For a scenic browse, and an answer-page for Guess The World...
Beyond the sea was land; such land as none of them had ever seen before. It was a vegetable inferno. It boiled with forests; it seethed with jungle.
Jagged blue treetops beckoned.
Crackling with wild fire, the Alice Liddell plunged into the forest.
Trees, if trees they were, went down in swathes before her. Long tracts of woody sponge she gouged. Writhing groves of luminous spaghetti she sheared. Behind her, foul smoke went up, thickening the soupy air.
Branches crazed the viewport, ripped scanners from the hull. Tabitha couldn't see anything any more. She screamed something, screamed along with her ship, which screamed as she hit.
and turned in the pulpy undergrowth, churning everything beneath her.
Sap and ichor rained down on the dented hull. All around were outraged
hoots and squeals of panic.
And then it was over.
Colin Greenland, Take Back Plenty (1990)
...We moved on into the wood beneath the delicate foliage and among the strangely beautiful boles with their laquer-like bark of white and red and yellow and blue.
Presently we came in sight of a little river winding leisurely between its violet banks, and at the same instant I saw a small creature drinking. It was about the size of a goat, but it didn't look like a goat. Its sharply pointed ears were constantly moving, as though on the alert for the slightest sound of danger; its tufted tail switched nervously. A collar of short horns encircled its neck just where it joined the head. They pointed slightly forward. There must have been a dozen of them... That necklace of short horns would most certainly have discouraged any creature that was in the habit of swallowing its prey whole.
Very gently, I... crept forward, fitting an arrow to my bow. As I was preparing to shoot, the creature threw up its head and turned half around. Probably it had heard me. I had been creeping on it from behind, but its change of position revealed its left side to me, and I planted my first arrow squarely in its heart.
we made our camp beside the river and dined on juicy chops, delicious
fruits, and the clear water from the little stream. Our surroundings
were idyllic. Strange birds sang to us, arboreal quadrupeds swung
through the trees jabbering melodiously in soft sing-song voices...
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lost on Venus (1935)
...Forthwith he set off through the shadowy glades toward the plain, striding swiftly along and keeping watch more with his mind than with his eyes. It was always possible to hear things lurking unseen. They could not spy on him without radiating even their rudimentary thoughts. Such as that pair of screech owls glowering in a dark hole two hundred feet up a tremendous tree trunk.
"Man-thing below! Aaaargsh!"
At the fringe of trees came first evidence of the hunt. He stood in the darkness close by a mighty bole while a copter floated over the green umbrella of top branches. It was a big machine held up by four multi-bladed rotors and bearing a crew of ten. Their minds could be counted as they tried to probe the maze beneath.
were half a dozen telepaths listening, listening, eager to catch any
stray mental impulse he might be careless enough to let go loose. Also
one insectivocal cuddling a cage of flying tiger-ants to be tipped over
any likely spot indicated by a telepath...
...They found him in a little clearing, and they stopped and looked at him and what he had discovered.
The rocket ship.
It was lying where they had left it. Somehow they had circled back and were where they had started. In the ruin of the ship green fungus was growing up out of the mouths of the two dead men. As they watched, the fungus took flower, the petals broke away in the rain, and the fungus died.
"How did we do it?"
"An electrical story must be nearby. Threw our compasses off. That explains it."
"What'll we do now?"
"Start out again... We've enough food for another two days if we're careful..."
And, as they stood, from a distance they heard a roar...
The monster was supported upon a thousand electric blue legs. It walked swiftly and terribly. It struck down a leg with a driving blow. Everywhere a leg struck a tree fell and burned... The monster was a half mile wide and a mile high and it felt of the ground like a great blind thing. Sometimes, for a moment, it had no legs at all. And then, in an instant, a thousand whips would fall out of its belly, white-blue whips, to sting the jungle.
"There's the electrical storm," said one of the men. "There's the thing ruined our compasses. And it's coming this way..."
Ray Bradbury, The Long Rain, in The Illustrated Man (1951)
...He looked up, but the foliage was impenetrable. Standing there, gazing upward, he grew aware that the sound which had awakened him had stopped.
He shook his head in puzzlement and he was turning away when there was a whoosh above him. A gush of water struck his head and poured over him.
The first gush was like a signal. All around him, water rushed down. He could hear the splashing in the shadows on every side, and twice more he was particularly engulfed. Like a gigantic sprinkler system, the branches above were sending down torrents of water, and there was no longer any doubt what had happened.
had rained. Enormous leaves had taken the load in their ample,
up-curved, green bosoms. But now here, now there, the water was
overweighing leaf after leaf and tumbling down into the depths,
frequently into other leaves. But always the process must have
continued until some small portion of the great bulk of water actually
reached the ground. The rain must have been on a colossal scale. He
was lucky to be in a forest the leaves of which could almost support a
A E van Vogt, The World of Null-A (1948)
...The world lay stretched out as far as the eye could see. And above. The world was everywhere.
"My God," Frank said. "It's not a fake." Bending down, he snatched up a crawling snail-like insect. "Not a robot - this is alive. It's genuine!"
From the mist, Irma appeared. Blood oozed over one eye; her hair was matted and tangled, her clothing was torn. "We're home," she gasped, gripping a bulging armload of plant life she had gathered. "Look at it - remember it? And we can breathe. We can live."
Off in the distance, great columns of steam rose up, geysers of boiling water forced through the rocks to the surface. An immense ocean pounded somewhere, invisible in the drifting curtain of moisture.
"Listen," Frank said. "You hear that? You hear the water?"
They listened. They heard. They reached down and felt; they threw themselves on the ground, clutching frantically, faces pressed to the damp, warm soil.
"We're home," Irma wept. All of them were crying and moaning, wailing in bewildered joy...
Philip K Dick, The World Jones Made (1956)
...The sandwolves loped along at each side, moving in closer. Overhead, a delta-winged kite found him. It balanced on the updrafts for a day and a night, waiting for the wolves to finish him. Then a flock of small flying scorpions sighted the waiting kite. They drove the big creature upstairs into the cloud bank. For a day the flying reptiles waited. Then they in turn were driven off by a squadron of black kites.
The traces were very rich now, on the fifteenth day since he had left the sandcar. By rights, he should be walking over goldenstone. He should be surrounded by goldenstone. But still he hadn't found any.
Morrison sat down and shook his last canteen. It gave off no wet sound. He uncapped it and turned it up over his mouth. Two drops trickled down his parched throat...
Robert Sheckley, Prospector's Special (Galaxy, December 1959)
..."We may be stalked," he told the boy. "Don't forget to guard the rear."
The sand had given place to sticky whitish mud that plastered the men to their calves before a few moments had passed. A patina of slickness seemed to overlay the ground. The grass was coloured so much like the mud itself that it was practically invisible, except by its added slipperiness. Scott slowly advanced keeping close to the wall of rock on his left where the tangle was not so thick. Nevertheless he had to use his smatchet more than once to cut a passage through vines.
He stopped, raising his hand, and the squelch of Kane's feet in the mud paused. Silently Scott pointed. Ahead of them in the cliff base, was the mouth of a burrow.
captain bent down, found a small stone, and threw it towards the den.
He waited, one hand lightly on his gun, ready to see something flash out
of that burrow and race towards them. In the utter silence a new sound
made itself heard - tiny goblin drums, erratic and resonant...
"Lawrence O'Donnell" (Henry Kuttner and C L Moore), Clash By Night (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1943)
..."You're sure it's quite safe?" asked Jerry, though it seemed almost a sacrilege to speak in the presence of such loveliness.
"Absolutely - it can't touch our suits even if it wants to. Anyway, it's moving past us."
That was true. They could see now that the entire creature - if it was a single plant, and not a colony - covered a roughly circular area about a hundred yards across. It was sweeping over the ground, as the shadow of a cloud moves before the wind - and where it had rested, the rocks were pitted with innumerable tiny holes that might have been etched by acid.
"Yes," said Hutchins, when Jerry remarked about this. "That's how some lichens feed; they secrete acids that dissolve rock. But no question, please - not till we get back to the ship. I've several lifetimes' work here, and a couple of hours to do it in."
was botany on the run... The sensitive edge of the huge plant-thing
could move with surprising speed when it tried to evade them. It was as
if they were dealing with an animated flapjack, an acre in extent.
There was no reaction - apart from the automatic avoidance of their
exhaust heat - when Hutchins snipped samples or took probes. The
creature flowed steadily onward over hills and valleys, guided by some
strange vegetable instinct. Perhaps it was following some vein of
mineral; the geologists could decide that, when they analyzed the rock
samples that Hutchins had collected both before and after the passage of
the living tapestry...
Arthur C Clarke, Before Eden (Amazing Stories, June 1961)
...Another muffled boom followed.
"Here it comes," Elliott murmured.
The natives stepped back reverently, and the doors of the temple swung slowly outward.
The Dragonbird appeared.
Blayne's astonished gasp was so loud that Elliot looked around apprehensively. "It's beautiful," the fat man exclaimed. "More lovely than I'd ever dreamed."
"It is," said Elliott grimly. He took the glasses from Blayne's trembling fingers and focused them on the island.
Dragonbird was walking with dignity across the little square before the
altar. It stood almost the height of a man, half-bird, half-reptile,
walking on powerful claws tipped with diamond-sharp, gleaming talons.
The brilliant sunlight glinted off its metallic feathers, played over
its shining plumage, lent brightness to the shimmering row of scales
that covered its long, swan-like neck...
Robert Silverberg, Lair of the Dragonbird (Imagination, December 1956)
...The dawn came like a sifting of fire-opals through the layers of pearl-gray cloud. Harker heard the yelling dimly in his sleep. He felt dull and tired, and his eyelids stuck together. The yelling gradually took shape and became the word "Land!" repeated over and over. Harker kicked himself awake and got up.
The tideless sea glimmered with opaline colors under the mist. Flocks of little jewel-scaled sea-dragons rose up from the ever-present floating islands of weed, and the weed itself, part of it, writhed and stretched with sentient life.
there was a long low hummock of muddy ground fading into a tangled
swamp. Beyond it, rising sheer into the clouds, was a granite cliff, a
sweeping escarpment that stood like a wall against the hopeful gaze of
Leigh Brackett, The Vanishing Venusians (Planet Stories, Spring 1944)
...We didn't find anything. Nothing but a few big lizards that crashed off into the brush. We didn't even find any tracks, though the rains could have washed those out.
I looked at him. "Now what?"
"We'll look through the nearby hummocks, Wimer."
I didn't like this. He acted as though we'd keep searching till we found something. And I was dead sure now we wouldn't - I was sure now it was only lizards I'd glimpsed.
But we had to bump over to the next hummock, and look around in it. It was late afternoon, Blaine dripping with sweat and me almost as bad. Back at Base, the guys would be lounging around the barracks by now, and -
Blaine said, "Look here, Wimer."
said it so flatly, I didn't realize what it was until I went over to
him. Then I saw. It was a little shelter of dry fronds, a sort of
wretched tumble-down hut, almost like an animal's den...
Edmond Hamilton, The Unforgiven (Startling Stories, October 1953)
...He could remember the great day of his testing.
When he shut his eyes, he seemed to kneel on the sloping riverbank again, a long spear shining in his clasp.
On both sides of him, a dozen native warriors crouched, armed with spears five times the height of their squat blue bodies. Directly behind him stood a silent group of five, his "pledge wraiths". It was a tribal tradition among the gnomelike folk that every great warrior had to have "pledge wraiths" who would stand behind him in the hour of his testing.
bubbling, a churning far out in the muddy brown river, and his five
little sponsors leaped up and down. As he stared at the uneasy current
it broke into white froth, and there arose from the winding water-course
a shape that whitened his lips and drove the blood from his heart...
Frank Belknap Long, The Shadow Dwellers (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Summer 1945)
plateau on which we had landed was far up in a range which we named the
Purple Mountains because they were covered from base to summit with
enormous two-foot lichens of a rich Tyrian hue. There were similarly
covered areas in the plateau, where the soil was too thin for the
sustenance of more elaborate plant-forms. Here, among the multitudinous
geysers, and the horned, fantastic peaks that were intermittently
visible through a steam-charged atmosphere, we had established ourselves
in a lichen-field. Even here we had to wear our refrigerating suits
and carry oxygen whenever we stepped out of the ether-ship; for
otherwise the heat would have parboiled us in a few minutes, and the
ultra-terrestrial gases in the air would have speedily overpowered us.
It was a weird business, putting the coaster together under such
circumstances. With out huge inflated suits and masks of green
vitrolium, we must have looked like a crew of demons toiling in the
fumes of Gehenna...
Clark Ashton Smith, The Immeasurable Horror (Weird Tales, September 1931)
rose and got a second shower from a bubble tree. This made him feel so
fresh and alert that he began to think of food. He had forgotten
whereabouts on the island the yellow gourds were to be found, and as he
set out to look for them he discovered that it was difficult to walk.
For a moment he wondered whether the liquid in the bubbles had some
intoxicating quality, but a glance around assured him of the real
reason. The plain of copper-coloured heather before him, even as he
watched, swelled into a low hill and the low hill moved in his
direction. Spellbound anew at the sight of land rolling towards him,
like water, in a wave, he forgot to adjust himself to the movement and
lost his feet. Picking himself up, he proceeded more carefully. This
time there was no doubt about it. The sea was rising...
...It was hard to estimate just where the tree trunk legs were going to come down, and close up, the walking walls of flesh gave you a vertiginous sense that they were always toppling over on you. The sound of their footfalls filled the world, like rumbling thunder on a hot summer day or batteries of heavy artillery...
threw himself aside with a yell as a foot with hundreds of tons of
weight behind it slammed down not four feet from him. That and the
miniature earthquake tossed him off his feet and onto his shoulders and
neck; half-stunned, he doggedly began to gather the scattered arrows
that had spilled from his quiver and snatch up the leather sack of
torches. The next time the rear foot came down it would be on top of
...It was raining when they set out the next day, warm rain that came down in sudden, smothering deluges that lasted a few minutes before easing off, only to deliver another barrage ten or fifteen minutes later. Within a few hours, they were in the swamp proper, and finding a way with ground solid enough and water not too deep for the lizard became a full-time task for Vinnie, even with the tall bronze way markers that had been hammered deep into the ground to show the path to the Lepers’ territory.
Only a few kilometers into the Swamp, the treelike green caps gave way to a profusion of clusters of smaller fungi, in many different colors, some of them mobile. There were also rabbit-sized lizard-things, and insectoid critters that swam and jumped and chattered, and early on the afternoon of the first day, something shadowy and huge loomed ahead in the fog. Vinnie backed the lizard off and all three of them readied their heat-beams before it continued on its way…
Garth Nix, By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers (ed. Martin and Dozois, Old Venus (2015))
Behind the battlements and bastions atop the city’s walls crouched the Golden Amazons of the garrison, loosing their storms of arrows at the swarming besiegers below them. Other tawny-skinned crews worked the alta-ray tubes that belched blasts of blue flame at regular intervals. Wherever the blue beams struck, the ground was blackened while the twisted and charred shapes of Scaly Ones writhed in brief agony. The myriad brazen trumpets of Larr sounded hasty rallying calls, or else tossed staccato signals from one part of the defences to another.
The hordes of Lansa had invested the city on three sides, the marsh-land on the far border of the city protecting that side from direct assault. Groups of Scaly Ones took shelter behind tree trunks and mounds of earth and any other possible cover, firing their gas-guns up at the battlements in an effort to lessen the arrow fire. Others crept forward behind movable metal shields. Heavy-caliber gas-guns inched slowly forward behind wooden mantlets that bristled with arrows, and hurled their larger explosive bullets up at the walls. Wherever they struck there was a puff of yellow dust and a scarred place on the stones. Reptilian trumpets beat with a staccato thunder as Lansa kept in touch with his various divisions. Not all the advantage was with the besiegers, however. Even as Gerry watched, a blue heat-ray struck full on one of the big gas-guns and blew it up with a shattering crash.
John Murray Reynolds, The Golden Amazons of Venus (Planet Stories, Winter 1939)
He made himself breathe slowly and evenly, counting. One, two. In, out. The weed waved with gentle grace along the edges of the light. His body waved too, giving itself to the massive rhythm of the sea. One, two. In, out. And nothing came, nothing showed itself.
Then he saw them.
were two of them. There must have been a third one with the light,
unless it was resting on a ledge of rock, but two were all that Kerrick
saw. They swam toward him through the brilliant water, their bodies all
shining gold. They were man-shaped except that their hands and feet
were modified for swimming, and except that they must have been fully
nine feet tall, slender, sleek, and terribly strong. They were
obviously air-breathers, and warm-blooded. They looked at Kerrick with
great black luminous eyes, full of a quick but quite alien intelligence,
and Kerrick shuddered a little where he stood, as though something cold
had brushed across him...
Edmond Hamilton, Men of the Morning Star (Imaginative Tales, March 1958)
...The day that it all happened, he and Terza were outside the dome. They had been pushing loudies around.
Loudies were not dangerous unless you killed them. You could knock them down, push them out of the way, or tie them up; after a while, they slipped away and went about their business. It took a very special kind of ecologist to figure out what their business was. They floated two meters high, ninety centimeters in diameter, gently just above the land of Venus, eating microscopically. For a long time, people thought there was radiation on which they subsisted. They simply multiplied in tremendous numbers. In a silly sort of way, it was fun to push them around, but that was about all there was to do.
They never responded with intelligence.
Once, long before, a loudie taken into the laboratory for experimental purposes had typed a perfectly clear message on the typewriter. The message had read, "Why don't you Earth people go back to Earth and leave us alone? We are getting on all - "
And that was all the message that anybody had ever got out of them in three hundred years. The best conclusion was that they had very high intelligence if they ever chose to use it, but that their volitional mechanism was so profoundly different from the psychology of human beings that it was impossible to force a loudie to respond to stress as people did on Earth.
The name loudie was some kind of word in the old Chinesian language. It meant the "ancient ones"...
Cordwainer Smith, When the People Fell (Galaxy, April 1959)
Without warning the darkness flickered into grey twilight. He struggled to reach the observation window so that he could see the Citadel colony from the air, but it was already too late; the gyrojet was immersed in the impenetrable bacterial cloud mass - but only for a few minutes. They emerged into intense blazing sunshine reflecting with almost incandescent violence from the cloud surface - an immense field of dazzling white snow receding on all sides to the horizon.
was impossible to estimate speed, for there were no landmarks on which
the eye could fix. All he could see was the slender dart-shaped shadow
of the plane apparently motionless on the clouds - now far below - like
some hovering insect, or a black-ink stain. The pilot was evidently
navigating by instruments, or flying on a radar beam; indeed, Macklin
could see no other way in which point-to-point air transport would be
possible over terrain permanently obscured by dense living fog...
Charles Eric Maine, Timeliner (1955)
Don climbed aboard and settled himself just abaft the last pair of eyestalks; they turned around and surveyed him. He found that Sir Isaac had thoughtfully had two rings riveted to his neck plates to let him hold on. "All set?"
The dragon reared himself up again and they set out, with Don feeling like Toomai-of-the-Elephants.
They went up a crowded dragon path so old that it was impossible to tell whether it was an engineering feat or a natural conformation. The path paralleled the shore for a mile or so; they passed dragons at work in their watery fields, then the path swung inland. Shortly, in the dry uplands, his party turned out of the traffic into a tunnel. This was definitely art, not nature; it was one of the sort the floor of which slides quietly and rapidly away in the direction one walks (provided the walker is a dragon or weighs as much as a dragon); their ambling gait was multiplied by a considerable factor. Don could not judge the true speed nor the distance covered.
came at last out into a great hall, large even for dragons; the flowing
floor merged into the floor of the hall imperceptibly and stopped...
Robert A Heinlein, Between Planets (1951)
The mother-of-many had Thurlow carried up to the dais on which she sat. Several of the little folk gathered round him and examined him, speaking to each other in high, lisping whispers. Presently the matriarch herself joined the consultation, then spoke again, "Thy mother sleeps."
"It is a sickly sleep. 'Her' head was injured by a blow." Oscar joined the group and showed them the lump on the back of Thurlow's head. They compared it with Oscar's own head, running gentle, inquisitive little hands through his blond hair. There was more lisping chatter; Matt found himself unable to follow even what he could hear; most of the words were strange.
"My learned sisters tell me that they dare not take thy mother's head apart for fear that they could not get it back together," announced the mother-of-many.
"Well, that's a relief!" Tex said out of the corner of his mouth.
"Old Oz wouldn't let them anyhow," Matt whispered.
The leader gave instructions and four of her "daughters" picked up the unconscious officer and started carrying him out of the room. Tex called out, "Hey, Oz - do you think that's safe?"
"It's all right," Oscar called back, then explained to the matriarch, "My 'sister' feared for the safety of our 'mother'."
The creature made a gesture that reminded Matt suddenly of his great-aunt Dora - she positively sniffed. "Tell her that her nose need not twitch!"
Robert A Heinlein, Space Cadet (1948)
Greaves walked to the window in the chamber's far wall and looked down. But it was dark below; nothing to mark the outlines of a city as cities had been in the time he remembered. The temple apparently stood atop a high hill, with the city in a great valley at its foot, but again all Greaves could see were three glowing mountaintops across the way, and, beyond them, the night sky.
Then suddenly one of the volcanoes flared for an instant, and the few overhead clouds reflected redly down into the valley.
Greaves caught his breath. The city had emerged black and immense, extending for miles, its lightless towers like the spine-bones of a beast half-eaten and rotting in a tidal pool. Then the light was gone and once again there was nothing visible down there - if the undead beast had chosen to bestir itself and stealthily move on some errand of the night, no one standing here could have known until it was too late.
"So that's the city of the Shadows," Greaves said.
"The city that was once the First City of Man," Vigil said bitterly. "That Mayron has made into an outpost of Hell..."
Algis Budrys, Die, Shadow! (Worlds of If, May 1963)
...I recalled Poincaré's advice: "Always keep your guard up." So I did. And my mental arm began to weary.
When all the guests had gone at last, I beckoned Benny into his private office, locked the door and searched the room. Thoroughly. There couldn't have been a Vester there or I should have walked into him at least twice.
Benny watched, puzzled. He was even more puzzled when I whispered: "Do you still keep up that do-it-yourself fad?"
"Then lend me your paint spray-gun - loaded."
"Why, for pete's sake?"
"There are Vesters at the bottom of my garden," I said.
We stalked them together, for nearly an hour.
Upon every shadow which seemed to move, every patch of room or passageway which didn't look quite right somehow, every object which Benny suspected may [sic] have shifted a trifle from its original position - we bestowed a squirt of bright red paint. My idea. If we hit a Vester, we should nullify an area of his working skin surface. Then, when he moved, he would be detectable.
If we hit a Vester...
Benny suddenly reached the end of his tether.
"Stop it, Dave, this is ridiculous. Hell, what a mess we've made! It looks like a slaughterhouse. How am I going to live with this?"
"It's preferable to having Vesters about the place."
"There aren't any Vesters. There can't be. Stat/Suda's making a fool of you and you're making a fool of me. It's all part of their game. It's how they drive all of our agents nuts in the end."
"Could be that the Vester who was here left with him," I said, stubbornly...
William F Temple, Coco-Talk (1966) in New Writings in SF-7 ed. John Carnell
…The pterodactyl landed lightly on a frond of the opposite fern. Its absurd, leathery forehead wrinkled at him. Graff noted that it was barely out of range of his electroblast. Intelligent, sure enough, and an unusually fearless specimen to perch this close to man.
At any other time he would have been intrigued by the opportunity of making friends with one of the intelligent winged reptiles who had learned to speak man’s languages and, with good reason, shun his works. Now, he had other things on his mind.
Like dying painfully in a few hours.
Graff looked up sharply as enormous batlike wings ceased their rustle.
The lizard-bird’s long, sloping forehead wrinkled even further. Its beak opened and closed several times. It cleared its throat.
Then it was civilized too. What had induced it to leave its communal eyrie in the San Mountains?
William Tenn, Ricardo's Virus (Planet Stories, March 1953)
…The mountains were cold. Moisture collected on the peaks that were eternally buried in the cloud formations, trickled down the bare, rocky slopes to form rampaging torrents in the deep-cut gorges. Eventually those swelling rivers poured out into the stinking swamps of the lowlands and finally into the huge, dark, sullen seas.
Rock slides were common. Huge segments of the mountains, weakened by cold and the unending drip of the water, cut their way with unstoppable force into the valleys. They formed lakes behind them until, eventually, they were washed away again.
The space ship lay half way up a peak, its nose crumpled against the side of the mountain. On either side the ground sloped off and the attackers had difficulty in approaching the ship without being picked off. They didn’t seem to mind the danger. They tried a rush now and then, and when that failed against the spitting flame from the gun-ports of the wrecked ship they retired to a safer position to wait. They were patient.
They were huge, hairy men, six and a half to seven feet tall, with flat, lean bellies and flanks swelling to heavily muscled barrel chests and shoulders a yard across. One had to hit them in the head or the heart to stop them…
Edwin James, The Slaves of Venus (Planet Stories, September 1952)
…Her eyes blazed more brightly like evil jewels into his, piercing the closed lids with invisible beams of malignant and gloating resolve. Her voice was very soft.
“You do not sleep well, do you, Owen Baarslag? Every terrible thing you have done to my people here in the swamps – the torture, the slavery, the subjection and the terror – it haunts your dreams. Your blighted conscience crawls, doesn’t it, Owen?”
The sleeping man didn’t answer. He was deep, deep down in the dark fastnesses of his nightmare, trying to escape, trying to awake.
Outside the synthetic shell of the hut, in the fetid heart of the Venusian swamp sector 5, a serpent hissed as it raised its pointed head from the slime and sank back again. A gigantic flying Gruoon gurgled overhead as it fell on its prey and flapped upward into the thick mist. Beyond these more abrupt sounds was the unceasing dreeing of millions of insects and the loud croaking of the bloated albino tree-toads that sagged heavily from the five-hundred foot crinoids…
Bryce Walton, The Green Dream (Planet Stories, Winter 1949)
…as we threaded our way under the gay colored lights across the arcade to the main island, I somehow seemed to feel the undercurrent of menace here. Occasionally we passed little figures who were evidently onlookers. The imbecile workers, lower class who were almost in the position of slaves. They were weird creatures, most of them no more than four feet tall, grey-skinned and powerfully built. We passed one who was standing on the shore gazing at a raft where a lone girl shrouded in blue-white filmy drapery was being pelted with flowers. The gnome-like imbecile stood impassive, gazing with vacant face. Then he was muttering to himself. A fragment of it reached us.
“Togliamo is coming to help us workers. We won’t have to work tomorrow. Then we can do things like this.”
I gripped Nereid. “You hear what that worker said? No work for him tomorrow. Do you suppose - ?”
She tried to smile. “What an imbecile says never means much…”
Ray Cummings, The War-Nymphs of Venus (Planet Stories, Spring 1941)
MacAloon jerked his lizard’s reins around in the direction of the mine. Al’s mount came alongside. The fishman groaned, then began trotting before them on swift webbed feet. They splashed over the eternal mud, through the ever-present white fog.
Should they give up the fight against the shrewd, heartbreakingly persistent vermin? If they did, they would have to abandon the mine which had become their life-work. They would have to blow up the place before retreating.
For all life on Venus was amphibious, but centaurpedes were deliberately trying to quit the water, knowing their semi-civilization could reach its mechanistic goal only on land.
Unable to prop the porous native rock with the brittle, primitive plastics they used instead of metals, they were striving to take over an iron mine that had already been started by human engineers. Then, with the metal they could produce, they would make tools and raise cities… and manufacture weapons with which to push men clear off the planet.
Richard Storey, Menace of the Mists (Planet Stories, May 1943)
…The white towers of the city pointed at the graying sky like skeleton fingers rising from the dead hands of the buildings. Where smaller houses on the outskirts of the city had nestled there were creeping greeneries and exotic plants. Where great canals had channeled across the land bearing water to all the outposts of the Terrestrial colony there were only the white arms of broken concrete, broken and scarred and crumbled where the trees had pushed themselves up with a great straining and a great heaving, to break through and gasp and rear upwards towards the sky in exhilaration.
The city was a dead city, turning its sightless, ancient eyes to gaze at the creeping bushes and grasses that swarmed over its limbs. And the rains that swept Venus washed its bones and the winds of Venus picked them clean through the long years.
This silent and misty afternoon there was not a movement to be seen throughout the whole city, but on the outskirts, from a small and crumbled building, came a plume of smoke, rising and curling steadily upwards from a tall chimney.
Within the building the two sat at the table as they always sat at this time of the day, watching the fire burning in the ancient grate as they had done through the centuries…
Bryan Berry, The Final Venusian (Planet Stories, January 1953)
We were in the heart of the Crystal Mountains! They towered round us on every side, and stretched away in interminable ranges of shining pinnacles. Such shapes! Such colors! Such flashing and blazing of gigantic rainbows and prisms! There were mountains that looked to my amazed eyes as lofty as Mont Blanc, and as massive, every solid mile of which was composed of crystalline ice, refracting and reflecting the sunbeams with iridescent splendor. For now we could begin to see a part of the orb of the sun itself, prodigious in size, and poised on the edge of the gem-glittering horizon, where the jeweled summits split its beams into a thousand haloes.
There was one mighty peak, still ahead of us, but toward which we were rushed sidewise by the wind, which surpassed all the others in marvelousness. It towered majestically above our level—a superb, stupendous, coruscating Alp of Light! On every side it darted blinding rays of a hundred splendid hues, as if a worldful of emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds had been heaped together in one gigantic pile and transfused with a sunburst.
Garrett P Serviss, A Columbus of Space (serial in All-Story Magazine, 1909)
Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (September 1954), drawn by Ray Bailey
Hans stopped suddenly.
“Dragonfly. Hear it?” Charlie listened, heard the high, motor-like hum he had heard the night before. “There it is,” Hans said quickly. “Hang onto Nixie and be ready to beat it off. I’m going to attract its attention.”
Charlie felt that attracting its attention was in a class with teasing a rattlesnake, but it was too late to object; Hans was waving his arms.
The fly hesitated, veered, headed straight for him. Charlie felt a moment of dreadful anticipation—then saw Hans take one swipe with his machete. The humming stopped; the thing fluttered to the ground.
Hans was grinning. The dragonfly jerked in reflex, but it was dead, the head neatly chopped off. “Didn’t waste a bit,” Hans said proudly.
“That’s lunch. Cut some of that oil weed behind you.” Hans squatted down. In three quick slices he cut off the stinger and the wings; what was left was the size of a medium lobster. Using the chrome-sharp machete as delicately as a surgeon’s knife, he split the underside of the exoskeleton, gently and neatly stripped out the gut. He started to throw it away, then paused and stared at it thoughtfully.
Charlie had been watching in queasy fascination. “Trouble?”
“Egg sac is full. They’re going to-swarm.”
“That’s bad, isn’t it?”
“Some. They swarm every three, four years.” Hans’ hesitated. “We’d better skip seeing my land. Got to tell Paw, so they’ll keep the kids in.”
“Okay, let’s get
Robert A Heinlein, Tenderfoot in Space (Boys' Life, May-July 1958)
The gorgeous display of a Venerian dawn was already coloring the east as the great buildings seemed to rise silently about them. The sky, which had been a dull luminous gray, a gray that rapidly grew brighter and brighter, was now like molten silver, through which were filtering the early rays of the intense sun. As the sun rose above the horizon, though invisible for clouds, it still was traceable by the wondrous shell pink that began to suffuse the ten mile layer of vapor. The tiny droplets were, however, breaking the clear light into a million rainbows, and all about the swiftly deepening pink were forming concentric circles of blue, of green, orange, and all the colors of the rainbow, repeated time after time—a wondrous halo of glowing color, which only the doubly intense sun could create.
“It's almost worth missing the sun all day to see their sunrises and sunsets,” Fuller commented. The men were watching it, despite their need for haste. It was a sight the like of which no Earthman had ever before seen.
John W Campbell, Solarite (Amazing Stories, November 1930)
Note from contributor Lone Wolf: This is a little short, but it's almost all there is from his description of Venus in the whole story. Campbell's style is as vague and lacking details as usual, but this idea about a rainbow sunrise because of the cloud envelope is indeed original. I also noticed, that the version from the magazine and the later publication as part of a book featuring the same three characters, which I found on the site of The Project Gutenberg are slightly different, although I didn't have time to compare them in details. But for one thing, in the latter is missing one interesting part, where is described the Venerian duodecimal numeration. This is interesting, because in the novels of Ralph Milne Farley the Venusians use duodecimal system too. But from the other hand I've came across several stories in which Martians are described using a duodecimal system (the oldest was Percy Greg's novel from 1880). Thus I cannot decide whether the duodecimal mathematics should be considered as more characteristic of the fictional cultures of Old Mars or Old Venus...
He followed his radiocompass, moving easily through a thin layer of snow. Very little of the landscape around him was visible. It was hidden in the gray twilight of Venus. Underfoot were thin, springy plants, sparsely scattered through the snow. They were the only living things in sight.
He adjusted the radio in his suit, hoping that someone would broadcast the major league baseball scores. But all he got was the end of a weather broadcast from Mars.
Snow began to fall again. It was cold; the dial on his wrist showed it, because no chilled air could creep through his suit. And although Venus had an oxygen atmosphere, he didn’t have to breathe it. A plastic helmet sealed him into a tiny, man-made world of his own. Within it, he couldn’t even feel the cold, stiff wind which pushed steadily against him.
As he walked, the snow became deeper. He glanced back. His ship was completely hidden in the gray twilight, and progress was becoming more difficult.
"If they put down a colony here,’ he said to himself, "they sure won’t get me to homestead on it!”
Robert Sheckley, Earth, Air, Fire and Water (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1955)
Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:
I finally found this story! I've been searching for it for several years already (it seems they have fixed the Internet Archive page for the pulp magazines and now it can display them by year and issue, while before they were shown randomly and it was a matter of chance to fine the issue one needs). I've read it only in translation back in the 80s and I've always wondered why Venus is described as a snow world - was this a mistake of the author or if he needed such a planet for his story, why choose Venus, which always has been envisioned as a hot world? Maybe the idea was that the cloud layer instead of producing hothouse effect reflects most of the sunlight and thus the planet is experiencing an ice age, but no explanation actually is given... It may be not very interesting description of the planet (as it's said in the story: "there were no real dangers on Venus, no men, no beasts, no poisonous plants"), but it's curious as being highly atypical - I don't remember reading any other story in which Venus is portrayed as a snow world, it just somehow doesn't feels like Venus...
From low-hanging clouds, fell eternal misty rain; squat, rubbery vegetation with its dull, reddish-brown colour stretched away in all directions. Now and then a Hop-scotch Bird fluttered wildly above them, emitting plaintive squawks as it went.
Karl turned his head to gaze at the tiny dome of Aphrodopolis, largest city on Venus.
“God,” he muttered, “even the dome is better than this awful world out here.” He pulled the rubberized fabric of his coat closer about him. “I’ll be glad to get back to Earth again.”
He turned to the slight figure of Antil, the Venusian, “When are we coming to the ruins, Antil?”
There was no answer and Karl noticed the tear that rolled down the Venusian’s green, puckered cheeks. Another glistened in the large, lemur-like eyes; soft, incredibly beautiful eyes.
The Earthman’s voice softened. “Sorry, Antil, I didn’t mean to say anything against Venus.”
Antil turned his green face toward Karl, “It was not that, my friend. Naturally, you would not find much to admire in an alien world. I, however, love Venus, and I weep because I am overcome with its beauty.” The words came fluently but with the inevitable distortion caused by vocal cords unfitted for harsh-languages.
“I know its seems incomprehensible to you,” Antil continued, “but to me Venus is a paradise, a golden land-I cannot express my feelings for it properly.”
“Yet there are some that say only Earthmen can love.” Karl’s sympathy was strong and sincere.
The Venusian shook his head sadly. “There is much besides the capacity to feel emotion that your people deny us.”
Karl changed the subject hurriedly. ‘Tell me, Antil, doesn’t Venus present a dull aspect even to you? You’ve been to Earth and should know. How can this eternity of brown and grey compare to the living, warm colours of Earth?”
“It is far more beautiful to me. You forget that my colour sense
is so enormously different from yours. How can I explain the beauties, the
wealth of colour in which this landscape abounds?” He fell silent, lost in the
wonders he spoke of, while to the Terrestrial the deadly, melancholy grey
Isaac Asimov, The Weapon Too Dreadful to Use (Amazing Stories, May 1939)
Note from Lone Wolf regarding the early Asimov: I was quite surprised to find that in his early years he has written several stories of the classic OSS type (his later Lucky Starr series is more borderline RSS, although possibly inspired by Captain Future, with which it shares many common features).
Note from Zendexor: This Venusian scene certainly seems uncharacteristic of Asimov - and interestingly so, in my view. I'd say that to an even greater extent than in most good writers, the underneath of his mind was larger and greater than the surface.
...they must depend entirely on instruments to help them. In more ways than one this would indeed be a blind landing.
Six miles to go. If there were any mountain peaks like Everest the rocket might well smash itself against one. Every second the crew awaited the sickening jar that would spell disaster.
Four miles. Three. The tension was unbearable, but still they stuck grimly to their posts.
“Watch out,” shouted Serge. “It will be any second now.”
Without knowing it the crew were holding their breaths. Suddenly they all let them out with a gasp. Phoenix had touched something solid…
…”We’ve landed,” Morrey said weakly.
The rocket had been scarcely jarred as it came into contact with the planet. No matter how carefully a ship is handled on making a terrestrial or a lunar landing, there is always a slight impact with the solid surface. None of the crew had felt anything. It was as if they had touched down inside a bowl of cotton-wool…
Hugh Walters, Expedition Venus (1962)
Heath flung himself against the sweep and stopped it.
“Be quiet,” he said. “Look. Out there.”
They followed his gesture. Far away over the port bow, flowing toward them, was a ripple in the weed. A ripple as though the very bed of the Upper Seas was in motion.
“What is it?” whispered Alor, and saw Heath’s face, and was silent.
Sluggishly, yet with frightening speed, the ripple came toward them. Heath got a harpoon out of the stern locker. He watched the motion of the weed, saw it gradually slow and stop in a puzzled way. Then he threw the harpoon as far away from the ship as he could with all his strength and more.
The ripple began again. It swerved and sped toward where the harpoon had fallen.
“They’ll attack anything that moves,” said Heath. “It lost us because we stopped. Watch.”
The weed heaved and burst open, its meshes snapping across a scaled and titanic back. There seemed to be no shape to the creature, no distinguishable head. It was simply a vast and hungry blackness that spread upward and outward…
Leigh Brackett, The Moon That Vanished (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1948)