Parasite Planet

"Parasite Planet" is a science fiction short story by Stanley G. Weinbaum originally published in the February 1935 issue of Astounding Stories. It was Weinbaum's fourth published story, and the first to be set on Venus. He quickly followed it up with a sequel called "The Lotus Eaters".

"Parasite Planet"
AuthorStanley G. Weinbaum
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesHam Hammond
Genre(s)Science fiction short story
Published inAstounding Stories
Publication typePeriodical
PublisherStreet & Smith
Media typePrint (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)
Publication dateFebruary 1935
Followed by"The Lotus Eaters"

Weinbaum's Venus

Venus-real color
Venus from space. Weinbaum’s Venus has a 500-mile-wide habitable zone on the sunward side of the terminator.

In the story, tidal locking keeps one side of Venus perpetually facing the Sun. This side of the planet is a barren desert. Towards the planet's twilight region the temperature drops below the boiling point of water and the Hotlands begin: an area of the planet inhabited by native life forms, all of them parasitic to a greater or lesser degree. "A thousand different species, but all the same in one respect; each of them was all appetite. In common with most Venusian beings, they had a multiplicity of both legs and mouths; in fact, some of them were little more than blobs of skin split into dozens of hungry mouths, crawling on a hundred spidery legs." The air of the Hotlands is hazy with spores which instantly infest any life-form unfortunate enough to have its skin pierced, and at the top of the Venusian food chain is the doughpot, a mass of fast-moving undifferentiated protoplasm that absorbs every living thing in its path, and whose touch is fatal to humans.

Close to the terminator a constant wind from the night side of Venus brings the temperature below 80 degrees Fahrenheit, too cold for the spores and most of the other Hotlands life. This is the Cool Country, where most of the planet's human settlers live. At the terminator itself, the lower wind from the night side meets a hot upper wind from the day side, resulting in a permanent violent thunderstorm. The precipitation from that storm falls as snow on the night side of the terminator, forming a vast ice barrier which slumps under its own weight into the dayside, then melts into rivers that flow away from the terminator until they evaporate in the growing heat.

It is revealed in a later story, "The Planet of Doubt", that the United States had attempted to lay claim to all of Venus. The Council of Bern ruled in 2059 that planetary explorers could only lay claim to as much of a planet as they had explored. As a result, the United States was only able to establish a claim to a quarter of the habitable zone of Venus, with the other three quarters being occupied by the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands.

Plot summary

Hamilton "Ham" Hammond is an American trader who lives in the Venusian Hotlands in the late 21st century. He makes his living collecting xixtchil spore-pods from the native Venusians, which are used to make a rejuvenation drug on Earth. When Hammond's shack is sucked under the surface by a mud-spout, he must make his way across 200 miles of hot, humid, hostile Venusian jungle to reach Erotia, a settlement in the American part of the planet.

Hammond comes upon a human dwelling which, contrary to custom, is locked. He forces his way inside and is confronted by Patricia Burlingame, daughter of the late British explorer Patrick Burlingame. As Hammond is in the British part of Venus, Burlingame denounces him as a poacher. A confrontation between the two is interrupted by the arrival of a doughpot which wrecks Burlingame's dwelling. The two grudgingly set aside their differences and travel west to the Cold Country, saving each other's lives on several occasions. Their truce ends when Hammond wakes to find that Burlingame has emptied his xixtchil pods onto the ground, exposing them to the destructive spores. Now destitute, Hammond angrily sets off north toward Erotia, leaving Burlingame to make her way south through the impassable Mountains of Eternity to the British settlement of Venoble alone.

After a time, Hammond suffers an attack of conscience, turns, and follows Burlingame south. He catches up with her in the foothills of the Eternities just before a huge doughpot traps them in a box canyon. Hammond is able to get off two shots of his flame pistol at the doughpot before the barrel shatters, reducing the thing's size but still leaving them trapped. They decide to go deeper into the box canyon, but in the darkness they are set upon by Triops noctivivans, vicious nightside-dwelling cousins of the Venusians. The trioptes drive them back toward the doughpot, dosing Burlingame with a soporific drug that renders her unconscious. Hammond is forced to make his way past the doughpot on a low, narrow shelf of rock while carrying Burlingame.

The two make it past the doughpot; when the pursuing trioptes arrive, they stop chasing the humans and start eating the doughpot instead. When Burlingame revives, she admits that instead of destroying the xixtchil pods, she had actually stolen them. She returns them to Hammond, and agrees to come with him to Erotia. She also agrees to marry him.

Bestiary

Friendly trees were so named by British explorer Patrick Burlingame because they are one of the few organisms on Venus sluggish enough to permit one to rest in their branches. It takes several hours for a Friendly tree to fasten its tendrils and sucking cups on its prey.

Jack-ketch trees use long, leathery branches, shaped with a hole like nooses, to strangle and kill their prey. They are black, for they have no need for photosynthesis, and obtain all their sustenance from the creatures they catch. For the origin of the name, see Jack Ketch.

Pharisee trees look just like Friendly trees, a resemblance they use to lure prey within their reach. They are much quicker than Friendly trees, though, stabbing their prey with sharp spikes. For the origin of the name, see Pharisee.

A uniped is a kangaroolike animal that travels by leaping on a single massive leg. It uses its ten-foot beak to spear its prey.

Triops noctivivans is a three-eyed monstrosity that feeds upon anything it can find—it lives on the night side of Venus. A similar creature appears on Mars in "Valley of Dreams", possibly brought to Mars in the distant past by the Thoth.

Doughpots are a huge collection of protoplasm that absorbs everything in its path.

Collections

"Parasite Planet" appears in the following Stanley G. Weinbaum collections:

  • A Martian Odyssey and Others (1949)
  • A Martian Odyssey and Other Science Fiction Tales (1974)
  • The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum (1974)
  • Interplanetary Odysseys (2006)

External links

A Martian Odyssey and Others

A Martian Odyssey and Others is a collection of science fiction short stories by author Stanley G. Weinbaum. It was first published in 1949 by Fantasy Press in an edition of 3,158 copies. The stories originally appeared in the magazines Wonder Stories, Astounding and Thrilling Wonder Stories.

Analog's Expanding Universe

Analog's Expanding Universe is the tenth in a series of anthologies of science fiction stories drawn from Analog magazine and edited by then-current Analog editor Stanley Schmidt. It was first published in hardcover by Davis Publications for Longmeadow Press in 1986.The book collects fourteen short stories, novelettes and novellas first published in Analog and its predecessor title Astounding, together with an introduction by Schmidt.

Before the Golden Age

Before the Golden Age: A Science Fiction Anthology of the 1930s is an anthology of 25 science fiction stories from 1930s pulp magazines, edited by American science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. It also includes "Big Game", a short story written by Asimov in 1941 and never sold. The anthology was first published in April 1974, and won the 1975 Locus Award for Best reprint anthology.The anthology was inspired by a dream Asimov had on the morning of 3 April 1973. In his dream, Asimov had prepared an anthology of his favorite science fiction stories from the 1930s and was delighted to get a chance to read them again. After waking, he told his fianceé Janet Jeppson about the dream, and she suggested that he actually do such an anthology. Doubleday agreed to publish the anthology, and Asimov's friend Sam Moskowitz provided him with copies of the relevant science fiction magazines. Asimov completed work on the anthology on 10 May.

The stories were selected by Asimov, and the main selection criterion was the degree to which they influenced him when he was growing up in the 1930s. The prefatory material and individual introductions to the stories fill in the details about the early life of the child prodigy, which effectively makes the volume an autobiographical prequel to his earlier collection The Early Asimov.

The anthology was first published as a large hardcover by Doubleday in 1974 and re-issued as three smaller paperbacks by Fawcett Books the following year. The series was re-issued multiple times in the period of 1975-1984 in sets of either three or four paperbacks. As of 2018, it is out of print.

John Russell Fearn

John Russell Fearn (1908–1960) was a British author and one of the first British writers to appear in American pulp science fiction magazines. A prolific author, he published his novels also as Vargo Statten and with various pseudonyms such as Thornton Ayre, Polton Cross, Geoffrey Armstrong, John Cotton, Dennis Clive, Ephriam Winiki, Astron Del Martia and others.

Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus

Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus is the third novel in the Lucky Starr series, six juvenile science fiction novels by Isaac Asimov that originally appeared under the pseudonym Paul French. The novel was first published by Doubleday & Company in 1954. Since 1972, reprints have included a foreword by Asimov explaining that advancing knowledge of conditions on Venus have rendered the novel's descriptions of that world inaccurate.

In his autobiography In Memory Yet Green, Asimov notes that his original version of the novel was rejected by Doubleday and had to be extensively revised before it was accepted:

On the whole, Doubleday was justified, for Lucky Starr, in this particular adventure, was needlessly close-mouthed, allowing his sidekick to think he was an utter bastard, when I was merely trying to keep things from the reader. I had to rewrite in such a way as to keep things from the reader in a subtler fashion and more in keeping with Lucky's character.

Neil R. Jones

Neil Ronald Jones (May 29, 1909 – February 15, 1988) was an American author who worked for the state of New York. Not prolific, and little remembered today, Jones was ground-breaking in science fiction. His first story, "The Death's Head Meteor", was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930, possibly recording the first use of "astronaut" in fiction. He also pioneered cyborg and robotic characters, and is credited with inspiring the modern idea of cryonics. Most of his stories fit into a "future history" like that of Robert A. Heinlein or Cordwainer Smith, well before either of them used this convention in their fiction.

Ron Turner (illustrator)

Ronald Turner (22 August 1922 – 19 December 1998) was a British illustrator and comic book artist.

Stanley G. Weinbaum

Stanley Grauman Weinbaum (April 4, 1902 – December 14, 1935) was an American science fiction writer. His first story, "A Martian Odyssey", was published to great acclaim in July 1934, but he died from lung cancer less than a year and a half later.

The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum

The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum is a collection of science fiction stories by Stanley G. Weinbaum, published in 1974 as an original paperback by Ballantine Books. The volume included an introduction by Isaac Asimov and an afterword by Robert Bloch. Ballantine reissued the collection twice in the later 1970s; Garland Publishing published a library hardcover edition in 1983, and Sphere Books released a UK market edition in 1977, under the title A Martian Odyssey and Other Stories. The original edition placed third in the 1975 Locus Poll for best genre collection.

The Lotus Eaters (Weinbaum)

"The Lotus Eaters" is a science fiction short story by Stanley G. Weinbaum originally published in the April 1935 issue of Astounding Stories. "The Lotus Eaters" was Weinbaum's fifth published story, and is a sequel to "Parasite Planet".

The Mad Moon

"The Mad Moon" is a science fiction short story by Stanley G. Weinbaum, first published in the December 1935 issue of Astounding Stories. As did his earlier stories "A Martian Odyssey" and "Parasite Planet", "The Mad Moon" emphasizes Weinbaum's alien ecologies. "The Mad Moon" was the only Weinbaum story set on Io.

The Planet of Doubt

"The Planet of Doubt" is a science fiction short story by Stanley G. Weinbaum that was first published in the October 1935 issue of Astounding Stories. It is Weinbaum's third story featuring Hamilton Hammond and Patricia Burlingame, a sequel to "Parasite Planet" and "The Lotus Eaters".

Tweel (A Martian Odyssey)

Tweel (also referred to as a "Tweerl", the exact pronunciation of the word is said to be impossible for humans) is a fictional extraterrestrial from the planet Mars, featured in two short stories by Stanley G. Weinbaum. The alien was featured in A Martian Odyssey, first published in 1934, and Valley of Dreams four months later. Weinbaum died of lung cancer soon after, and a third installment in the series never saw fruition. Tweel remains one of the most recognised aliens in early science fiction, and is said to be an inspiration for aliens in the works of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.

Asimov described Tweel as being the first creation in science fiction to fulfill John W. Campbell's request for "(...)a creature that thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man."

Venus in fiction

Fictional representations of the planet Venus have existed since the 19th century. Its impenetrable cloud cover gave science fiction writers free rein to speculate on conditions at its surface; all the more so when early observations showed that not only was it very similar in size to Earth, it possessed a substantial atmosphere. Closer to the Sun than Earth, the planet was frequently depicted as warmer, but still habitable by humans. The genre reached its peak between the 1930s and 1950s, at a time when science had revealed some aspects of Venus, but not yet the harsh reality of its surface conditions.

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