what to see on
planet x

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a hollow trans-plutonian world

Ciaran felt good. The heat of the sunballs that floated always, lazy in a reddish sky, made him pleasantly sleepy. And after the clamor and crush of the market squares in the border towns, the huge high silence of the place was wonderful.

He and Mouse were camped on a tongue of land that licked out from the Phrygian hills down into the coastal plains of Atlantea. A short cut, but only gypsies like themselves ever took it. To Ciaran's left, far below, the sea spread sullen and burning, cloaked in a reddish fog. To his right, also far below, were the Forbidden Plains...

Leigh Brackett, The Jewel of Bas  (Planet Stories, Spring 1944)

>>  Guess The World - Open

a slurp of h on planet x

A half-dozen of the bulks stirred uneasily... moving clumsily.  Then, broadside on, they started rolling toward the two men on the most direct line - through the lake of liquid hydrogen.

"They'll drown in that," pronounced Blake.

"Or freeze.  I - "  Penton stopped.  The first one had rolled into the liquid, sending it splashing in rainbow showers of ultra-cold.  It rolled smoothly on into the lake, going deeper and deeper, until it was fully twenty feet deep in the stuff.  Then, it stopped.  Blake stared open-mouthed as the huge, blunt end of the vast cylinder of apparently brainless flesh split.  As though hinged, an immense, thick flap of leathery hide rolled down, and instead of the leathery, featureless cylinder-end, a whole assortment of organs appeared.

First was a tube, fully two feet in diameter, that shot out like an elephant's trunk, to dip into that inconceivably frigid lake.  The mobile liquid swirled and bubbled, twisting in vortices.  With a tremendous smack, audible even in that thin, chill air, the tube broke contact with the surface of the liquid.

"Drinking," gargled Penton, "drinking liquid hydrogen..." 

John W Campbell, The Tenth World (Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1937)

>>  Guess The World - Open

slow-motion culture on planet x

….The men hesitated to go around.  What could this enigmatic wall be doing on this frigid world?  The instruments showed the temperature to be many hundred degrees below zero Fahrenheit.  What beings could have built this great wall?  What could it mean?

But at last they did go round the edifice, flashing their lights before them.  And nearly collapsed from the shock of what they saw: a broad paved street on which bordered many stone houses whose glass windows reflected the dim glow of the stars above.  The tiny sun cast a faint illumination on it all. 

“People!” gasped Mullins.

There were.  Standing on the streets and in the doors of the houses were the dim figures of men.  Unmistakably human in form. 

“They’re not alive,” observed Rokesmith.

“At least, they are not moving,” replied Barth quickly.

“Come on, then.  Why are we waiting?  Are you afraid of a lot of statues?”  Captain Wanderman suited action to his words as he strode forward, stopping directly before the first of the standing figures.  He cast his beam over it from head to foot.

Unmistakably, it was a man.  Clad in clothes and undeniably human.  Its features were perfectly normal, bore the flush of life.  The feet and entire body were set in attitude of taking a step.  But it was motionless. 

“Some statue!” breathed Opp.  “I would swear it was a real man.”

“It is a real man,” said Barth, softly.  He bent close to the face.  “It has the pores and tiny hairs that can only be on a true body.”

“Then he must have been alive once,” murmured Weber.  “What do you suppose happened to him?  Is he petrified or only frozen solid?”

“Frozen, I think,” said Barth.  “Yet, it is very strange.  His flesh is still soft and resilient; it is not natural.”

Donald A Wollheim, The Planet That Time Forgot (Planet Stories, Fall 1940)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

planet x as a promised land

“It’s okay,” he shouted.  “No monsters in sight.”

Mary held back.  “Look,” she whispered.  “Look at it glow.”

The planet was a single plain of green light.  Wherever they looked there was the faint, unwinking sheen of color, soft and unfocused, on the rocks and boulders, on the ground itself.  In the dim green phosphorescence the group of men and women were strange opaque shapes, black columns of metal and plastic stepping awkwardly and hesitantly down.

“It’s been here all this time,” Jereti said wonderingly.  “And nobody to look at it.”  He kicked at the frozen rock.  “We’re the first to set foot here.”

“Maybe not,” Groves said thoughtfully.  “As we landed I saw something…”

Philip K Dick, Solar Lottery (1955)

>>  Guess The World - Third Series

approaching erebus, the tenth planet

It was a strangely luminous planetscape they looked down upon, a world shimmering everywhere with the dusky blue radiance they had noticed from afar. They had thought that faint luminescence a trick of reflected sunlight, but they saw now that it was somehow inherent in this world. Through that dusky blue haze they looked down upon a weirdly forbidding landscape.

Low, jagged, barren mountains rose like fangs bared at the dark, starstudded sky. Beyond their rocky slopes stretched dim deserts, wide blank wastes upon which moved little whirls of dust. And all this dreary landscape of eternal twilight was wrapped in the uncanny faint blue radiance.

"It's queer, the way it all shines," muttered Sual Av. "But I can't see anything dangerous down there."

"There's something dangerous there — terribly so," Thorn said tautly. "If thereweren't, this world wouldn't have swallowed up so many hundreds of explorers in the last nine centuries!"

"There's air of some kind down there, anyway," old Stilicho quavered. "See them there whirling dust-devils?"

"But there can't be an atmosphere here!" Gunner declared. "That would mean that Erebus is comparatively warm — and what would keep it warm at this distance from the sun?"

Edmond Hamilton, The Three Planeteers (Startling Stories, January 1940)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

mountainous monster on the tenth planet

The rocks cringed before Zutelix 1-Radd, who sprawled upon his mountain of frozen slush. 

The maladroit rocks who dared to obscure his view were not, of course, as alive as he.  They were not, in fact, alive at all, by the standards of the Inner Worlds; but out here on Yuzmur, Home of the Highest, even the dross of existence could be sufficiently sentient to need lessons in behaviour.

Zutelix 1-Radd, high upon his frowning eminence, rumbled and shifted his weight, not enough to set off an eruption of liquescent nitrogen under his bulk, merely enough to send tremors rippling outward through the vicinity of his mountain.  This caused yet more wincing tension in surrounding portions of the planet’s crust, but he gave scant thought to the scene’s potential for havoc.  Ah, if he could move now as he would later be able to!  If he could borrow some of that future power and use it immediately!  But no, he must wait.  His time would come, as surely as the revolution of Yuzmur around that extra-bright star which shone amid the faintly luminous dust-band of the ecliptic...

Dylan Jeninga and Zendexor, Mission to the Tenth Planet

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

ten-month winter on planet x

The light wavered, cutting through the intense darkness to settle upon one of the strangest scenes ever destined for Earth-born men to witness — the surface terrain one encounters in the long ten-month darkness periods of Euthan, the “trans-Plutonian planet,’’ across which the combatants struggled so ferociously.

Each movement sank them knee-deep into the fragile mold growths that covered the ground level; their savage actions crushed the fragile formations and left twisted pits and furrows in their wake; beyond them, on low ridges, the white-limbed X-ray trees of Euthan thrust quivering branches upward, their leafless projections hanging with pale toady flowers; here in the sunless periods a bizarre plant life, independent of sunlight, waxed fertile…

…Perhaps the parlous pass in which we found ourselves will be better understood if I stop to explain a few of the characteristics of Euthan. Euthan, the trans-Plutonian planet, is 3,506 miles in diameter, and is circled by one moon. The oceanic and bodily tides aroused by the moon have acted as a gigantic brake, resulting in a rotation that encompasses nearly twenty months.

The daylight period of ten months duration is accompanied by excessive vegetative growth, resulting in a luxuriant jungle bush that mats every available bit of soil. With the coming of the ten-month night, the vegetation perishes almost instantaneously and decomposes rapidly under the action of highly developed parasites that wax fertile in the dark hours.

The poles of Euthan are almost exactly perpendicular to the rays of the sun. Thus there are two seasons, following each other endlessly around Euthan. The vegetation growing in the darker period differs in several particulars from ordinary plant life:

First, it is either parasitic or feeds on tiny particles carried by the wind. Silvery sprays of parasites gather on the blackened stumps of trees that had lived in the daylight, and the result is a weird mimicry of the former plants, which are referred to most often as X-ray trees.

Secondly, normal plant growths function through a system known as photosynthesis, and cannot exist in the absence of the solar rays. The X-ray parasites utilize cosmosynthesis, as do the fungus plants and the blue mold. The cosmic ray, manifested with universal strength in visible light’s spectrum or in total darkness, is a vital essential in the lightless world of the Umbra. Among the vicissitudes afforded by these extremities of plant life, animal life must survive as best it may.

A further obstacle is encountered in the magnetic variations of the planetal body. The polar fluctuations are so continuous as to render a compass a useless bit of added weight. The air is so impregnated with flying umbrella spores and particles of decomposing vegetation as to obscure all starlight, hiding the familiar sign posts of the heavens: the constellations.

J Harvey Haggard, A Little Green Stone (Astounding Stories, March 1936)

>>  Guess The World - Fifth Series