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

impact of a solarian on mercury

...We did not see it die, out there in the freezing fire; it was beyond the reach of our instruments now, and none of them recorded its end.  Yet every one of us knew when that moment came, and that is why we are not interested when those who have seen only the films and tapes tell us that we were watching some purely natural phenomenon.#

How can one explain what we felt, in that last moment when half our little world was enmeshed in the dissolving tendrils of that huge but immaterial brain?  I can only say that it was a soundless cry of anguish, a death pang that seeped into our minds without passing through the gateways of the senses.  Not one of us doubted then, or has ever doubted since, that he had witnessed the passing of a giant.

We may have been both the first and the last of all men to see so mighty a fall...

Arthur C Clarke, Out of the Sun (Worlds of If, February 1958)

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hunted on mercury

...There was no way back to the partial security of the lake basin.  The overhang cut him off from that.  The futility of trying to hide was apparent, but nevertheless he wormed in among some crimson ferns.  The city was at his left.  To the right, the fertile plain washed out into a badland of lava and shattered rock, which narrowed and vanished around a shoulder of purple basalt.  This defile was still in deep shadow.

The riders were still far away.  He saw them splash across a ford, toy figures making little bursts of spray.

The watcher above the trees darted suddenly downward.  The quarry was breaking cover...

Leigh Brackett, Shannach - The Last (Planet Stories, November 1952)

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mercurian survivals

...Swinnerton wondered how much of the animal life had survived.  Watching and wandering, they saw.  Insects buzzed about, amazingly large ones, the size of some birds.  Birds, in turn, were all bigger than eagles, snapping up the huge insects as Earth birds snap up gnats.  Mammals were winged.  Flying wolflike creatures lumbered by, seeking prey in the universal rule of life.

One great bearlike creature, with a membranous wing spread of thirty feet, hovered over them as though contemplating attack.  Then it flapped away grotesquely.  It pounced on a turkey-sized bird, rended it with its claws, and savagely gobbled it down - all in mid-air...

It was strange and pathetic.  These monsters represented the last of a planet's evolution...

Gordon A Giles, Via Mercury (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1940)

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healed and captured by the savants of mercury

...For a while, he did not associate the green luminosity with any idea of limitation; for he seemed to be floating in a vast abyss.  Then, suddenly, he perceived his error.  Putting out his hands, he touched on either side the wall of a narrow vault, and saw that its roof was only a few feet above him.  The floor lay at an equal distance beneath; and he himself, without visible support, was reclining in mid-air.  The green light, streaming mysteriously from all sides of the vault, had given him the illusion of unbounded space.

Abruptly, at his feet, the end of the vault seemed to disappear in a white glory like pure sunlight.  Long, sinuous, six-fingered hands reached out from the glory, grasped him about the ankles, and drew him gently from the green-lit space in which he floated.  Weight seemed to return to him as his limbs and body entered the dazzling whiteness; and a moment later, he found himself standing erect in a large chamber, lined with some sort of pale, shimmering metal.  Beside him, a strange, unearthly being was closing the panel-like door through which he had been drawn from the emerald-litten vault; and beyond this being, there were two others of the same type...

...Each of them was about the height of a tall man, and the physical conformation was vaguely similar to that of mankind, but was marked by an almost god-like beauty and grace of contour...  In place of hair, the full, intellectual heads were crowned with a mass of heavy flesh-like filaments, hued with changing iridescence, and tossing and curling with a weird, restless life, like the serpent locks of Medusa...

Clark Ashton Smith, The Immortals of Mercury (1932)

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brainy mercurian cacti

...I considered running for cover among the small crags and boulders that jutted like house-sized teeth up through the lava.  But to run might be to draw attention to myself. 

Finally, with utmost caution, I advanced.

On a clear area of plain beside the trail, I came upon a group of about a dozen barrel-sized, bulbous vegetables, ridged like cacti.  They had twiggy tufts the size of chop-sticks growing from their tops; the rattling sound came from these sticks tap-tapping.

I ventured closer still.  I'd never learn what's what if I avoided every off-putting thing.  I stopped at three yards and watched the twigs make their noise.  My tension eased as I came to the conclusion that the rattling was purely defensive, evolved to ward off predators.  So, having had my look, I returned to the trail.  For a while I still heard the click-click-click behind me.

In my imagination the noise began to seem like an exchange of remarks, and the sick eerie hunch that those blind isolated things might be talking made this world seem infinitely lonelier...

Robert Gibson, Valeddom (2013)

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make your own sunrise on mercury

Lucky ran forward eagerly in the steady stride which he could maintain for hours without feeling unduly tired. Under the circumstances, he felt he could have maintained such a stride even under Earth’s gravity.

And then, with no warning, no premonitory glow in the sky, no hint of any atmosphere, there was the Sun!

Rather, there was a hairline that was the Sun. It was an unbearable line of light edging a notch of broken rock on the horizon, as though some celestial painter had outlined the gray stone in brilliant white...

Isaac Asimov, Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury (1956)

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underground crowds on mercury

Jaro stared about him in amazement.  The narrow dimlit way was jammed with revelers.  The women wore the historic costume, a short skirt low on bare hips and a diminutive jacket with squared sleeves.  Their black hair was done up on top of their heads with blossoms of the red egalet that only blooms during the Rains.  Wooden clogs were fastened to their feet.  The men wore gaudy, loose trousers and cummerbunds of green.  Their chests were bare, and many bands of hammered silver ornamented their arms...

Emmett McDowell, The Red Witch of Mercury (Planet Stories, Summer 1945)

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domesticating native beasties on mercury

"I was born in Nefertem, a small town not far from Trismegistus in the Tropic of Gemini, the temperate zone...  My parents raised dragons.  Most everyone in Nefertem did..."

...She told us what they looked like...  Komodo dragons crossed with zebras crossed with otters, with the personality of a drunken grand-dad set in his ways...

Catherynne M Valente, Radiance (2015)

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storms and sparse growths on metallic mercury

...The whirling rotary clouds were at times close over us - green and red vapor masses, hurling rain and wind heavy with sulphur.

The clouds sometimes rifted into great vertical funnels through which the clear daylight of the sky was visible.  It brightened the scene, and the bleak, desolate landscape beneath us was at those moments clearly shown as great rippled sheets of metallic plateau, drenched with water - shining coppery, then cast with green - or blinding red when the lightning puffed - or again, a wild, broken area with spires and crags and boulders strewn as though some frenzied Titan had flung them.

And we swept over tiny valleys where soil had collected and trees and verdure had sprung up.  The trees bent low in the wind; the rain-sheet blurred our vision of them as we struggled past...

Ray Cummings, Tama of the Light Country (1965)

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a mobile mercurian vegetable

Once he woke up to see something that looked like a bad attempt to squeeze a face out of putty stuck against the rocks.  It was a naturally ugly head, and the way the creature was wobbling something that might have been its lips made it even uglier.  He shuddered, before he saw that it was much too wide to squeeze through.  And the picture of the thing in his mind didn't help his next attempt at sleep.

The next time he snapped out of his nap was when one of them suddenly slapped a tail against the earth and charged angrily at the stones.  They stood up under the assult, by some miracle, even when it kept repeating it.  But the ground shook each time the tail slapped down.

The strange part of it was that any one of them could have come through by turning sideways and flowing through, as they had flowed across the ground behind the tractor.  But this seemed to be against the rules, for some reason.

Dick got up and moved around, working off the numbness.  At his first movement the creatures drew back out of the way.  He noticed that when he moved toward them, they started going around to the side.  When he stood still, they moved away.  But at any other movement, they tried to come through the rocks toward him.  It all fitted the legends he had heard, and it was no easier to believe in person than it had been when it was nothing but an idle story.

He saw Charlie watching him, and went back.  "I don't get it," he admitted.

"Why should you?" Charlie asked.  "You think of 'em as animals.  But they ain't - they're just a bunch of walking plants."


"Yep.  Move to the darkside, get themselves some water.  Move to the hotside, grow a while.  Then wander around in Twilight, giving anyone a hard time..."

Lester del Rey, Battle on Mercury (1953)

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hastening out of a mercurian city

The speaker was announcing that the Flying Cube would soon be ready to start for the Water City, to make a survey and to follow the ball into the Cold Country.  A giant ray projector was being mounted on the Cube, and defensive electronic barrage armament.  Within a few hours it would be ready to start.

Guy and Toh departed at once, pushing through the gathering people on the lakeshore, they passed into the narrow city streets.  By the Light Country living cycle, this was the middle of the time of sleep.  None were sleeping in the Hill City this night.

Walking and running, Guy pulling Toh by the hand, they hastened through the city, ascending toward the distant heights beyond it.

As the clouds turned black the dim street lamps were lighted.  There were lights in most of the houses.  Toh and Guy threaded the crowds and attracted little attention.  Soon they came to wider, deserted streets: A steady upward ascent of the broad circular bowl, spread like a flat cauldron upon the inner slopes of which the city was built.

The street they followed was soon a wide ascending road, with spreading tree branches interlocking overhead; low stone houses at the sides, set in verdant gardens or patches of cultivated soil...

...The houses were soon farther apart.  Less soil was here; the metallic, barren desert land began showing.  The street dwindled and was lost at the summit.  Ahead was a tumbled region of pointed crags and strewn boulders - an upland desert plateau stretching away into the darkness with the black sullen clouds hanging low above the encircling hills.  This was the highland from which the Hill City took its name.

They reached the rim.  Behind them the bowl of the city lay with winking tiny lights like myriad eyes.  Ahead there was a small level space strewn with boulders...

Ray Cummings, Tama, Princess of Mercury

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mud on mercury

"We've just come in sight of the flow.  It's about 500 yards ahead.  We'll get as close as seems safe, and I'll try to make sure whether it's really lava or just mud."

"Mud?  Is that possible?  I thought there wasn't - couldn't be - any water on this planet!"

"It is, and there probably isn't.  The liquid phase of mud doesn't have to be water, even though it usually is on Earth.  Here, for example, it might conceivably be sulphur."

"But if it's just mud, it wouldn't hurt the ship, would it?"

"Probably not."

"Then why all this fuss about getting the tractors back in a hurry?"

The voice which answered reminded him of another lady in his past, who had kept him after school for drawing pictures in math class.

"Because in my judgement the flow is far more likely to be lava than mud, and if I must be wrong I'd rather my error were one that left us alive..."

Hal Clement, Hot Planet (Galaxy, August 1963)

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the swamp belt of mercury

Mallard looked at the almost impenetrable growth of tangled fern trees and undergrowth and swore wearily.  They had been here for three weeks, now, and it had been three weeks of pure, unadulterated hell.  The dank, steamy air made every breath a painful effort and, day and night, giant insects made their life miserable.  They could take the miniature Overton gun a little way into the swamp belt but at every step they had to be on the alert for the great reptiles that floundered through the dense undergrowth.  And even more, for the deadly plant life that lay in wait. 

And always they were under watch from the natives.  Scaly-hided men, not much past the anthropoid stage, but the crude wooden spears they used could be very dangerous.  The Overton ray gun was scaled down to near zero for use against the fungus stumps but it could be turned up to full power for its original use as a weapon.  And the gun had saved their lives on more than one occasion when those wooden spears began to fly past them.  It was a tense, miserable life.

But they did find the rhizoids...

Jack Bradley, The Rhizoid Kill (Planet Stories, November 1952)

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at the north pole of mercury

...This time the rush of air was less violent when he opened the valve, the pressure in the tunnel having been halved.  He began to feel safer, knowing that the door to the terminal chamber now could not be opened until every Dorrinian beyond it had sealed his vacuum suit.  He opened the final door, crouched down and stepped through into a small cell which had been hewn into dark basalt.  In its roof was a ribbed panel of dull plastic which closely resembled the surrounding rock.  He put his hands on the panel and pushed upwards.  It lifted easily and slid away to one side, and he found himself looking into a black and star-seeded sky.

He climbed up out of the cell and stood up on a gently sloping crown of rock, the cuboidal cracking of which had effectively disguised the tunnel entrance hatch.  The scene before him was exactly what he had observed from the underground chamber, all its elements assembled on a natural stage.

Most distant was the complex boxy shape of the Quicksilver, and close to it was the mirrored metal of the decoy which the Dorrinians had assembled on the surface at such a great cost in human lives.  In the centre of the arena the two astronauts were kneeling by their fallen companion, and closest to Jerome - flanked by two skull-shaped boulders - was an insignificant-looking white pebble containing the soul of a beleaguered race.

The whole, with its background of scarps and crater walls, was starkly lit by the paring of the Sun's disc which blazed on the horizon, and low in the sky was a twinned speck of blue-white brilliance.  In spite of its remoteness, the Earth-Moon system was an integral part of the tableau.  Not only was it the ultimate goal for Jerome and every Dorrinian, it was the emplacement from which Belzor, the malign superman, had struck down a chief actor in the drama which was being enacted.  Jerome visualized him somewhere in the white wilderness of Antarctica, perhaps lying on his back in a thermal coccoon, his unblinking gaze fixed on Mercury...

Bob Shaw, Fire Pattern (1984)

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mountainous monster on mercury

The Mercurian horizon was not so far away as the more familiar horizon of Earth, and it was a little difficult for Lamoureux to estimate distances. Still, the foothills of the mountains could not be more than twenty miles away. For the past day, little more than the rim of the Sun had been visible above the horizon, and while the peaks were ablaze with scarlet and golden colors, only the higher one was out of the shadow to any considerable extent. The saddlebacked ridge itself was a vague outline of dull black.

The snow did not catch up with them until four or five hours later, when they stopped to prepare a meal and rest. Then it began to fall gently after they had been in the same place for three-quarters of an hour. By now, Lamoureux was sure that it was the Mercurians who were to blame. He still wondered how they did it.

The one they had come across had remained with them, and Lamoureux found it harder than ever to regard the creature as intelligent. All the thing had done was walk and play chess. Lamoureux had a low opinion of chess players, even when they were fairly human. He had an even lower opinion of trained animals. This Mercurian fell, in his estimation, somewhere between.

They were no more than a mile or two from the foothills of the larger mountain by now, and the saddlebacked ridge loomed several hundred feet into the air. Unfortunately, the snow was between it and them, and prevented them from gaining too clear a view. Lamoureux wondered if the snow would keep up even at the top of the mountain, and damned McCracken again for shooting that Mercurian. And then he discovered that McCracken's feats of arms were not yet ended. McCracken was at that very moment aiming at some target that Lamoureux could not see.

Lamoureux sprang to his feet. "Don't shoot, you fool!"

He was a little too late. The noise of the explosion rang out. McCracken said, "Sorry, sir, I didn't hear you until my finger had already squeezed the trigger. But I wasn't trying to hit anything that was alive. There was something that looked like a rock on that ridge—"

The words died away in his throat. Lamoureux lifted his eyes and saw something hovering in front of them, high in the air. It had eyes and a mouth and, from these features, he knew that it was a huge head, as large as a fair-sized house. There was a long, interminable stretch of neck behind it, and somewhere in the rear he felt sure was a monstrous body. But he wasted no time searching for that.

The eyes were staring at the men unblinkingly. These eyes alone were bigger than the men were. Then the neck stretched out and the head came poking down.

William Morrison, The Weather on Mercury (Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1953)

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a drifter on mercury

….Above them, sharp slopes rose to the mountains standing naked in the wind.  Below, the hillside dropped away to the floor of the great circular Valley of Nomoon.

Abruptly, one of the riders pulled his mount to a stop.  He sat quietly, pulling at the wide loop of gold dangling from his left ear.  The wind riffled his flame-scarlet hair, and his long jade eyes swept the valley floor.

There lay the city of Nomoon, a pile of yellow towering stone.  The streets were cloaked in dim shadows, and empty.  Beyond the city were large buildings made entirely of pale blue glass.  Within them, tiny dots of men could be seen hurrying, tending waving frond-like things.

That is my home, thought Tol Shannon, running browned fingers around the loop of gold.  That is my home, or is it, really?  Six months.  I want this to be my home, but I am an Earthman.  Outlander.  Will they ever accept me as one of them?  They haven’t, yet.  But why?

There had to be some answer.  Shannon turned to where the second rider sat atop his horse.  He was a native of Mercury, with traditional pale blue skin, an almost triangular head, and faint wisps of blue hair lying straight back on his blue skull…

John W Jakes, War Drums of Mercury Lost (Planet Stories, January 1953)

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mercurians armoured against dayside heat


Frank Hampson, Dan Dare: Marooned on Mercury 
(Eagle, 27 June 1952 - 20 February 1953)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

hunting on mercury

… We wanted animal life. We did some small fry, miniature nightmares on assorted legs, but no big ones. They're kind of rare, since Earth's sportsmen, with their expert aim, took on hunting them. Eventually they'll be as extinct as the Earthly rhinoceros.

But Wyrick's luck held. Pretty soon a young mountain moves up ahead. It is Risgrawk – try to pronounce it – fifty feet high and twice as ugly looking. When it spies us, or detects us with its long antennae, it begins growling. The guide stops us three hundred yards away. Good thing, because that critter suddenly lets loose with all it has. From shiny, moist knob on its head it shoots – you can't guess, Chief – electricity! Long sparks of it, estimated 100,000 volts!

When that thing bore down on us like a runaway express rocket, we all got paralyzed except the guide. He let go with his blunderbus and then we all remembered we still had trigger fingers. The Risgrawk proved allergic to bullets. It finally settled down like a grounded zeppelin. The guide kept us from going closer for ten minutes. We saw why.

That knob suddenly exploded. Enough loose electricity was thrown around to electrocute an army. When that happened, it was dead. The skin is going to be mounted as a trophy in Kranto's hunting lodge. We all get credit for it.

The way it collects its electricity is one of Nature's cutest scientific plagiarisms. The Risgrawk runs to the night-side, stores cold somewhere inside. Then it runs to the day-side and stores heat. In between its cold-sac and warm-sac is what corresponds to a thermo-generator, manufacturing electricity out of the drop in temperature. Clever, these Risgrawks. With a cold shoulder and a hot food they sure make the sparks fly.

Eando Binder, Memos on Mercury (Captain Future, Summer 1941)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

[See also the comments in A Mercurian cuss-word and other matters]

fleeing from the mole-men of mercury


Basil Wolverton, Space Patrol (Amazing Mystery Funnies 19, April 1940)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

[Note from contributor Lone Wolf:]

I recently came across this comics series, which features  the adventures of the patrol pilot Nick Nelson and his Martian gunner Kodi. From what I read about the author, it seems he was famous with his curiously drawn alien creatures in this and other comics, although in my opinion he is not very consistent in portraying specific planetary races, which often seem different from story to story (or otherwise one may suppose that there are several different species of Martians, Venusians, Jovians, etc.).

flying over the hot side of mercury

…Here and there rose black, jagged hills.  He glimpsed some squat gray “sun-dogs”, using their sharp horns to dig out edible minerals from the rocks…

…Down to his left the Brain saw the gray, molten expanse of the Sea of Lead.  Far out in it rose steep, little, rocky isles that were mantled by flowing flames – the so-called Fire Islands…  Steadily he followed the stolen ship.

“They can’t be heading for Vapor Valley!” thought Simon.  “There’s no chance of their base being anywhere near that place.”

But his surmise proved incorrect.  The ionized rocket-trail led straight ahead toward a distant, gigantic gorge veiled in gray vapor.  The Brain approached cautiously.  The rocket-trail ended here.  Puzzledly Simon Wright glided to and fro above Vapor Valley, peering down into its depths.

This place was a mystery of the System.  Heavy clouds of vaporized mercury, made gaseous by the incredible heat, swirled ponderously in it, veiling its depths.  It had never been explored, yet it seemed that the stolen ship must have disappeared into it… 

Edmond Hamilton, Star Trail to Glory (Captain Future, Spring 1941)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

energy-beings on mercury

Craig straightened up and looked around. Candles danced upon the ridges, swirling and jostling, silent watchers of his grim discovery. The one lone blue Candle, bigger than the rest, had followed the machine into the hollow, was only a few rods away, rolling restlessly to and fro. 

Knut had said something was funny — had shouted it, his voice raspy and battered by the screaming of powerful radiations. Or had that been Knut? Had Knut already died when that message came through? 

Craig glanced back at the sand, the blood pounding in his temples. Had the Candles been responsible for this? And if they were, why was he unmolested, with hundreds dancing on the ridge? 

And if this was Knut, with dead eyes staring at the black of space, who was the other one—the one who came back? 

Candles masquerading as human beings? Was that possible? Mimics the Candles were — but hardly as good as that. There was always something wrong with their mimicry — something ludicrously wrong. He remembered now the look in the eyes of the returned Knut — that chilly, deadly look — the kind of look one sometimes sees in the eyes of ruthless men. A look that had sent cold chills chasing up his spine. 

And Knut, who was no match for Creepy at checkers, but who thought he was because Creepy let him win at regular intervals, had taken six games straight.

Craig looked back at the jumper again, saw the frightened face of Rastus pressed against the filter shield. The Candles still danced upon the hills, but the big blue one was gone. 

Some subtle warning, a nasty little feeling between his shoulder blades, made Craig spin around to face the warp. Just in front of the warp stood a man, and for a moment Craig stared at him, frozen, speechless, unable to move. 

For the man who stood in front of him, not more than forty feet away, was Curt Craig!

Clifford D Simak, Masquerade (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1941)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:

I don't know if this excerpt is any good... [an excellent one in my view - Z.] (it was difficult to choose one from this particular story, in which Simak's style was not still well developed, but it's a curiosity as one of his early OSS stories). It's about energy creatures on Mercury, called "Roman Candles", but this doesn't become very clear from this fragment (it seems the idea was popular at that time and other authors have used it too). He also introduces the idea about deadly "space warps" (also mentioned here), caused on the surface of Mercury by the Sun's gravitational field, but it doesn't play big role in the story - it's just a curious background feature of the planet.

telepathic natives of mercury

It was neither night nor day, but a sort of nether world of twilight.  The huge fern-like plants, flashing phosphorescence under the green corona light, seemed to close in after Cappy Upjohn and Terry Hall like prison bars in the windows of a dungeon…

…Between an opening in the ferns Terry caught a glimpse of a ghostly face, more simian than an ape’s…  At the same time he felt something that was like a breeze through his brain…

…Cappy took a step toward the creature.  The eyes seemed to flash.  Perhaps it was a reflection from the corona streamers stretching above the horizon to the west.  Cappy halted as the creature seemed to shrink away…

“You are suspicious men,” Chomby said.  “I read your mind and I know you do not trust me.  You fear a trap.  That is why you carry your guns.  But there is nothing to fear from Chomby’s people.  You will think them very primitive.”

…Chomby led the earthmen eastward.  The shadows deepened and the sky grew dark.  The stars appeared; among them the brilliant blue planet that was Earth…

The cold winds lashed at the earthmen and nipped through the heavy clothing they wore.  Terry and Cappy lowered a plastic windshield from their caps to protect their faces from frostbite. 

Vegetation grew more sparse and at last they walked across a rocky plain toward a row of towering basalt cliffs.  The feeble light that came from the outer fringe of the corona revealed a row of caves at the base of the cliffs and from these emerged a hundred or so ill-fashioned beings resembling Chomby.

The Mercurian gave no cry, nor warning of his approach.  He apparently had notified his people by telepathy, for they rushed silently to meet him…

R R Winterbotham, The Thought-Men of Mercury (Planet Stories, Fall 1942)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

rotation returns to mercury

Hell broke loose.  Rick Mills and his companions felt a thunderous vibration, as of a million space ships blasting off, as all but two of those giant jet-tubes roared into life.  Rick had propped himself well.  Even when consciousness left him he maintained the electrical contact.  Other mole-torpedoes, exploding, shook the chamber and bulged its walls.  But the constructive fury that had started there, went on.  It wasn’t till half an hour later that those great tubes burned out.

No one ever saw the terrible blast of incandescence that they threw into space, like the jet of an old fashioned, Fourth-of-July pinwheel.  Not even Fane, out there somewhere in the cold wilderness.  Before he could glimpse what was happening, the glare charred his eyeballs.  Then it charred him inside his space suit.  Then a sea of slush engulfed him and his robots.  A slush of liquid air and snow.  Steam rose high and scattered to blank out the stars with an awful wind.

Five hours later the sun that had set here fifty million years ago, rose again.  But the melting went on under the veil of fog.  And across the furnace desert of Mercury, darkened now at last, rivers roared, hissing.  Volcanoes blazed, for how can you cause a world to spin again, without poking up its internal fires with the strain?

But at last the fury of rebirth quieted.  And down a murky river days later, a still dazed Rick Mills and his battered companions, paddled a crude metal boat to meet another party from the main camp.  The air was thin and steamy, but rich in oxygen, and good to breathe.  They had removed their space suit helmets…

Raymond Z Gallun, Give Back A World (Planet Stories, May 1953)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

a snowy glitter on mercury

…A towering cliff of a black, basaltic rock cut off the sunlight, and the deep night shadow of an airless world surrounded them.  Before them, the shadow reached out and ended in knife-edged abruptness into an all-but-unbearable blaze of white light, that glittered from myriad crystals along a rocky ground.
  ‘Space!’ gasped Donovan.  ‘It looks like snow.’  And it did.
   Powell’s eyes swept the jagged glitter of Mercury to the horizon and winced at the gorgeous brilliance.
   ‘This must be an unusual area,’ he said.  ‘The general albedo of Merury is low and most of the soil is gray pumice.  Something like the Moon, you know.  Beautiful, isn’t it?’
   He was thankful for the light filters in their visiplates.  Beautiful or not, a look at the sunlight through straight glass would have blinded them inside of half a minute.
   Donovan was looking at the spring thermometer on his wrist.  ‘Holy smokes, the temperature is eighty centigrade!’
   Powell checked his own and said:  ‘Um-m-m.  A little high.  Atmosphere, you know.’
   ‘On Mercury?  Are you nuts?’
   ‘Mercury isn’t really airless,’ explained Powell, in absent-minded fashion…

Isaac Asimov, Runaround (Astounding, March 1942)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

flame-folk on mercury

Across a bleak and desolate frozen plain, not fifty feet distant from his own cruiser, was the other space ship. A dark, sullen mass; unlighted and grim. About it, circling in an ever-narrowing net, a host of greenish flame-folk stood; their ghoulishly phosphorescent bodies flickering pallidly against the dreadful umbra. Tall as two men, they were, slim, ever-changing wisps of light that glimmered like the cold fox-fire of distant Earth.

From their tactile bodies strange pseudopods of flame licked out again and again. Ghastly emanations that simulated limbs of flesh-and-blood creatures. There was no recognizable substance of shape that composed them. Only a constant flux of quavering motion, somehow baleful and threatening. Their light was a light that cast no gleam among them. It seemed self-contained, The light of absorption.

The unbroken circle that had surrounded the other ship was ruptured now. Some of the flame folk had noticed the cruiser. Already a tiny group of the green flame-folk were moving across the metal plain to investigate. There was a quivering excitement in the creatures' fitful gleaming. A sort of greedy, licking hunger in their cold presence.

Nelson S Bond, The Mercurian Menace (Dynamic Science Stories, February 1939)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:
...in this story there are two antagonistic species on Mercury - the "Rollers", who are like bouncing balls from the hot side and these "flame-folk" from the dark side...
Comment from Zendexor:
And note the originality of having cold "flame" folk.  And the wonderful last sentence of the extract.

snouted natives of mercury

“You understood. I want the Earth recognition signal at once — and after that, the surrender of the Dome.” The very calmness of the husky tones was a threat.


“I warn you, Dari Thomas. If would be the better part of wisdom for you to yield willingly what I ask. You will give in eventually, and the means of persuasion I shall use will not be exactly — pleasant.”

“You’ll get nothing from me!”

The outlander’s lidless eyes were filmed with a gray membrane. His head thrust forward, the feathered ruff beneath it bristled. Dari braced himself to withstand the swooping pounce that seemed imminent, the slash of the sharp beak. A burring rattle broke the momentary hush. The Martian relaxed, turned to the Mercurian from whom the sound had come and replied with staccato vibrance.

As the cave filled with a whirring tumult Darl had a chance to examine the Mercurian natives crowding around his prostrate body. They were little yellow midgets, ranging from eighteen inches to two feet in height. Half of their small stature was taken up by snouted heads, with saucer-like, crimson eyes, and long white tusks jutting from foam-flecked mouths. The trunks were globular. The spindling legs and thin arms ended in sharp claws. There was an impression of animal ferocity about these tiny beings that stamped them as utter savages.

His captor was speaking to the Earthman again, his horny beak parted in what might have been a grim smile. “My friends remind me that I promised you to them. They have not forgotten how you and your fellows drove them from their burrows...”

Arthur L Zagat, The Great Dome on Mercury (Astounding Stories, April 1932)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:
... there aren't many details in this story, but still it's interesting how the author describes several different planetary races, including Venusians and Martians. It seems to me that in early stories Mercurians often have some sinister aura, almost like that of Martians, although the planetary "character" of Mercury is not so well defined. I even remember seeing some old second-rate movie serial on YouTube, based on Jules Verne's Mysterious Island, where they had mixed up many elements, not present in the book at all, among which were some robot-like Mercurian invaders, lead by a pretty girl!

sentient crystals on the darkside of mercury

"We realize that we've made a mistake," a strange voice said. "But it's lonely here. You unfamiliar organisms were new, interesting. We thought we might be friends. But we bitterly regret it. We understand now."

Garth stared wildly. Had he gone mad already? The crystals flamed, weaving dim veils of gold and scarlet, and purple and green.

"Your minds are strange to us," the voice went on. "They give off wavelengths of which we know nothing. We do not know about hate, fear and love. We can but guess at them, and sensory impulses are unknown to us. In some manner we do not understand, we have caused unfavorable reactions in the organisms that have come into our sphere of life. Their mind-waves are confused, and then lost…  But for the first time we can communicate with you."

Why was there light in the crystals? Why had the cold torchbeam broken to a full spectrum?

"Yes, we're alive," the voice went on. "You call us crystals. We're carbon, as you are, but static. We came into being with this planet and we'll go out of being with it. We neither die nor change…

“…Solar radiations destroy our thoughts by introducing counter-vibrations. That's why we're powerful only in the screening shadow of this planet.

"We meant no harm. We wanted contact, not destruction. It's very lonely here in the eternal dark, the eternal silence, the eternal thought. We might have helped you. Instead, we have—is killed the thought—killed you. We're glad that this contact has been possible, for we wanted to explain and to tell you that we'll never try it again. As soon as we sense the presence of one of your organisms, we shall cease oscillating until it's gone. You need never—is fear the sensation?—fear us.

"We're sorry. We meant no harm. But we're lonely. Pure thought is wonderful. There's no limit to it. But we're so near the limit… And we're lonely. Lonely. Lonely."

The fires died out of the crystals like fireflies drowned in the mist. Darkness, black and unbroken and cold, followed. And there was silence, utter and complete. The whispering had stopped for all time.

Leigh Brackett, The Demons of Darkside (Startling Stories, January 1941)

>>  here's where this is

perilous trek on the dayside of mercury

On the fifth driving period out, the terrain began to change.  It looked the same, but every now and then it felt different.  On two occasions I felt my wheels spin, with a howl of protest from my engine.  Then, quite suddenly, the Bug gave a lurch; I gunned my motor and nothing happened.

I could see the dull gray stuff seeping up around the hubs, thick and tenacious, splattering around in steaming gobs as the wheels spun.  I knew what had happened the moment the wheels gave and, a few minutes later, they chained me to the tractor and dragged me out of the mire.  It looked for all the world like thick gray mud, but it was a pit of molten lead, steaming under a soft layer of concealing ash.

I picked my way more cautiously then.  We were getting into an area of recent surface activity; the surface was really treacherous…

Alan E Nourse, Brightside Crossing (Galaxy, January 1956)

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skyscraper crystals on mercury

They blacked out during the period of sharp deceleration. Now they were regaining consciousness – were being treated to a cruel and lovely illusion.

It seemed to Unk and Boaz that their ship was settling slowly among Skyscrapers over which their searchlights played.

“They aren’t shooting,” said Boaz.  “Either the war’s over, or it ain’t begun.”

The merry beams of light they saw were not from searchlights.  The beams came from tall crystals on the borderline between the light and dark hemispheres of Mercury.  Those crystals were catching beams from the sun, were bending them prismatically, playing them over the dark side.  Other crystals on the dark side caught the beams and passed them on.

It was easy to believe that the searchlights were playing over a sophisticated civilization indeed.  It was easy to mistake the dense forest of giant blue-white crystals for skyscrapers, stupendous and beautiful…

Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan (1959)

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ovoid inhabitant of mercury

An hour had gone by when Gower first suspected something out of the ordinary. The sensitive earphones in his helmet were attuned, not only to the tiny microphones that each man wore for inter-communication and for the reception of orders, but also to outside noises (sound was received in two ways: through the thin poorly-conducting air, and through ground vibration). They picked up a curious sound from somewhere in front of him, a slithering, sucking sound that popped and whispered like giant's kiss. George's hair prickled on the nape of his neck, and he quickly unslung his flashlight. A cone of narrow brilliance knifed out, moved in a slow, uneven arc, then stopped abruptly as it fastened on a moving creature. It was fantastic, nightmare figure. About four feet in height, it was, looking roughly like two eggs set one atop the other – a fat, oblong body covered with reddish hair, and a smaller ovoid head resting on narrow shoulders. The face, which seemed featureless in the uncertain light, twisted and grimaced constantly. Short arms carried a pair of metal instruments shaped much like the ancient miner's hand-lamp. There were scarcely any legs at all, the base of the body consisting of long, mobile flaps of flesh covered with innumerable powerful suction cups.

In an instant, young Gower whipped out his heat-ray weapon and fired. The ray sizzled comfortingly; a red glow joined the white of his torch. The mole-man seemed to fall back, roll around without leaving his feet, then bobbed upright again unharmed! George gasped, then began to laugh hysterically. The thing was just like one of those round-bottomed, weighted toys that couldn't be knocked over. He sprayed the thing again, without result. The impact of the rays apparently pushed it around, but in another moment it advanced and raised a stubby arm. George saw nothing but the hard ground, the hideous little mole-man, and the arm pointing at him, but instantly he felt a terrible sense of impending horror. The air about him became alive with unseen menace; his body tingled to an electric shock. Death's wing hovered close.

Arthur K Barnes, The Mole-Men of Mercury (Wonder Stories, December 1933)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:
An earlier story, not related to his later Solar system, and not so good either, but I was curious to see how he describes Mercury and the life on it. Unfortunately, there aren't many details...