what to see on
the asteroids

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

[Note: the following extracts are of fictional scenes set on purely fictional asteroids, and/or on those which don't have their own individual pages on this site.  For the ones that do have dedicated pages, see the following:  What to see on Ceres  -  What to see on Eros  -  What to see on Icarus  -  What to see on Pallas  -  What to see on Vesta.]

crash-lander marooned on an asteroid


...I was wide-awake now, and I hastened to unlash myself from the hammock.  I found that the floor was pitched sharply, as if the vessel had landed on a slope or had buried its nose in the alien terrain.  Feeling a queer, disconcerting lightness, and barely able to re-establish my feet on the floor, I gradually made my way to the nearest port...

The horizon of serrate peaks, like a miniature mountain-range, lay at a distance of several hundred yards.  Above it, the small, intensely brilliant sun, like a fiery moon in its magnitude, was sinking with visible rapidity in the dark sky...

All about were fretted ridges, guttering pillars and pinnacles; and over these, amazingly, there clambered frail, pipy, leafless vines with broad, yellow-green tendrils flat and thin as paper.  Insubstantial-looking lichens, taller than a man, and having the form of flat antlers, grew in single rows and thickets along the valley.

Between the thickets, I saw the approach of certain living creatures who rose from behind the middle rocks with the suddenness and lightness of leaping insects...

Clark Ashton Smith, Master of the Asteroid (Wonder Stories, October 1932)

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a snowy but habitable asteroid

...He shook the snow out of his hair and plunged on, leaving the rest to follow as best they could.

A jutting shoulder of the mountains loomed before him.  The wind blew and the deep-throated horns called and called again across the valley.  The blown drifts leaped at him and the icy screes were a challenge to his strength but they could not slow him down.  He laughed and went on around the shoulder and saw the white city glittering under the stars.

It spread across the valley floor and up the slopes as though it grew from the frozen earth, a part of it, as enduring as the mountains...  it seemed to be built all of ice, its turrets and crenellations glowing with a subtle luminescence in the dusky twilight, fantastically shaped, dusted here and there with snow.  From the window openings came a glow of pearly light...

It was a strong place, walled and fortified against whatever enemies there might be on this world...

Leigh Brackett, The Lake of the Gone-Forever (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1949)

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a richly forested asteroid

...They could see all the land wrapped in a green blanket from which, here and there, only the craggiest of spires pierced upwards in their rocky nakedness.  Foliage sprang from every pocket of soil, bushes waved atop the most unlikely peaks and festoons of swaying creepers hung down from the ledges like green waterfalls pouring into the still denser growths below.  Occasional gleams of water showed where steep-sided clefts had succeeded in trapping miniature lakes, and, infrequently, there occurred larger, shadowed valleys which could show level ground dotted with not inconsiderable trees.  As the Argenta swept nearer still, a half-checked exclamation burst from Angus.  He pressed closer to the window.

"What is is?" asked Joe, beside him.

But Angus made no reply.  For the present he was keeping to himself the knowledge of a bright, metallic glint which had flashed from one valley.  He marked the spot mentally by the queerly twisted crag which dominated it.

The ship, now travelling slowly, searched for a landing.  A few moments later she was sinking gently to a green spread berth.  Joe voiced the general sentiment as they touched.

"Well, we might be in a worse hole.  There's certainly no desert here..."

John Wyndham, Exiles on Asperus (Wonder Stories Quarterly, Winter 1933)

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the cave-apes of asteroid zuun

...Otho and Grag entered the Comet and dropped the ship slowly into the narrow chasm, landing it on a wide ledge covered by white fungi.

"The cave apes won't bother it here," Otho declared, "for I'll turn on the auxiliary generator to give the hull an electric charge.  Any of 'em who touch it will get a shock."

"Speaking of the cave apes, here they come now!" cried Grag.

Otho jumped to the port-hole, and uttered a sharp exclamation.  The darkness was almost complete, but enough thin starlight sifted down to allow him to see the incredible creatures who were clambering up onto the ledge from the lower depths.

There were more than a dozen of the monsters - huge, white-skinned apelike giants.  The adult males and females were at least eighteen feet in height, and even the young were seven feet high.  Their shambling legs and arms, round heads, and phosphorescent eyes gave them a peculiarly terrifying appearance.

The cave apes were hunting through the white fungi for large black cave crabs, which they pounced upon and devoured.  So far, they had not noticed the Comet at the back of the ledge.

"What are we going to do?" Grag exclaimed.  "We can't get back up without them seeing us.  Shall we try our atom-pistols?"

"They say a cave ape's hide is almost proof against any ordinary weapon," Otho said.  "By the time we killed one, the rest would be on us."

"Well, we can't stay here," Grag declared.  "Use those brains you're always bragging about, and dope out some way to get through them."

Otho's eyes lit up with a gleam of inspiration.

"Grag, I've got it!  You're about the size of one of those cave ape cubs..."

Edmond Hamilton, Outlaw World (1945)

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an asteroid haunted by disembodied minds

...Hahhahhahhahhahhahhahhah.  Somewhere a vanishing laughter.

He whirled about.  "Shut up, you!" he cried.

We didn't say anything, said the mountains.  We didn't say anything, said the sky.  We didn't say anything, said the wreckage.

"All right then," he said, swaying.  "See that you don't."

Everything was normal.

The pebbles were getting hot.  The sky was big and dark.  He looked at his fingers and saw the way the sun burned on every black hair.  He looked at his boots and the dust on them.  Suddenly he felt very happy because he made a decision.  I won't go to sleep, he thought.  I'm having nightmares, so why sleep?  There's your solution...

Ray Bradbury, Perchance to Dream (in the collection The Day it Rained Forever (1959))

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an excessively green asteroid

I squinted out at the surface of this miniature earth.  In my time I've done a little serious drinking.  I've seen pink elephants.  But this was the first time I ever saw green nightmares.

That's what the place was - a green nightmare.  Nothing but forest, as far as the eyes could see - a lush, tropical green forest.  Swamp-like growths rising out of mud that was not brown, but a verdant green.  And twining through mazes of twisted vegetable tentacles was the mist.  The livid mist of coiling, greenish steam.

Our own Amazon was nothing compared to this ripe and rotten blight.  A true green hell.  But we'd been weeks inside the ship.  As I say, anything looked good.  And if the air was right -

"Let's go," said Commander Sturm.  He was a tall, gruff-looking weather-beaten old space dog, but a big name in the annals of interspatial exploration.  He already had the flag out and unrolled...

Robert Bloch, The Fear Planet (in the anthology Far Boundaries, ed. August Derleth (1951))

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tidal peril on a mars-crossing asteroid

Mars rose above the horizon, a pale reddish globe larger than the Sun but far less bright. Quade kept looking up the channel, listening intently. At last he hesitated. 

“Do you hear something? Listen.” 

Kathleen was still annoyed, but she cupped her ear with a small hand. 

“Yes. I think so. A roaring, very low— ” 

“That’s it! Come on, quick!” Quade caught her arm and hurried her toward a cairn of rocks some distance from the bank. “It’s the Bore. The tide. Mars is dragging it around the planet and we want to be high and dry when it gets here. Step it up, can’t you?” 

“I—I’m hurrying—as fast as I can!” Kathleen gasped, a sharp pain in her chest. The atmosphere, lacking sufficient oxygen, had told on the two and they were exhausted by the time they reached the summit of the mound. There they lay panting for breath and looking north along the Bore.

 A GREAT wave came sweeping up the channel. Thirty feet high, overflowing the banks and spreading out over the surrounding ground, it came rushing southward and involuntarily Kathleen huddled close to Quade. The tidal wave smashed against the base of the cairn and spray showered the two on its top.

Bill, cowering in the hollow of Kathleen’s arm, squeaked faintly and crouched down, hiding his head in ineffectual paws. The girl followed his example and as the rocking thunder of mighty waters shook the ground she shut her eyes and burrowed her face into Quade’s shoulder. Grinning, he put his arm around her.

The tide drove on south. In its wake came floating huge creatures like turtles, with tall webbed fins standing up like sails on their backs. Flat, reptilian heads lifted, peering around curiously as the things tacked and veered in the winds the Bore lifted in its wake.

Henry Kuttner, Hollywood on the Moon (Startling Stories, July 1949)

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Note from contributor Lone Wolf:

The original publication of this story was in Thrilling Wonder Stories (April, 1938) and it is set in the same "shared universe" (if I can coin such a term) as the Gerry Carlyle stories of Arthur K Barns [see Interplanetary Huntress]. Gerry Carlyle herself doesn't appear in this story, but she is mentioned in the beginning. Here is probably the first appearance of the "Hyclops" (explained as a combination of the names "hydra" and "cyclops"), which are mentioned in The Seven Sleepers as "native of Ganymede", although there it is not specified that this is the asteroid Ganymede and not the Jovian moon (also here they have only two heads and two arms, while in the latter story they have three heads and four arms). The "bouncer" I see mentioned in the excerpt from The Star Parade on the What to see on Mars page is from this asteroid too. Also the lunar "Hollywood", which in The Energy Eaters is described as located in a crater with artificial atmosphere, here is more detailed - it is in a vast crater "as large as the asteroid Vesta" on the back side of the "egg-shaped" Moon.

I did a little research and it it turned out that Kuttner has written four whole stories set in this same "shared universe" with main protagonist Tony Quade (https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pe.cgi?9875) and also in the bibliography he is indicated as co-author of the two stories I mentioned, in which appear both Tony Quade and Gerry Carlyle (https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pe.cgi?10034). Unfortunately all those 4 novelets have been published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, which magazine for some reason cannot be found in digitalized form on the internet, so I could find only this first story (as reprinted in Startling Stories) and the last, which you mention in the OSS Diary (Trouble on Titan) online on the Gutenberg Project. I don't know how this "shared universe" of Henry Kuttner and Arthur K Barns emerged and it reminds me of the similar case with the stories of Henry Hasse and Albert dePina: they too seem to start with two co-authored stories and then write separately other stories in the same timeline of the OSS, which gradually become progressively divergent from each other farther in the future.

BTW I wonder whether The Energy Eaters from Mercury have been the inspiration for the "tribbles" from the original Star Trek series...  [Note from Zendexor:  I must find out about those "tribbles" one day.  I've heard the name several times and am aware of the lacuna in my education.]

[ Zendexor's note: I remarked that in my view it was a pity the author had chosen asteroid Ganymede, rather than one with another name, for the scene.  Lone Wolf replied:]

It's possible he chose it because Ganymede is a Mars-crosser from the same group as Eros, which is more famous and also appears in the story (they have to shoot a scene for the movie on Eros, but change the location to Ganymede, because of an "ether eddy"). Ganymede was discovered in1924 and probably was more famous then as something new (I myself had never heard of it before reading this story) and since it passes close to Mars he can describe this curious tidal wave, caused by the planet, etc. But all these are just my speculations... 

lush countryside on an asteroid

Before him was the tiny lake, of an emerald green hue in the flashing sunlight. Around its shores, and covering the adjacent, softly rolling countryside as far as eye could reach, was a thick growth of carmine-tinted vegetation: squat, enormous-leaved bushes; low, sturdy trees, webbed together by innumerable vines. To left and right, miniature mountains reared ragged crests over the abbreviated horizon, making the spot he was in a peaceful, lovely valley.

He sighed. There was everything here a man could wish for—provided he could win it! Loosening his ray-pistol in its holster, he started to walk slowly around the lake to choose a site for the house he intended to build. On the opposite shore he found a place that looked suitable.

A few yards back from the water's edge, curling in a thick crescent like a giant sleeping on its side, was a precipitous outcropping of rock; curious stuff, rather like granite, that gleamed with dull opalescence in the brilliant sunlight. With that as a sort of natural buttress behind the house, and with the beautiful lake as his front dooryard, he'd have a location that any man might envy.

Paul Ernst, The Planetoid of Peril (Astounding Stories, November 1931)

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