A Fall of Moondust

A Fall of Moondust is a hard science fiction novel by British writer Arthur C. Clarke, first published in 1961. It was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novel,[1] and was the first science fiction novel selected to become a Reader's Digest Condensed Book.

A Fall of Moondust
A Fall of Moondust (first edition)
Cover of the first edition
AuthorArthur C. Clarke
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreScience fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback)
ISBN0-575-07317-9 (reprint)


By the 21st century, the Moon has been colonized, and although still very much a research establishment, it is visited by tourists who can afford the trip. One of its attractions is cruise across one of the lunar seas, named the Sea of Thirst, (located within the Sinus Roris) filled with an extremely fine dust, a fine powder far drier than the contents of a terrestrial desert and which almost flows like water, instead of the common regolith which covers most of the lunar surface. A specially designed "boat" named the Selene skims over the surface of the dust in the same manner as a jetski.

But on one cruise, a moonquake causes a cavern to collapse, upsetting the equilibrium. As the Dust-cruiser Selene passes over, it sinks about 15 metres below the surface of the dust, hiding the vessel from view, and trapping it beneath the dust. Immediately there are potentially fatal problems for the crew and passengers inside. The sunken Selene has a limited air supply, there is no way for heat generated to escape, communications are impossible, and no one else is sure where Selene has been lost. As the Selene heats up and the air becomes unbreathable, young Captain Pat Harris and his chief stewardess Sue Wilkins try to keep the passengers occupied and psychologically stable while waiting to be rescued. They are helped by a retired space ship captain and explorer, Commodore Hansteen, who is initially traveling incognito.

Chief Engineer (Earthside) Robert Lawrence is sceptical that a rescue can be mounted, even if the Selene can be located. He is ready to abandon an initially unsuccessful search, when he is contacted by Thomas Lawson, a brilliant but eccentric astronomer who, from his vantage point on a satellite high above the Moon, Lagrange II, believes he has detected the remains of a heat trail on the surface. An expedition is organised and Lawrence indeed makes contact with the Selene. However the completely alien environment results in numerous unforeseen complications. The rescue mission decides to sink a tube supplying oxygen to the Selene first, in an effort to buy time to think of a way to get the passengers out. However, this becomes a race against the clock, as the heat in the Selene knocks out the chemical air purification system and the passengers are suffering from CO2 poisoning. To preserve air, most passengers enter a chemically induced sleep, with only Pat Harris and physicist Duncan McKenzie staying awake. Just in time, the rescuers manage to drill a hole in the roof and deliver an air supply.

A plan is hatched to save the passengers of the Selene by sinking several concrete caissons to the roof of the ship and cutting a hole. When the first caisson is sunk, disaster strikes again: the liquid waste of the passengers had been expelled out of the ship, turning the dust around it into mud, which causes another, smaller, cave-in. The Selene sinks once more, this time only a small distance, but crucially, at a slope. The caissons cannot be connected to the roof which is now sloping at 30 degrees. The air supply and communications have also been damaged. After restoring these latter two, a new plan is made to sink the caissons, but now the bottom one has a flexible fitting attached to it which can be mounted to the sloping roof of the Selene. The rescue mission works according to plan: the caissons are sunk, the dust is scooped out and the connection is made, but now time is running out again. When the air supply holes were drilled, Selene's double hull was breached and the space in between slowly filled with dust. The metal-rich dust reached the battery packs and short-circuited them. This causes the battery compartment in the stern to burn slowly. The resulting breach is barricaded by the passengers, but dust is still pouring in and there is a fear that the burning material will cause the liquid oxygen supply to explode. Meanwhile, Robert Lawrence is working in the rescue shaft: he sets a small ring charge to make a hole in the roof. Just in time, the hole is made and the passengers escape through the shaft. Captain Harris is the last to leave, up to his waist in dust. Just when he is clear of the shaft, the liquid oxygen explodes, destroying the Selene.

A short epilogue sees Lawrence writing his memoirs, Pat Harris and Sue Wilkins are married. Pat Harris is the captain of the Selene II on its maiden cruise which will also be the last cruise for Harris as he is hoping to transfer to the space service.

Duncan McKenzie, one of the Dust-cruiser passengers, is described as of Australian Aboriginal descent. A different character, Duncan Makenzie, with "dark brown" skin, appears in Arthur C. Clarke's later novel Imperial Earth.


Galaxy reviewer Floyd C. Gale rated A Fall of Moondust five stars out of five, praising it as "emotionally gripping [and] astute" and that "it measures up to the very highest standard of his previous efforts. No praise can be higher".[2]


A BBC Radio drama of the story was produced in 1981. It features David Buck as Captain Pat Harris and Barry Foster as Chief Engineer Lawrence. In 2008, the production was released on BBC Compact Disc (ISBN 978-1-4056-8804-8).[3]

See also


  1. ^ "1963 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
  2. ^ Gale, Floyd C. (June 1962). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 191–194.
  3. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPXz99NAODM


External links

Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008) was a British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.

He is famous for being co-writer of the screenplay for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, widely considered to be one of the most influential films of all time. Clarke was a science writer, who was both an avid populariser of space travel and a futurist of uncanny ability. On these subjects he wrote over a dozen books and many essays, which appeared in various popular magazines. In 1961 he was awarded the Kalinga Prize, an award which is given by UNESCO for popularising science. These along with his science fiction writings eventually earned him the moniker "Prophet of the Space Age". His other science fiction writings earned him a number of Hugo and Nebula awards, which along with a large readership made him one of the towering figures of science fiction. For many years Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov were known as the "Big Three" of science fiction.Clarke was a lifelong proponent of space travel. In 1934, while still a teenager, he joined the British Interplanetary Society. In 1945, he proposed a satellite communication system using geostationary orbits. He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946–47 and again in 1951–53.Clarke emigrated from England to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) in 1956, largely to pursue his interest in scuba diving. That year he discovered the underwater ruins of the ancient Koneswaram temple in Trincomalee. Clarke augmented his fame later on in the 1980s, from being the host of several television shows such as Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World. He lived in Sri Lanka until his death.Clarke was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1989 "for services to British cultural interests in Sri Lanka". He was knighted in 1998 and was awarded Sri Lanka's highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.

Arthur C. Clarke bibliography

The following is a list of works by Arthur C. Clarke.

Barry Foster (actor)

John Barry Foster (21 August 1927 – 11 February 2002) was an English actor who had an extensive career on stage, television, radio and cinema over almost 50 years.

Birthday problem

In probability theory, the birthday problem or birthday paradox concerns the probability that, in a set of n randomly chosen people, some pair of them will have the same birthday. By the pigeonhole principle, the probability reaches 100% when the number of people reaches 367 (since there are only 366 possible birthdays, including February 29). However, 99.9% probability is reached with just 70 people, and 50% probability with 23 people. These conclusions are based on the assumption that each day of the year (excluding February 29) is equally probable for a birthday.

It may well seem surprising that a group of just 23 individuals is required to reach a probability of 50% that two individuals in the group have the same birthday: this result is perhaps made more plausible by considering that the comparisons of birthday will actually be made between every possible pair of individuals = 23 × 22/2 = 253 comparisons, which is well over half the number of days in a year (183 at most), as opposed to fixing on one individual and comparing their birthday to everyone else's birthday.

Real-world applications for the birthday paradox include a cryptographic attack called the birthday attack, which uses this probabilistic model to reduce the complexity of finding a collision for a hash function.

The history of the problem is obscure. W. W. Rouse Ball indicated (without citation) that it was first discussed by Harold Davenport. However, Richard von Mises proposed an earlier version of what is considered today to be the birthday problem. The problem was featured by Martin Gardner in his April 1957 "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American.

Cousin Silas

Cousin Silas is the stage name of English electronic music artist David Hughes. The name comes from a character in King Crimson's song, "Happy Family". He has released over eighty albums on various netlabels. Between 1990 and 2000 he wrote several short stories, poetry, prose, and articles that were published in small press magazines such as Back Brain Recluse, Nova SF, The Scanner, REM, Nerve Gardens, The Lyre, Auguries and Focus. On 28 January 2004 Cousin Silas made an appearance on BBC Radio 1 played by John Peel.


Earthlight is a science fiction novel by British writer Arthur C. Clarke, published in 1955. It is an expansion to novel length of a novella of the same name that he had published four years earlier.

Gray Lady Down

Gray Lady Down is a 1978 American submarine disaster film by Universal Studios starring Charlton Heston, David Carradine, Stacy Keach, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox and Rosemary Forsyth, and includes the feature film debut of Christopher Reeve. It is based on David Lavallee's 1971 novel Event 1000.

Hard science fiction

Hard science fiction is a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific accuracy. The term was first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell's Islands of Space in the November issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The complementary term soft science fiction, formed by analogy to hard science fiction, first appeared in the late 1970s. The term is formed by analogy to the popular distinction between the "hard" (natural) and "soft" (social) sciences. Science fiction critic Gary Westfahl argues that neither term is part of a rigorous taxonomy; instead they are approximate ways of characterizing stories that reviewers and commentators have found useful.Stories revolving around scientific and technical consistency were written as early as the 1870s with the publication of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870 and Around the World in Eighty Days in 1873, among other stories. The attention to detail in Verne's work became an inspiration for many future scientists and explorers, although Verne himself denied writing as a scientist or seriously predicting machines and technology of the future.

Hugo Award for Best Novel

The Hugo Award for Best Novel is one of the Hugo Awards given each year for science fiction or fantasy stories published or translated into English during the previous calendar year. The novel award is available for works of fiction of 40,000 words or more; awards are also given out in the short story, novelette, and novella categories. The Hugo Awards have been described as "a fine showcase for speculative fiction" and "the best known literary award for science fiction writing".The Hugo Award for Best Novel has been awarded annually by the World Science Fiction Society since 1953, except in 1954 and 1957. In addition to the regular Hugo awards, beginning in 1996 Retrospective Hugo Awards, or "Retro Hugos", have been available to be awarded for 50, 75, or 100 years prior. Retro Hugos may only be awarded for years in which a World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon, was hosted, but no awards were originally given. To date, Retro Hugo awards have been given for novels for 1939, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1951, and 1954.Hugo Award nominees and winners are chosen by supporting or attending members of the annual Worldcon, and the presentation evening constitutes its central event. The selection process is defined in the World Science Fiction Society Constitution as instant-runoff voting with six nominees, except in the case of a tie. The novels on the ballot are the six most-nominated by members that year, with no limit on the number of stories that can be nominated. The 1953, 1955, and 1958 awards did not include any recognition of runner-up novels, but since 1959 all final candidates have been recorded. Initial nominations are made by members in January through March, while voting on the ballot of six nominations is performed roughly in April through July, subject to change depending on when that year's Worldcon is held. Prior to 2017, the final ballot was five works; it was changed that year to six, with each initial nominator limited to five nominations. Worldcons are generally held in August or early September, and are held in a different city around the world each year.During the 70 nomination years, 145 authors have had works nominated; 48 of these have won, including co-authors, ties, and Retro Hugos. One translator has been noted along with the author whose works he translated. Robert A. Heinlein has received the most Hugos for Best Novel as well as the most nominations, with six wins (including two Retro Hugos) and twelve nominations. Lois McMaster Bujold has received four Hugos on ten nominations; the only other authors to win more than twice are Isaac Asimov (including one Retro Hugo), N. K. Jemisin, Connie Willis, and Vernor Vinge, who have each won three times. Nine other authors have won the award twice. The next-most nominations by a winning author are held by Robert J. Sawyer and Larry Niven, who have been nominated nine and eight times, respectively, and each have only won once, while Robert Silverberg has the greatest number of nominations without winning at nine. Three authors have won the award in consecutive years: Orson Scott Card (1986, 1987), Lois McMaster Bujold (1991, 1992), and N. K. Jemisin (2016, 2017, and 2018).

Journey into Space

Journey Into Space is a BBC Radio science fiction programme written by BBC producer Charles Chilton. It was the last UK radio programme to attract a bigger evening audience than television. Originally, four series were produced (the fourth was a remake of the first), which was translated into 17 languages (including Hindustani, Turkish and Dutch) and broadcast in countries worldwide (including the United States, New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands). Chilton later wrote three best-selling novels and several comic strip stories based upon the radio series.

The first series was created in 1953, soon after Riders of the Range (a popular Western, also written by Chilton) ended its six series on the BBC Light Programme. Michael Standing, then Head of the BBC Variety Department, asked Chilton if he could write a sci-fi programme, and Journey to the Moon (later known as Operation Luna) was the result. Each half-hour episode would usually end with a dramatic cliffhanger, to increase the audience's incentive to tune into the next episode.

The original magnetic recordings of the show were erased shortly after broadcast, and for several decades it was believed that no recordings of the show had survived. In 1986, a set of misfiled Transcription Service discs (produced for sale to overseas radio stations) was discovered, containing complete copies of the three original series (more accurately, the surviving version of the first series is a cut-down remake of the original, produced for the Transcription Service during the 1950s). This discovery enabled the BBC to begin re-broadcasting the show in the late 1980s, and release copies of the show, first on audio cassette, and more recently on CD and internet download.

Fans of Journey Into Space include Colin Pillinger, Kenny Everett, John Major, Stephen Hawking, Miriam Margolyes and former Doctor Who producer Philip Hinchcliffe.

List of science fiction novels

This is a list of science fiction novels, novel series, and collections of linked short stories. It includes modern novels, as well as novels written before the term "science fiction" was in common use. This list includes novels not marketed as SF but still considered to be substantially science fiction in content by some critics, such as Nineteen Eighty Four. As such, it is an inclusive list, not an exclusive list based on other factors such as level of notability or literary quality. Books are listed in alphabetical order by title, ignoring the leading articles "A", "An", and "The". Novel series are alphabetical by author-designated name or, if there is none, the title of the first novel in the series or some other reasonable designation.


A micrometeoroid is a tiny meteoroid; a small particle of rock in space, usually weighing less than a gram. A micrometeorite is such a particle that survives passage through the Earth's atmosphere and reaches the Earth's surface.

Moon in fiction

The Moon has been the subject of many works of art and literature and the inspiration for countless others. It is a motif in the visual arts, the performing arts, poetry, prose and music.

Pat Harris

Pat or Patrick Harris may refer to:

Eugene Patterson Harris, 2018 United States Senate candidate, criminal defense lawyer, and writer

Pat Harris (footballer), New Zealand footballer

Patrick Harris, retired Church of England bishop

Captain Pat Harris, character in A Fall of Moondust

Pat Harris, character in Life for Ruth

SF Masterworks

SF Masterworks is a series of science fiction books started by Millennium and currently published by Victor Gollancz Ltd (both being imprints of the UK based Orion Publishing Group).

It began in 1999 and comprises selected pieces of science-fiction literature from 1950 onwards (with a few exceptions). The list was compiled by the managing director of Orion Books, Malcolm Edwards, with the help of "leading SF writers and editors" and the goal of bringing important books back into print. The list was described by science fiction author Iain M. Banks as "amazing" and "genuinely the best novels from sixty years of SF".It has a companion series in the Fantasy Masterworks line. A separate Future Classics line has also started featuring eight science fiction novels from the last few decades.

Gollancz officially relaunched the series in March 2010 beginning with reissues of the first ten titles. These titles have new cover designs (no longer featuring numbers) and introductions, and other existing titles are planned to be reprinted. Gollancz also added new titles to the series beginning in April 2010.

Sinus Roris

Sinus Roris (Latin for "Bay of Dew") is an extension of the northern edge of Oceanus Procellarum on the Moon. The IAU-defined selenographic coordinates of this bay are 54.0° N, 56.6° W, and the diameter is 202 km.

The borders of this feature are somewhat indistinct. The bay proper is framed along the western edge by the craters Markov and Oenopides, and to the north by Babbage and South. At the eastern edge it joins the Mare Frigoris.

Many selenographers have taken liberties with the dimensions of Sinus Roris. Lunar maps often indicate a much larger region for this bay than the official dimensions. These can range out as far as the craters Gerard and Repsold to the west, Harpalus to the east, and as far south as 44° N latitude, approaching Mons Rümker.

The area where the official coordinates place this bay has a generally higher albedo than the mare to the south, most likely due to deposits of ejecta from impacts to the north.

Early concepts of a moon landing promoted by Wernher von Braun envisaged the establishment of a permanent lunar base in the Sinus Roris region. These concepts lead, in much modified form, to Project Apollo.

Arthur C. Clarke's novel A Fall of Moondust is set in a fictional "Sea of Thirst" located within Sinus Roris.

Sir Arthur Clarke Award

The Sir Arthur Clarke Award is a British award given annually since 2005 in recognition of notable contributions to space exploration, particularly British achievements. Nominations for the awards are made by members of the public, with shortlists drawn up by a panel of judges, who also choose the winner. Sir Arthur Clarke chose a special award independently of the public nominations, prior to his death on 18 March 2008.

The Martian (Weir novel)

The Martian is a 2011 science fiction novel written by Andy Weir. It was his debut novel under his own name. It was originally self-published in 2011; Crown Publishing purchased the rights and re-released it in 2014. The story follows an American astronaut, Mark Watney, as he becomes stranded alone on Mars in the year 2035 and must improvise in order to survive. The Martian, a film adaptation directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, was released in October 2015.

The View from Serendip

The View from Serendip is a collection of essays and anecdotes by Arthur C. Clarke, first published in 1977. The pieces include Clarke's experiences with diving, Sri Lanka, his relationships with other science fiction authors such as Isaac Asimov, and other personal memoirs. There are also reproductions of past lectures, as well as speculations about things of scientific interest. The essay "The World of 2001" had been previously published in Vogue. It predicted the end of menial labor (mental as well as manual), due to automation and bio-engineered apes.

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