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)