Planet Stories, Spring 1949)

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a mars of jungles and clearings

The climb was long and dangerous.  Ro’s skin glistened with sweat.  He had lived in the cliffs all his life, and had made many perilous climbs, but never one on so dark a night.  It seemed an eternity before he rested at the bottom. 

Feeling his way cautiously, he moved toward the camp.  He could sense the presence of many Oan close by.  The hair at the base of his neck prickled.  He prayed he wouldn’t be seen.  An alarm now would spoil his plan. 

Ahead of him, he saw a clearing.  That would be his destination.  On the far side he would find the white ones.  He took the stone from his armpit and moved on. 

Suddenly he halted.  A dim figure approached.  It was one of the Oan, a guard.  He was coming straight at Ro…

“The rat men have eyes to cut the night.”  It was a memory of his mother’s voice.  She had spoken those words when he was a child, to keep him from straying too far. 

The Oan was only a few feet away now, but his eyes were not cutting the night.  Ro could see his large ears, hear his twitching tail.  In a moment the beast would stumble over him...

Chester Whitehorn, Coming of the Gods (Planet Stories, Summer 1945)

>>  Guess The World - Open

terran grave-robber headed for doom on mars

He found a clearing near a roofless columnar tower and spread his sleeping bag beneath its wall.  He went to sleep elated with his good fortune, and slept dreamlessly, and without disturbance.

But then, it took a great deal to disturb George Seeling when he slept.

In the morning the ghels were there.  There were about a dozen of them, silently squatting in a semi-circle about his camp, contemplating him at a respectful distance with their soulful, gazelle eyes.

There is something disconcerting about waking up and finding that one has acquired uninvited guests, but Seeling never turned a hair.  He reached over and grabbed his rifle, but the ghels never moved.  They looked, for all the world, like purple-brown graven images squatting there, except that the round, black eyes blinked once in a while.

The ghel tongue was a very rudimentary one, and Seeling, who was naturally adept at such things, had studied it at some length during the weeks at Parthena.  He felt that he could get along.

“I greet you,” he said, still fondling his rifle.  “I am an Earthman.”

“We know,” one of the ghels said in a curious, whistling voice.  “What do you want here?”

“I come to see the city,” George said.

“This is the sacred city of Solon Regh, the wisest of the ancient ones.  We do not welcome visitors here.”

“It is not your city, dammit,” George said.

“What did you say?”

“Sorry, I said, this is not the work of your race.  Why do  you care if I look around?”

“It is a shrine.  The old ones took care of us before they went away.  We loved them, and do not want their dead disturbed.”

George Seeling grinned with delight.  He never enjoyed himself so much as when he was where he wasn’t supposed to be.

“We should be very said if the dead were desecrated,” the ghel said.

“Umm,” said Seeling impudently, “but what would you do if I went ahead and desecrated them anyway?”

The ghel looked shocked.  He turned his saucer eyes on his companions, and they all squirmed on their haunches and looked shocked too.

“We would be very sad,” the ghel answered…

Charles A Stearns, The Grave of Solon Regh (Planet Stories, Winter 1954)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

a dangerous beast on mars

The space-armoured figure was toiling up the slope that led to the igloo. In one hand the man carried a short blast rifle, and as they watched, the two trappers saw him halt and wheel about, the rifle levelled, ready for action, to stare back at the shadows into which the two Hounds had disappeared only a moment before.

A slight movement to the left and behind the man outside caught Kent's eye and spurred him into action.

He leaped across the igloo and jerked from its rack his quartz-treated space suit, started clambering into it.

"What's the trouble?" demanded Charley. "What the hell you doin'?"

"There's an Eater out there," shouted Kent. "I saw it just a minute ago."

He snapped down the helmet and reached for his rifle as Charley spun open the inner air-lock port. Swiftly Kent leaped through, heard the inner port being screwed shut as he swung open the outer door.

Cold bit through the suit and into his very bones as he stepped out into the Martian night. With a swift flip he turned on the chemical heat units and felt a glow of warmth sweep over him.

The man in the ravine below was trudging up the path toward the igloo.

Kent shouted at him.

"Come on! Fast as you can!"

The man halted at the shout, stared upward.

"Come on!" screamed Kent.

The spacesuit moved forward.

Kent, racing down the ravine, saw the silica-armoured brute that lurched out of the shadows and sped toward the unsuspecting visitor.

Kent's rifle came to his shoulder.

The sights lined on the ugly head of the Eater. His finger depressed the firing mechanism and the gun spat a tight column of destructive blue fire. The blast crumpled the Eater in mid-leap, flung him off his stride and to one side. But it did not kill him. His unlovely body, gleaming like a reddish mirror in the starlight, clawed upon its feet, stood swinging the gigantic head from side to side.

A shrill scream sounded in Kent's helmet phones, but he was too busy getting the sights of the weapon lined on the Eater again to pay it any attention.

Again the rifle spat and purred, the blue blast-flame impinging squarely on the silica-armoured head. Bright sparks flew from the beast's head and then suddenly the head seemed to dissolve, melting down into a gob of blackened matter that glowed redly in places. The Eater slowly toppled sidewise and skidded ponderously down the slope to come to rest against the crimson boulder.

Clifford D Simak, Hermit of Mars (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1939)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

attacked by a predator on mars

...He stood gazing silently as the fading light painted the sky in somber colors, preparing to disappear for another night of screaming wind and penetrating sub-zero cold.

He watched until the twilight deepened to purple and then stalked laboriously into the wind, up the gentle slope toward the little hollow where he went each night.

His tall, articulated form strode across the dusty plain. By the time he had reached the foot of the bank the sky was totally blank, except for the stars, and he could barely propel himself forward against the raging world-wide currents of atmosphere. The last few yards he crawled on his bellyplates. He tumbled into the central hollow and lay exhausted, his lungs sucking in and out—

The cry of a Martian odlat would not be audible to human ears, but the screech which emanated within an inch of Peetn's ear-cupulas sent paralyzing waves of terror washing to the tip of his spiny tail. He skirled in agony as inch-long teeth crunched savagely into his shoulder, and the odlat, startled, let go. Peetn's tentacles shot beneath the flapping folds of his cloak and the night-dark was shattered in a hissing blaze of light. The headless corpse of the odlat thudded to the ground. Black reaction smote Peetn a blow somewhere inside, and the Martian lost consciousness…

Raymond Van Houten, The Last Martian (Planet Stories, Spring 1942)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

an ancient time-lock on mars

“I think I’ve got the answer,” said Brender, “but first I wish to see the time lock. Let’s climb.”

They rose into the sky, dipping over the lip of the building. Brender saw a vast flat expanse; and in the centre - He caught his breath!

The meagre light from the distant sun of Mars shone down on a structure located at what seemed the exact centre of the great door. The structure was about fifty feet high, and seemed nothing less than a series of quadrants coming together at the centre, which was a metal arrow pointing straight up.

The arrow head was not solid metal. Rather it was as if the metal had divided in two parts, then curved together again. But not quite together. About a foot separated the two sections of metal. But that foot was bridged by a vague, thin, green flame of ieis force.

“The time lock!” Brender nodded. “I thought it would be something like that, though I expected it would be bigger, more substantial.”

“Do not be deceived by its fragile appearance,” answered the thing. “Theoretically, the strength of ultimate metal is infinite; and the ieis force can only be affected by the universal I have mentioned. Exactly what the effect will be, it is impossible to say as it involves the temporary derangement of the whole number system upon which that particular area of space is built. But now tell us what to do.”

“Very well.” Brender eased himself onto a bank of sand, and cut off his antigravity plates. He lay on his back, and stared thoughtfully into the blue-black sky…

A E van Vogt, Vault of the Beast (Astounding, August 1940)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

deadly white mist on mars

Suddenly, Williams felt an icy tingle course through his blood. His hand dropped again to his ray gun, tore it from the holster. He stood erect, fighting an urge to crouch low against the danger.

Along the crest of the sand-swell before him, something was rising. Bright moonlight shimmered as the rays broke against a pale barrier.

To the right, the left, behind him, it was the same. The white mist was rising, surrounding him. Escape was cut off. Even to reach his nearby spaceship was impossible without cutting through. Barry tried to relax. There was nothing to do but wait.

He remembered the words of the old Martian desert wanderer to whom he’d spoken. This man had once been a chieftain, before the conquest of Mars by Earth. His keen black eyes had bored into Barry.

“If you wish the answer,” he’d advised, “go into the desert at night. You are different – you may return. I can tell you no more.”

Thicker grew the mist…

George A Whittington, Mists of Mars (Planet Stories, Summer 1945)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

accelerated evolution on mars

…The croaking noise was so loud now that it drowned even the crackle in Rick’s headphones, and he stared around, hoping against hope that he would see no movement.  For some minutes they went on, and then Bruce stopped again.

“Come up here,” he whispered.  “I believe they’re beyond this clump.  Whatever you do, don’t shake the stems!”

Rick and Maurice crawled up, their bulky suits pressing gently against the gas-leaves.  Ahead was a slight rise, and as they came to the top of it the sound rose to a crescendo; at last they were at the summit, and cautiously Rick poked his head through the plant mass.  Then he bit back a cry of horror – the sight facing him was something which he had never pictured in his worst dreams.

He was looking into a next of “bugs”.  The shallow pit beyond the stems was bare of plants, and seemed to be filled with insects very like the one he had killed, but much larger.  Some of them were three or four feet long, and all had the same lizard-like heads, red glinting eyes and sharp teeth; their bodies were striped with black and grey, and they had short, veined wings which whirred like fans as they hovered over the lair.  Altogether there must have been several dozens of them, and Rick was almost sick with fear as he stared.  The creatures were not only ugly; they were evil as well, while around the nest lay parts of the bodies of luckless dragonflies which had obviously been killed and then dragged back to feed the females and larvae.

“Stars and moons,” came Maurice’s voice in a husky whisper.  “This beats the band.  Let’s get out of here!”

Bruce drew back.  “You’re telling me!  I don’t think we’ll bother to say ‘hallo’ to this little lot.  If – “

He broke off with a shout.  The top of the bank was crumbling beneath his weight…

Patrick Moore, Peril on Mars (1958)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

bad vibes in an abandoned city on mars

…here, in this place of eternal bareness and solitude, it seemed that life could never have been. The stark, eroded stones were things that might have been reared by the toil of the dead, to house the monstrous ghouls and demons of primal desolation.

I think we all received the same impression as we stood staring in silence while the pale, sanies-like sunset fell on the dark and megalithic ruins. I remember gasping a little, in an air that seemed to have been touched by the irrespirable chill of death; and I heard the same sharp, laborious intake of breath from others of our party.

"That place is deader than an Egyptian morgue," observed Harper.

"Certainly it is far more ancient," Octave assented. "According to the most reliable legends, the Yorhis, who built Yoh-Vombis, were wiped out by the present ruling race at least forty thousand years ago."

"There's a story, isn't there," said Harper, "that the last remnant of the Yorhis was destroyed by some unknown agency—something too horrible and outré to be mentioned even in a myth?"

"Of course, I've heard that legend," agreed Octave. "Maybe we'll find evidence among the ruins, to prove or disprove it. The Yorhis may have been cleaned out by some terrible epidemic, such as the Yashta pestilence, which was a kind of green mould that ate all the bones of the body, starting with the teeth and nails. But we needn't be afraid of getting it, if there are any mummies in Yoh-Vombis—the bacteria will all be dead as their victims, after so many cycles of planetary desiccation. Anyway, there ought to be a lot for us to learn. The Aihais have always been more or less shy of the place. Few have ever visited it; and none, as far as I can find, have made a thorough examination of the ruins."

The sun had gone down with uncanny swiftness, as if it had disappeared through some sort of prestigitation rather than the normal process of setting. We felt the instant chill of the blue-green twilight; and the ether above us was like a huge, transparent dome of sunless ice, shot with a million bleak sparklings that were the stars...

...Even in my thick, double-lined bag, I still fell the rigor of the night air; and I am sure it was this, rather than anything else, which kept me awake for a long while and rendered my eventual slumber somewhat restless and broken. Of course, the strangeness of our situation, and the weird proximity of those aeonian walls and towers may in some measure have contributed to my unrest. But at any rate, I was not troubled by even the least presentiment of alarm or danger; and I should have laughed at the idea that anything of peril could lurk in Yoh-Vombis, amid whose undreamable and stupefying antiquities the very phantoms of its dead must long since have faded into nothingness...

Clark Ashton Smith, The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis (Weird Tales, May 1932)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

the human cost of terraforming mars

…It came in an orange glow in the south, and the glow was quickly shrouded by an expanding white cloud.  Then, minutes later the ground pulsed beneath them, quivered and shook.  The quake subsided, but remained as a hint of vibration.  Then after a long time, they heard the dull-throated roar thundering across the Martian desert.  The roar continued steadily, grumbling and growling as it would for several hundred years.

There was only a hushed murmur of awed voices from the crowd.  When the wind came, some of them stood up and moved quietly back to the trucks, for now they could go back to a city for reassignment.  There were other tasks to accomplish before their contracts were done.

But Manue Nanti still sat on the ground, his head sunk low, desperately trying to gasp a little of the wind he had made, the wind out of the ground, the wind of the future.  But lungs were clogged, and he could not drink of the racing wind.  His big calloused hand clutched slowly at the ground, and he choked a brief sound like a sob.

A shadow fell over him.  It was Kinely…  he said nothing for a moment as he watched Manue’s desperate Gethsemane.

“Some sow, others reap,” he said.

“Why?” the Peruvian choked.

The supervisor shrugged.  “What’s the difference?  But if you can’t be both, which would you rather be?”

Nanti looked up into the wind… It was a good sensible question.  Which would he rather be – sower or reaper?

Pride brought him slowly to his feet, and he eyed Kinley questioningly.  The supervisor touched his shoulder.

“Go on to the trucks.”

Nanti nodded and shuffled away…

Walter M Miller, Crucifixus Etiam (Astounding Science Fiction, February 1953)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

mars as imagined in 1880

The scene I now contemplated was exceedingly novel and striking. The sky, instead of the brilliant azure of a similar latitude on earth, presented to my eye a vault of pale green, closely analogous to that olive tint which the effect of contrast often throws over a small portion of clear sky distinguished among the golden and rose-coloured clouds of a sunset in our temperate zones.

The vapours which still hung around the north-eastern and south-eastern horizon, though dispelled from the immediate vicinity of the Sun, were tinged with crimson and gold much deeper than the tints peculiar to an earthly twilight. The Sun himself, when seen by the naked eye, was as distinctly golden as our harvest moon; and the whole landscape, terrestrial, aerial, and celestial, appeared as if bathed in a golden light, wearing generally that warm summer aspect peculiar to Tellurian landscapes when seen through glass of a rich yellow tint. It was a natural inference from all I saw that there takes place in the Martial atmosphere an absorption of the blue rays which gives to the sunlight a predominant tinge of yellow or orange. The small rocky plateau on which I stood, like the whole of the mountainside I had descended, faced the extremity of the range of which this mountain was an outpost; and the valley which separated them was not from my present position visible. I saw that I should have to turn my back upon this part of the landscape as I descended farther, and therefore took note at this point of the aspect it presented. The most prominent object was a white peak in the distant sky, rising to a height above my actual level, which I estimated conjecturally at 25,000 feet, guessing the distance at fifty miles. The summit was decidedly more angular and pointed, less softened in outline by atmospheric influences, than those of mountains on Earth. Beyond this in the farthest distance appeared two or three peaks still higher, but of which, of course, only the summits were visible to me. On this side of the central peak an apparently continuous double ridge extended to within three miles of my station, exceedingly irregular in level, the highest elevations being perhaps 20,000, the lowest visible depressions 3000 feet above me. There appeared to be a line of perpetual snow, though in many places above, this line patches of yellow appeared, the nearer of which were certainly and the more distant must be inferred to be covered with a low, close herbaceous vegetation. The lower slopes were entirely clothed with yellow or reddish foliage. Between the woods and snow-line lay extensive pastures or meadows, if they might be so called, though I saw nothing whatever that at all resembled the grass of similar regions on Earth. Whatever foliage I saw—as yet I had not passed near anything that could be called a tree, and very few shrubs—consisted distinctly of leaves analogous to those of our deciduous trees, chiefly of three shapes: a sort of square rounded at the angles, with short projecting fingers; an oval, slightly pointed where it joined the stalk; and lanceolate or sword-like blades of every size, from two inches to four feet in length. Nearly all were of a dull yellow or copper-red tinge. None were as fine as the beech-leaf, none succulent or fleshy; nothing resembling the blades of grass or the bristles of the pine and cedar tribes was visible.

Percy Greg, Across the Zodiac (1880)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

chugging along a canal on mars

...In front and to the left smooth water spread like a silk sheet to the horizon.  A mile or more to the right lay a low embankment with yellow red sand showing through rush-like tufts of skimpy bushes.  Far in the background rose the white crowns of purple mountains.

In the mild warmth of noon Bert let his boat carry him along.  Behind him, a fan of ripples spread gently and then lapsed back into placidity.  Still further back the immense silence closed in again, and nothing remained to show that he had passed that way.  The scene had scarcely changed for several days and several hundred miles of his quietly chugging progress...

John Wyndham, Time To Rest (in the collection The Seeds of Time (1956))

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

wrecked and alone on mars

…I broke open a packet of rations, and ate some food.  I felt no hunger, but the familiarity of the simple act of eating held some comfort.  The food did me good, too.  It gave me strength, and I felt better able to resist.  Then, suddenly, I became aware of silence…

Looking out of the window again, I saw that the flare of the rocket-tube had vanished.  There was nothing but blackness and the stars.  All sound had ceased, and left such a silence as was never known on Earth.  Nor was it just that, not just the negative absence of sound; the silence was hard, positive, a quality of eternity itself.  It rang in one’s ears until they sought relief by hearing sounds that did not exist; murmurings, far-off bells, sighs not so far off, tickings, whispers, faint ululations…

A bit of verse, that my grandfather used to quote came into my mind:

                                     …for all the night
                                     I heard their thin gnat-voices cry
                                     Star to faint star across the sky,

and I seemed to hear them, too; they had no words, they were on the threshold of sound, but they encouraged me…

And, God knows, I needed encouragement, crouched there in my flimsy dome…

The voices cry – but the elemental terrors prowl.  We need numbers to sustain us; in numbers we can dispel the terrors; alone, we are weak, mutilated.  Taken from our pool of corporate strength we gasp, we wriggle defencelessly while the terrors circle round, slowly closing in…

John Wyndham, The Outward Urge (1959)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

exploring a ruined palace on mars


Frank Hampson, Dan Dare: The Red Moon Mystery, Eagle, 18th January 1952

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

ancient coral-like trees on mars

There was no real road over the hills, but ages ago all irregularities had been worn away so that the ground was perfectly smooth.  Here and there a few stubborn boulders still jutted above the surface, displaying a fantastic riot of colour and shape, but these obstacles were easily avoided.  Once or twice they passed small trees - if one could call them that - of a type which Gibson had never seen before.  They looked rather like pieces of coral, completely stiff and petrified.  According to their driver they were immensely old, for though they were certainly alive no one had yet been able to measure their rate of growth.  The smallest value which could be derived from their age was fifty thousand years, and their method of reproduction was a complete mystery.

Towards mid-afternoon they came to a low but beautifully coloured cliff - 'Rainbow Ridge', the geologist called it - which reminded Gibson irresistibly of the more flamboyant Arizona canyons, though on a much smaller scale.  They got out of the Sand Flea and, while the driver chipped off his samples, Gibson happily shot off half a reel of the new Multichrome film he had brought with  him for just such occasions.  If it could bring out all those colours perfectly it must be as good as the makers claimed: but unfortunately he'd have to wait until he got back to Earth before it could be developed...

Arthur C Clarke, The Sands of Mars (1951)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

loss of artificial atmosphere on mars

Asir bowed his head.  “I have come to plead with you, Senior Kinsman.”

Welkir snorted disgust.  “Against the mercy we have shown you?”

He looked up quickly, shaking his head. “No!  For that I am grateful.”

“What then?”

“As a thief, I gained much wisdom.  I know that the world is dying, and the air is boiling out of it into the sky.  I wish to be heard by the council.  We must study the words of the ancients and perform their magic, lest our children’s children be born to strangle in a dead world.”

Welkir snorted again.  He picked up the lamp.  “He who listens to a thief’s wisdom is cursed.  He who acts upon it is doubly cursed and a party to the crime.”

“The vaults,” Asir insisted.  “They key to the Blaze of the Winds is in the vaults.  The god Roggins tells us in the words – ”

“Stop!  I will not hear!”

“Very well, but the blaze can be rekindled, and the air renewed.  The vaults – ”  He stammered and shook his head.  “The council must hear me.”

“The council will hear nothing, and you shall be gone before dawn…”

Walter M Miller, Big Joe and the Nth Generation (If, May 1952, as It Takes a Thief)
>>  Guess The World - Third Series

a view from a mast on mars

…The long façade of the great building, whose roof he had looked down upon before, was now receding in perspective.  He recognised the roof.  In front of the façade was a terrace of massive proportions and extraordinary length, and down the middle of the terrace, at certain intervals, stood huge but very graceful masts, bearing small shiny objects which reflected the setting sun…  The terrace overhung a thicket of the most luxuriant and graceful vegetation, and beyond this was a wide grassy lawn on which certain broad creatures, in form like beetles but enormously larger, reposed.  Beyond this again was a richly decorated causeway of pinkish stone; and beyond that, and lines with dense red weeds, and passing up the valley exactly parallel with the distant cliffs, was a broad and mirror-like expanse of water.  The air seemed full of squadrons of great birds, manoeuvring in stately curves; and across the river was a multitude of splendid buildings, richly coloured and glittering with metallic tracery and facets, among a forest of moss-like and lichenous trees.  And suddenly something flapped repeatedly across the vision, like the fluttering of a jewelled fan or the beating of a wing, and a face, or rather the upper part of a face with very large eyes, came as it were close to his own and as if on the other side of the crystal…

H G Wells, The Crystal Egg (The New Review, May 1897)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

cavern-city on mars

THE GREAT height of the cavern shrouded the roof in misty obscurity in which, at fixed intervals, there floated luminescent globes of radite. The air, heated by this subterranean volcanic stratum, wafted past gently. Before Lincoln Fields stretched the wide, paved avenue of the principal city of Mars, fading away into the distance.

He clumped awkwardly up to the entrance of the home of Garth Jan, the six-inch-thick layer of lead attached to each shoe a nuisance unending. Though it was still better than the uncontrollable bounding Earth muscles brought about in this lighter gravity.

The Martian was surprised to see his friend of six months ago, but not altogether joyful. Fields was not slow to notice this, but he merely smiled to himself. The opening formalities passed, the conventional remarks were made, and the two seated themselves.

Isaac Asimov, The Secret Sense (Cosmic Stories, March 1941)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

Note from Zendexor:  The contributor who sent in this extract - "Lone Wolf" - remarked in his email that

...it's a curious piece of early Asimov's OSS fiction, which actually has native Martians in it! They are not described in details though, only that they seem to be humanoid, and the topic is that while they have duller senses than the Earthmen and cannot perceive colours and music, this is compensated by another "secret sense" of electrical nature and an art, based on it (called portwem), to which humans are "blind".

discovering the flora and fauna of mars

I put on my helmet and got out of the car. First I walked carefully toward the banks of the stream. I avoided the saguaro-type plants, but I noticed that when my boots struck shoots and stalks of some of the other plants, sparks flew. More than half of the plants had the characteristics of an electric eel.

The stream, while stagnant, was steaming. It wasn't hot water, for the temperature must have been in the low forties, but the atmospheric pressure was so light that water was evaporating in great quantities.

It was difficult to see how the stream was supplied with water, since it extended between two oases, both apparently fed by the same stream. And there didn't seem to be very much flow, although after watching the stream for a few minutes I decided it was moving in the direction of Major.

Then I saw tiny springs along the bank, sending little rivulets of water into the canal. It was so simple that I should have guessed where the water came from. It all came from the polar caps, of course, but the water flowed underground. The Martians had simply cut their canals to feed on the artesian supply from the North Pole.

I took the can Axel had put in the locks and filled it. Then I lugged it back to the Mars-car. After I stowed the water in the locks I walked gingerly back to the saguaro I had knocked down a few minutes before. It was somewhat charred, but the fire had gone out. Apparently the air would not support much combustion. Using my knife I gingerly cut off one of the branches. No sparks flew, but I noticed that instead of sap, there was a thick, pasty pulp inside. It was acid, because before I could wipe my knife on the ground, the substance had etched itself slightly into the surface.

I carried the stalk back to the car and tossed it into the locks. I'd stepped inside myself and had just closed the door when I saw movement to my right—on my side of the canal, in the direction of Solis Lacus Major.

A small creature, a little larger than a St. Bernard, was approaching the Mars-car. It looked like a dwarf camel, except that it was headless. And the hump wasn't a hump, but a shiny bump with a metallic luster.

I said it had no head, but it did have a mouth—gaping, grinning and full of pointed teeth. It had four legs and many arms—long, sinuous, many-jointed, with two fingers at the end—growing like a fringe around that bump in the middle of the creature's back.

Then I saw that the vegetation in its path was smoldering. The animal had only to move a small black thing that sprouted on a stem from the top of its hump, and whatever lay in front of it started to smoke.

"Axel!" I screamed into my helmet transmitter. "There's a Martian down here!"

No one had told me what it was and none of its acts had shown that it had intelligence, but some instinct told me this creature was the highest form of life on Mars.

R R Winterbotham, The Red Planet (1962)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

Note from contributor Lone Wolf: 

I haven't even heard of this author before, but found this novel online. It's still OSS, although from almost the end of the era...  the author makes the usual mistake of some SF writers to confuse the directions - south for north and east for west, - forgetting that the astronomical maps are made upside down as seen from a telescope).  

a grimly beautiful scene on mars

 It was a grim and bitter landscape, tawny rust-streaked rock fantastically jumbled into soaring crags and raw bluffs and steep-walled ravines, hard splashes of mineral color, red and blue and ocher and umber, against the naked stone. Here and there were clumps of brush and low twisted trees, thorny and dusty and dull gray-green of hue.

The shadows were long in the thin chill light of the shrunken sun, sliding edges of darkness against which the crags loomed sharp and savage. Sand blew with a dry whisper between bushes and rocks, whirled and hissed on the faint mordant wind and gnawed at the crumbling stone. Once Fredison saw something slink gauntly out of a cave, a lean feathered thing like a wolf snuffling out after food and another time a huge-winged bird flapped its slow way overhead – otherwise only stillness and death and the rustling sand. Above him the sky was a deep blue-black with a tinge of green, a high unearthly heaven where stars twinkled faintly even in the daytime.

The girl sighed beside him and he saw her looking at the land as if it were a holy vision. “Isn't it beautiful?” she whispered. “Isn't it beautiful?”

“That? Phyllia, that's the damnedest creepy desert I ever saw in my life. You can call that naked hacked-up hagridden scenery beautiful?”

“But it is”, she cried, and there was a strange appeal in the lustrous dark eyes that turned to him. “Can't you see it” Can't you see the bigness and the loneliness and the cleanness of it? Out here you can be alone with God and with life which is Mars. You can belong and still be yourself – Oh, Lars, it's home!”

Poul Anderson, War-Maid of Mars (Planet Stories, May 1952)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:

This story is a sequel to the earlier Duel on Syrtis, although it seems as if nobody has noticed that! It is not mentioned as such in the magazine, neither in the bibliographies online which I checked wondering whether there is more stories of the same series. Anderson seems to have been quite a prolific author, but I don't know him well, and it could have been interesting if he wrote more stories set in this version of Mars. But if there were such stories, I didn't find them, while these two are given separately as if they are not related at all, although the same character of the Martian Kreega appears in both of them. Maybe the title of this particular story, as if reminiscent of those early pulp adventures of planetary romance from the previous quarter of the century, was not quite apt for it (it is more of a political intrigue than a light adventurous story) and nobody took the time to check it and associate it with the earlier one and thus it was lost among many other stories which the author wrote...

computer simulation of old mars

...The bank of the canal was at last coming into view.  Paul stared at the ghostly collection of huts slowly appearing through the mist, waiting, but Klooroo did not answer. When he looked up, the self-named nimbor was staring at him in horror.

"What? Have I said something wrong?"

"You . . . you have looked on the Summer Princess? And the taltors did not slay you?"

Paul shook his head. "If you mean the soldiers, we hid from them." Bemused by the creature's reaction, he told Klooroo how they had stolen a ride on the barge. ". . . And that is why we were floating in the water where you found us. What have we done that is so terrible?"

Klooroo made several hand gestures which seemed meant to ward off evil. "Only a Tellari, and a mad one at that, would ask such a question. Why do you think the canal is forbidden to anyone below the taltor class during Festival Season? So lowly ones do not look on the Summer Princess and bring bad luck on the Festival's rituals. If the rituals fail, the canals will not flood next season and all the land will remain a desert!"

A faint memory, really a reflex, suggested to Paul that once he would have found such a belief ridiculous, but recalling as little as he did of his own past and immersed in such a strange present, he found it difficult to say that anything was ridiculous. He shrugged. "I'm sorry. We didn't know anything. I was only trying to save the boy and myself."

Klooroo looked down at slumbering Gally and the grim set of his long muzzle softened a bit. "Yes, but. . . ." He blinked, then looked up at Paul. "I suppose you could not know. Perhaps since you are off-worlders, it will not disturb the ritual."

Paul decided not to mention their gleeful consumption of the temple offerings. "Who is she, this Summer Princess? And why do you know so much about . . . Tellari? Are people like us common here?"

"Not here—not in the nimbor towns. But there are more than a few in Tuktubim, although mostly they stay in the Soombar's palace, and a few mad ones roam in the outer deserts, looking for only the gods know what. There are occasionally visitors from Vonar as well—the second planet. But they almost never come outside the rainy season."

Klooroo was nosing his skiff through an array of small docks that formed a set of channels along the canal's bank. Many of the huts were built directly on the docks; others, grouped together between the canal and a rising cliff wall, rose in high, ramshackle agglomerations. Most of Klooroo's neighbors seemed to be awake and moving, some preparing their boats to go out onto the canal, but others just as clearly bringing theirs back in from a night of forbidden foraging.

"But how about the woman?" Paul asked, "You called her a princess?"

"The princess. The Summer Princess." He turned down one of the waterways, and Paul's wide view was suddenly blocked by looming walls. "She is one of the Vonari, the Blue People with Wings. Long ago, we conquered them, and every year they send one of their noblewomen as tribute."

"Tribute? What does that mean? She has to marry the . . . what did you call him? The Soombar?"

"After a fashion." Klooroo used the long paddle to turn them again, this time through a small watergate into a small enclosed pool surrounded by flimsy wooden walls. He brought the skiff alongside an open doorway, then reached out his long, clawed hand and pulled out a rope, which he tied to a loop in the skiff's bow. "After a fashion," he repeated, "since the Soombar is the descendant of gods. What she does is marry the gods themselves. At the end of the Festival she is killed and her body is given to the waters so that the rains will come back."

Tad Williams, Otherland vol.1 : City of the Golden Shadow (1996)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

Note from contributor Lone Wolf:

I am not sure if this qualifies exactly as OSS literature, since what is described here does not happen in the real world, but in a computer simulation. Tad Williams' "Otherland" series is a very long novel (3 volumes of 4 books and the last one of 5 books - it took me more than year to read the whole of it!) with complicated plot, multiple parallel plotlines and protagonists, which is not about space travel at all, but about virtual reality, intrigues and conspiracies around a bunch of powerful magnates who want to achieve immortality by transferring their consciousness in a kind of virtual copies on the net. And only in one book of the first volume there is this episode, where one of the protagonists, while travelling between different virtual  "worlds" (simulations, built by the bad guys in a secret network as their personal playgrounds), gets into one of them, which represents a classical Old Mars, set in a fictional world in which interplanetary travel was achieved as early as the Victorian era. So it's not even an OSS revival written in the 1990s, but a completely different genre of SF (I believe the term is "cyberpunk"), just that one of the fictional virtual simulations in the novel happens to be a recreation (and very detailed at that) of the Old Mars as a stage for an adventure in the style of H. Rider Haggard or E. R. Burroughs. I remember that when I first read this years ago, I wondered if this episode was based on some actual book (since the other virtual worlds described in the novel have literary prototypes like "Alice in Wonderland", "The Wizard of Oz", Homer's Iliad, etc.) and I thought that if there is such a book, I'd very much like  to read it, but I never found any trace of it, so it's probably just a creation of the author as a minor secondary plot in his long novel... 

Comment from Zendexor:

The above scene is a vision-within-a-vision, or fiction-within-a-fiction, but, notwithstanding that degree of remove, the inspiration is Old Mars - which means it's good enough for the purposes of the OSS.

a mossy landing-site on mars

…the light was bright enough to show them that the rocket was resting on a flat surface, and that it lay on a carpet of bluey-green.

As Chris was their leader, the rest of the crew stood back for him to go through the hatch first.  With a hand raised in acknowledgement, he stepped forward and jumped the yard or so to the ground.  Because of the low gravity, he landed lightly on the soft, springy carpet, and at once bent down, eager to solve one of the mysteries that had been puzzling generations of astronomers.

There was no doubt about it.  The bluey-green colour came from a thick growth of some kind of vegetation.  It seemed like moss, but he could push his hand down into it for six inches before he felt the solid ground.  No wonder it was like treading on some luxurious carpet!  He remembered, many years before, walking across the stubble of a newly-cut cornfield.  It was springy to the tread.  This was the same, but the growth was longer, denser, and even more springy…

Hugh Walters, Destination Mars (1963)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

transcorporeal life on mars

Madeleine felt strangely disoriented, as though dreaming with delirious fever. All time and space seemed for a moment to be enclosed within that rocky space, itself unmoored and unhelmed upon a dark and compassless ocean.

Martians, Martians all around, but not a one to see. Like disembodied spirits, they had long ago evolved beyond confinement to fleshly bodies. But Earth people suspected there was something, so the younger ones, like Don, allowed suspicion to take any stereotyped, acceptable form. But the oldsters believed in being honest. Let those who can see—see.

"Madeleine!" Don was thinking, desperately, as desperate as only pure feeling can be. "Go back—back to the Haven. You can still go back!"

"But she cannot," the old man said. "For those who come this far, there's never anything to go back to."

"No—I cannot," Madeleine thought. "I don't want to go back."

"All right," Don thought after a while. "All right, Madeleine."

Then she was on her feet and moving over sand and stone that seemed alive toward the Ruins of Taovahr—but they were no longer ruins. She heard the murmur of sea-tides and warmer winds sighing over a younger land.

The sterile sand blossomed. Aridity drifted away. "Don! Is that you, Don?"

Don seemed to be somewhere, felt rather than heard, sensed, not seen. And instead of ruins, the high white walls and rising towers surrounded by gardens, fountains, and through the gardens a stream of clear water, soft with the pads of giant water lilies, trailing like glass under the moonlight and sympathetic shadows of leaves.

"Don! You knew what real living was in your youth. It was way, way back in time. Didn't you? And only if you're really living do you know where you're going, and you knew, didn't you? You gave up the machines, and went on to freedom. You escaped the confining flesh that can be caught up in war, and in hopeless peonage to the radios and teevee and radar and thundering jets that drown out the song of real life, and a horde of cunningly made, treacherous machines—"

"Madeleine. Join us—the way we are now. You can do it—"

"I—I can't see you, Don."

"You don't have to. You just think about it and join us, all of us—"

"Just—just a spirit of some kind, Don—is that it?"

"Yes, yes—something like that! You can't explain it! Just do it!"

It was too late, she knew that now. "We're old, too old, where I come from, Don. When I was very young, I might have done it." Only the wonder-filled child can go through the looking glass and—stay.

Bryce Walton as Kenneth O'Hara, The Mating of the Moons (Orbit Science Fiction no. 2, December 1953)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

Note from contributor Lone Wolf:

This story kind of reminds me "Seven Came Back" by Clifford Simak - here again the Martians have found some other form of existence beyond the material reality and one has to die in order to go there. But here the end is not so optimistic as in the Simak story and it seems a little ambiguous - the heroine most likely doesn't make it, because she has lost that childish innocent ability to believe in the miraculous, so she only glimpses for a moment that other reality before dying, which is still better than the drab spiritless existence that the life of the Earthmen has become.

a mysterious fortress city on mars

Once around that valley there were great peaks crowned with snow and crags of black and crimson where the flying lizards nested, the hawk-lizards with the red eyes.  Below the crags there were forests, purple and green and gold, and a black tarn deep on the valley floor.  But when I saw it it was dead.  The peaks had fallen away and the forests were gone and the tarn was only a pit in the naked rock.

In the midst of that desolation stood a fortress city.

There were lights in it, soft lights of many colors.  The outer walls stood up, black and massive, a barrier against the creeping dust, and within them was an island of life.  The high towers were not ruined.  The lights burned among them and there was movement in the streets.

A living city – and Corin had said that Shandakor was dead.

A rich and living city.  I did not understand.  But I knew one thing.  Those who moved along the distant streets of Shandakor were not human.

I stood shivering in that windy pass.  The bright towers of the city beckoned and there was something unnatural about all light and life in the deathly valley.  And then I thought that human or not the people of Shandakor might sell me water and a beast to carry it and I could get away out of these mountains…

Leigh Brackett, The Last Days of Shandakor (Startling Stories, April 1952)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

the multi-ethnic capital of mars

To the casual sight-seeing tourist, Mercis, capital of Mars, is a marble definition of the word “beauty”. Its stately white buildings, its green lawns dotted with clumps of flaming fayeh blossoms, its network of crystal-clear canals, make it a garden spot in the eternal, dusty-red plain. And when you add bottle-lined Terrestrial bars, gondolalike boats manned by soft-singing little native boatmen, and exclusive, highly priced shops, the result is a veritable mecca for the wealthy space-trotter. Even the bored dilettante, seeking the somewhat nebulous higher things in life, can find a haven in the Tolar Quarter, where appropriately hungry-looking artists, seated in the doorways of appropriately quaint houses, offer endless salmon-colored landscapes to the would-be patrons of art. Whatever your inclination, the canny little Martians can cater to it, for they overlook no item, however small, in their eternal game of exchanging cheap articles and pleasant memories for Terrestrial cash.

Yet in addition to this brilliant, gay city, there is another Mercis, unsought by, unknown to tourists. Far from the marble splendor of the big passenger port where the sleek luxury liners glide to the ground, there are the cargo docks, with their battered tramps, their rusty freighters, and plain, blunt-nosed vessels surrounded by a maze of gaunt cranes, cargo lifts, and gray storage tanks. And about the cargo port, like scum on the sides of a bubbling caldron, lies the Olech, dark and shadowy. Rows of drab, huddled houses; worn, grimy glass streets; stinking, rubbish-littered arms of the great canals. Dull, crystaloid walls made all the more hideous by tattered remains of posters; lean slinking molats, the six-legged tailless Martian hounds; ragged urchins and whining beggars, who, for a price, deliver questionable messages or obtain even more questionable information.

Here in the Olech, squat Jovian spacehands rub shoulders with languid Venusian traders; dark Mercurians drink with the dâk-men of Neptune; and tall Terrestrials swagger contemptuously through the crowds of “reddies”, copper-skinned sons of Mars. Above the babel of a hundred polyglot tongues one can hear the sibilant hissing of the Martian dialects. Like flitting shadows the little reddies, clad in their long, loose dust-robes, glide along the crooked streets, mysterious, inscrutable.

Within the blank-faced houses of Ki Street, behind the busy stalls of the Space-Market, the old Martian religion carries on its dark and bloody rites, defying alike the Imperial Decree and the Interplanetary Covenant. Among clouds of forbidden, hysteria-provoking incense, the priests, their faces ruddy in the light of the ancient ceremonial lamps, offer the mutilated bodies of their victims to the great hungry black thing which, at the sound of the third bell, appears above the altars. A hypnotic manifestation, Terrestrial skeptics call it; but to the true believers it is Yonan, God of Gods, Lord of Terrors, Master of Magic.

Here, too, from behind the lattices of the so-called “Amen Alley”, tiny, doll-like Martian girls smile appraisingly at passers-by and hawk-faced dopesters offer sure tips on the monthly space-races. At night, when the twin moons peer like two tiny baleful eyes from the heavens, and the sallow light from the little shops makes orange oblongs on the narrow streets, you can hear the pulse of multiphone music, throbbing, moaning, as though teetering on the borderline between pleasure and pain. And above the music can be heard the excited muttering of the reddies as, crowded about the great glassex globes within which the green fungoid spores struggle for supremacy, they bet with fatalistic recklessness, knowing full well that, by the Law of the Olech, the bodies of welshers are found within twelve hours floating on the dark waters of the Han Canal.

Frederick Arnold Kummer Jr., The Forgiveness of Tenchu Taen
(Astounding, November 1938)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

Note from contributor Lone Wolf:
The note in the magazine announces the story as "one of the most beautiful and vivid descriptions of Old Mars science-fiction has produced" - and it's a typical example of that type of "cosmic Third World", which Den Valdron calls "colonial Barsoom". And what is more - I recently discovered that a lot of the stories by this author, although not all of them, are set in the same universe (the Old Mars in particular), as can be seen from the mentions of the same common cultural details like the Martian capital Mercis, the Venusian Solis, the fayeh bushes, Martian animals like molats, thaens, etc., alcoholic drinks like Martian tong and tika, Venusian thole, and also the olo (which in one story is said to be Neptunian drink, while in another is said to be Mercurian), currencies (Martian thael, Jovian solt), Martian words ("Alotah!" or "Aloteh!" - "Good bye!", "Gathol!" - a curse), etc. It seems this is still another forgotten version of the Old Solar System like those of C .L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton or the shared universes of Hasse / dePina and Kuttner / Barns.  

looming sandstorm on mars

Swelling and towering swiftly, like a genie loosed from one of Solomon's bottles, the cloud rose on the planet's rim.  A rusty and colossal column, it strode above the dead plain, through a sky that was dark as the brine of desert seas that have ebbed down to desert pools.

"Looks like a blithering sandstorm," commented Maspic.

"It can't very well be anything else," agreed Bellman rather curtly.  "Any other kind of storm is unheard of in these regions. It's the sort of hell-twister that the Aihais call the zoorth—and it's coming our way, too. I move that we start looking for shelter.  I've been caught in the zoorth before, and I don't recommend a lungful of that ferruginous dust."

"There's a cave in the old river bank, to the right," said Chivers, the third member of the party, who had been searching the desert with restless, falconlike eyes.

The trio of earthmen, hard-bitten adventurers who disdained the services of Martian guides, had started five days before from the outpost of Ahoom, into the uninhabited region called the Chaur.  Here, in the beds of great rivers that had not flowed for cycles, it was rumored that the pale, platinum-like gold of Mars could be found lying in heaps, like so much salt.  If fortune were propitious, their years of somewhat unwilling exile on the red planet would soon be at an end. They had been warned against the Chaur, and had heard some queer tales in Ahoom regarding the reasons why former prospectors had not returned.  But danger, no matter how dire or exotic, was merely a part of their daily routine.  With a fair chance of unlimited gold at the journey's end they would have gone down through Hinnom.

Clark Ashton Smith, The Dweller in the Gulf (Wonder Stories, February 1933,
as Dweller in Martian Depths)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

an ice-roofed city on mars

He went, going very softly, out toward the tower of stone. And there was no sound in all that land.

The last of the twilight had faded. The ice gleamed, faintly luminous under the stars, and there was light beneath it, a soft radiance that filled all the valley with the glow of a buried moon.

Stark tried to keep his eyes upon the tower. He did not wish to look down at what lay under his stealthy feet.

Inevitably, he looked.

The temples and the palaces glittering in the ice....

Level upon level, going down. Wells of soft light spanned with soaring bridges, slender spires rising, an endless variation of streets and crystal walls exquisitely patterned, above and below and overlapping, so that it was like looking down through a thousand giant snowflakes. A metropolis of gossamer and frost, fragile and lovely as a dream, locked in the clear, pure vault of the ice.

Stark saw the people of the city passing along the bright streets, their outlines blurred by the icy vault as things are half obscured by water. The creatures of vision, vaguely shining, infinitely evil.

He shut his eyes and waited until the shock and the dizziness left him. Then he set his gaze resolutely on the tower, and crept on, over the glassy sky that covered those buried streets.

Silence. Even the wind was hushed.

Leigh Brackett, Black Amazon of Mars (Planet Stories, March 1951)

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Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:

This is from the first variant of the novel. I don't know why she changed it lately in the book edition, People of the Talisman. This version with the ice creatures seems much more interesting. It is even more changed from the original version than the other Stark book (The Secret of Sinharat remade from Queen of the Martian Catacombs) and in the end it becomes a completely different story. In both cases I find that somehow I like the original magazine versions more.

what counts as grass on mars

Carson bent down and pulled up a cluster of tiny green plants.  Examining them closely he observed that each consisted of a transparent globular structure, no larger than a pinhead, mounted on a thin stalk of pallid green.  Inside each minute globe was a mass of bright green fronds, almost microscopic in dimensions.  He pressed the stalks between his fingers and found them dry and brittle.

“It’s really a plant within a plant,” explained the girl called Competence.  “The fern-like growth develops inside in its own spherical greenhouse, which traps and conserves the warmth of the sun.  It also acts as a storage tank for moisture drawn from the deeper levels of subsoil by extremely long roots.  Biologists believe that this plant is the final attempt at adaptation to adverse conditions by Martian vegetation.  It’s the only surviving species.”

They were standing on a vast level expanse of Martian plain, on which the green vegetation lay like a thick carpet…

Charles Eric Maine, The Man Who Owned the World (1961)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

splendid canal city on mars

SPRINGING up, as if in actual miniature reproduction, was one of the canal cities of Mars. There was a section of dryland territory on the one side of moonlit Canal Pyramus, the spires and minarets and glistening nickel-cobalt roadways of the city on the other. Lights of many ronsals, the vehicles whose elongated bodies were supported a few feet above the roads by the energies with which they were charged, could be discerned plainly. The traffic was that of mid-evening, proceeding at a leisurely pace.

“It’s Copais!” breathed Coler. “Right!” said Kal.

“And only sixty miles from Risapar.”

Harl Vincent, Lost City of Mars (Astounding Stories, February 1934)

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Comment by contributor Lone Wolf:

Here is a mention of the Martian city of Copais on the canal Pyramus, together with Risapar - the capital of the Canal Cities' Union...

There are also multiple references to the same locations in a number of stories by the same author, published in Astounding in the early 1930s, which obviously were set in the same universe (it's not only the trilogy about Ridge Coler and Kal Turjen, but at least several other non-related stories like "Thia of the Drylands" and "Roadways of Mars", which describe the same Old Mars with two principal races - the red civilized canal dwellers and the white nomad drylanders). Copais is obviously related to Copais Lacus of the old maps (in the confluence of multiple canals in the northern hemisphere between the lands of Dioscuria, Cecropia, Uchronia and Utopia), and the capital Risapar (which is most likely a native name) should be somewhere on the canal Pyramus 60 miles from there. But I couldn't identify these with any surface features from the modern maps...

an edwardian version of mars

Below them could be seen an extensive city, built beside an arm of the sea, which, instead of being blue, was of an ethereal, rosy tint. There were towering palaces and noble buildings, vast embankments and terraces, surrounded by beautiful gardens, amidst which could be distinguished stately colonnades, winding streams, and glistening fountains and cascades.

The Ivenia swept downwards with a swift, gliding motion, in a series of wide circles, like some giant bird poised on outstretched wings. There was no vibration, no jar, no motion even of the wide-spreading wings as she sank lightly and gracefully through the air.

And as she descended, the air below became filled with what at first had the appearance of a great flight of birds.

Gerald asked what they were, and Monck bade him look again through his glasses. Then he saw that what he had mistaken for distant birds were in reality numbers of flying-machines mounting upwards to meet the Ivenia.

A little later these smaller air-craft were swarming round the great aerostat, the occupants uttering shouts and cries of joyous welcome to their returning king. These flying-machines were of all shapes and kinds, and they thronged round Ivanta's superb 'chariot of the skies' as might a swarm of steamers, yachts, and other craft round a mighty warship bearing our own king back to England's shores after a foreign trip.

Finally, the wondrous structure landed easily and quietly upon the ground in the midst of a vast crowd of people; and, as she came to rest, King Ivanta stepped out from the conning-tower and showed himself to the shouting throng.

Fenton Ash, A Trip to Mars (1909)

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Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:
First serialized as “A King of Mars” in The Sunday Circle, 5 January – 25 May 1907).
An old novel of adventures and intrigue, but not the classic Old Mars: not only are there seas and great mountains, but according to the author the air is much denser than on the Earth and that's why the Martians can fly with personal mechanical wings and other flying machines (also the gravity is said to be one half and not one third of that of the Earth).

thinking oneself back to old mars

“You peel an old life off and you step forth in a new and shining life,” said Seven, “but you must know the way. There is a certain technique and a certain preparation. If there is no preparation and no technique, the job is often bungled.”

“Preparation,” said Webb. “I have no preparation. I do not know about this.”

“You are prepared,” said Seven. “You were not before, but now you are.”

“I thought,” said Webb.

“You thought,” said Seven, “and you foimd a partial answer. Well-fed, earth-bound, arrogant, there would have been no answer. You found humility.”

“I do not know the technique,” said Webb, “I do not…”

“We know the technique,” Seven said. “We take care.”

The hilltop where the dead city lay shimmered and there was a mirage on it. Out of the dead mound of its dust rose the pinnacles and spires, the buttresses and the flying bridges of a city that shone with color and with light; out of the sand came the blaze of garden beds of flowers and the tall avenues of trees and a music that came from the slender bell towers.

There was grass beneath his feet instead of sand blazing with the heat of the Martian noon. There was a -path that led up the terraces of the hill toward the wonder city that reared upon its heights. There was the distant sound of laughter and there were flecks of color moving on the distant streets and along the walls and through the garden paths.

Webb swung around and the seven were not there. Nor was the wilderness. The land stretched away on every hand and it was not wilderness, but a breath-taking place with groves of trees and roads and flowing water courses…

Clifford D Simak, Seven Came Back (Amazing Stories, October 1950)

>>  Guess The World - Fifth Series

Note from Zendexor: see above, Transcorporeal life on Mars, for the subsequent comment by Lone Wolf comparing the Simak story with Bryce Walton's The Mating of the Moons.

a well on mars

It was a well.

Henry Bedrosian and Christopher Luden bent over the lip, peering down into the jet darkness.  Their balloon-tired motorcycle lay forgotten on the talcum sand, fine pink sand that stretched endlessly away to the flat horizon, borrowing its color from the sky.  The sky was the color of blood.  It might have been a flaming Kansas sunset, but the tiny sun was still at the zenith.  The translucent hewn stone of the well-mouth stood like a blasphemy in the poisonous wilderness that was Mars.

It stood four feet above the sand, roughly circular, perhaps three yards across.  The weathered stones were upright blocks, a foot tall by five inches wide by perhaps a foot thick.  Whatever the material of those stones, they seemed to glow with a faintly blue inner light.

“It’s so human!” said Henry Bedrosian.  His voice held a touch of bewildered frustration…

“…Did you notice the shape of the bricks?”

“Yes.  Odd. But they could still be man made.”

“In this air?  Breathing nitric oxide, drinking red fuming nitric acid?  But – “ Chris drew a deep breath.  “Why complain?  It’s life, Harry!  We’ve discovered intelligent life!”

Larry Niven, Eye of an Octopus (Galaxy, February 1966)

>>  Guess The World - Fifth Series

a secret valley below a mist-layer on mars

... He was possessed with the same overmastering curiosity as to what lay below the barrier of illusion that had driven the others to dare its mystery.

He descended step by step. When he touched the shaking mist-mirror a peculiar thrill ran along his nerves. It was like s faint electrical charge - numbing, a slight, chilling shock. Nothing painful, but more than a bit startling.

The mist came up and drowned him. For a moment he felt himself completely blind; but the smooth stone steps were still there beneath his feet. He felt his way down, step by step, descending into complete darkness.

Out of darkness, light blossomed.

A dim, dreamy haze of light, soft and faintly golden.

As he descended beneath the barrier, a vision of strange marvels appeared, it was like a bit of stage legerdemain, or one of the miraculous transitions the old-time moviemakers knew how to work. The scene was transformed, instantly and completely, as by some mighty magician.

He stood on a steep slope of rock overgrown with a carpet of soft moss. Sapphire-blue was that moss, and it deepened to metallic indigo and brightened to lucent azure as the shifting light played across it.

A warm, humid gust of air met him, dampening his face and filling his lungs with the perfume of strange, unearthly flowers.

Lin Carter, The Valley Where Time Stood Still (1974)

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Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:

I am not sure if this would be more suitable for GTW or for the Gazetteer (since it has an exact location - the crater Airy on the Martian zero meridian). [I'll link it there too - Z.]  It's interesting to see how this whole book, as also the other Martian novels of Lin Carter, are like a collection of ideas, taken from other authors, although he points only to Leigh Brackett as a source of inspiration. For instance this idea about a valley, hidden under an illusionary barrier in a crater, seems to be inspired from Abraham Merritt's "lost race" novel Dwellers in the Mirage (1932). Then there are the names he uses like "Ygnarh" (the first Martian city in Sinus Sabeus), which is almost literally taken from "Ignarh" in the Martian stories of Clark Ashton Smith, "Zerild" (the Martian femme fatale of the story) has its analogue in "Berild" from Lee Brackett's Queen of the Martian Catacombs (1949) / The Secret of Sinharat (1964). The name of "Ophar the Holy" (the hidden valley of the Martian Eden in the crater Airy) seems to be taken from that of the kingdom of Opar in the Tarzan stories of  E.R. Burroughs, etc. This last name appears also as "Iophar" in an earlier novel - The Flame of Iridar (1967), which is a sort of heroic fantasy, set on ancient Mars (like Poul Anderson's The Virgin of Valkarion, 1951), where it is a name of a magical kingdom, although it is not quite sure whether this book belongs to the same universe as the other Carter's Martian stories from the 1970s (which  would be interesting, since here he provides a native name for Mars - "Iridar", together with other planetary names, all formed with the same suffix "-dar"). Also the idea of a flame-like energy being from another dimension in this novel is later used in another of his stories - The City Outside the World (1977), although they are not exactly the same and probably not identical. This is not original too, but seems to be inspired by Henry Hasse's Martian stories City of the Living Flame (1942) and Dead-Flame of M'Tonak (1946). Indeed, as Den Valdron qualifies him, Lin Carter seems to be "the ultimate fanboy". His world-building of Mars and the Martian culture is quite detailed and fascinating (I especially like his Martian language, which reminds me of Persian), but his style often tends to be boring, as if he comments on what is happening instead of telling what is happening. Although written in the 1970s, his Martian cycle describes an earlier version of the Old Mars, but he inverts the traditional areography, taking the dark surface features to be highlands instead of dried seas, as was originally thought (thus Sinus Sabeus here is a plateau, while Deucalionis Regio is a lowland desert, remains of an ancient gulf, etc.). I guess we can classify this as NOSS, since it doesn't reflect exactly neither the old notions about the planet, nor the new ones.

hunting by hypnosis on mars

“Now!” breathed Oul Vorn. “All together!”

Young Stephen Drew obeyed the command. He hurled his thought at the rearing rock-dragon, as powerfully as he could.

This was Martian hunting. It was hunting by hypnotism. On faraway Earth there were snakes that could conquer a prey by hypnotism. That faculty had been developed by Nature to a far greater degree in almost every Martian animal.

This rock-dragon trapped sand-cats by hypnotism, and sand-cats in turn caught small rodents and moon-owls by hypnotic attack.

The rearing rock-dragon resisted their combined hypnotic assault with all its faculties. The beast could probably have opposed one or even two of them. But the simultaneous hypnotic attack of the five youths so distracted it that it could not concentrate.

“Relax! Sleep!” vibrated the mental command in Stephen Drew’s mind, hurled at the red-eyed, hissing creature before them.

Drew had developed his hypnotic hunting technique until he was almost as good as his Martian comrades. He had practiced it since childhood with them. For Stephen Drew had been born here in southern Mars.

The rock-dragon’s gray head was sagging, its red eyes beginning to shut. Its massive, leathery body settled to the sand. The combined hypnotic assault was beating down its fierce will.

The five young hunters advanced nearer the beast, their nooses and swords raised.

“Sleep—sleep—” thought Stephen Drew, over and over.

Then came disastrous interruption. From the desert behind them echoed a distant, shrill voice.

“Ark Avul!” it called faintly. “Your father needs you—Avul Kan sends for you!”

Stephen Drew half turned, then too late remembered the rock-dragon. The interruption had momentarily broken his concentration and had weakened the hypnotic attack of the hunting band.

The rock-dragon, temporarily freed from the full power of that mental attack, uncoiled its full length and charged. Drew realized instantly that his startled comrades could not regain control in time…

Edmond Hamilton, Son of Two Worlds (Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1941)

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