Feb 7, 2016

Born Under Europa

cover art by Frank R. Paul
When I was in grade school, there were a few "science fiction" books that were part of the school curriculum. I put "science fiction" in quotes, because I did not agree with my teachers when they told me that books such as The Illustrated Man were science fiction. At a young age I had developed my own ideas about the science fiction genre. Another book that I was forced to read in school was The Martian Chronicles.

Mars in Fiction
cover by Karel Thole
I grew up during the Apollo Project and so I could never take seriously the old Planetary Adventure stories that featured Martians. I knew that Mars was a dead planet and I knew that most of the time Ray Bradbury was not even trying to write science fiction. In fact, I agree with L. Sprague de Camp's opinion that Bradbury was an "anti-science-fiction writer".

Thus, there are very few science fiction books about Mars that I've read. One short novel that I did read was Born Under Mars by John Brunner (1967).

sod house
In the 1960s, some remnants of a European settlement were studied at L'Anse aux Meadows on the Island of Newfoundland in Canada. Dating from about 1,000 years ago, this site was found to have included sod houses.

We can imagine an alternate universe in which a permanent European settlement might have existed on Newfoundland from 1000 BCE until the present.

cover art by Michael Herring
In Born Under Mars, Brunner's imagined human colonization of Mars included the idea of the colonists living below the surface in climate-controlled burrows. In one scene, children are playing in a mound of sand that has fallen into their underground city through a hole in the roof. In Brunner's story, the cutting edge of modern civilization has long since passed by Mars. After the discovery of faster-than-light interstellar travel and colonization of Earth-like exoplanets in distant star systems, Mars became a forgotten ghetto world.

In Brunner's fictional universe, enough time has passed since the original colonization of Mars for the inhabitants to have genetically diverged from the typical Earthling. For example, Brunner imagined that the residents of Mars were quite tall due to the low (37.6% of Earth's) gravity.

Until today, I'd never saw the cover art that was placed on the edition of Amazing Stories in which Born Under Mars was first published (1966). When I saw that Frank Paul cover art I could not imagine what it had to do with Born Under Mars. In fact, that cover was a recycled image ("Glass City of Europa") from a 1942 edition of Amazing Stories.

Riders of Europa
While there is a chance that life exists in the ocean of Europa, the fanciful "Glass City of Europa" (with centipede-like mounts racing across the rocky surface of an imagined Europa) is a relic of the era of Planetary Adventures.

cover art by David Russell
These imagined residents of Europa remind me of the Tadousko-Oi of Thamber in The Killing Machine by Jack Vance. Vance depicted the Tadousko-Oi as warriors who rode into battle upon centipedes. Shown to the left: Gersen and Alusz.

In the ecosystem of Thamber, there was another creature similar to the domesticated centipede-like mounts: the Dnazd. I imagine the relationship between the domesticated mounts and the Dnazd to be like a kitten compared to a lion.

cover art by Gino D'Achille
Demon Prince Kokor Hekkus had a mechanical replica of the Dnazd constructed so that he could terrorize and defeat the Tadousko-Oi warriors. I wounder if Vance ever saw Frank Paul's "Glass City of Europa".

Robert Ebell and Ruurd Groot
Yet another imagined centipede-like creature was put on the cover of the 1970 Dutch edition of The Killing Machine.

This odd creature (see the image to the left) seems to be a fanciful candidate for an evolutionarily-advanced sea creature of Europa's ocean.

sea creature by Lynette Cook
It is now thought that the ice of Europa is very thick, but there might be thermal energy available at the bottom of Europa's ocean that could sustain an ecosystem.

in the Ekcolir Reality
Arthur C. Clarke fantasized about the accelerated evolution of intelligent life forms from Europa. He described a process by which creatures that evolved under the ice of Europa could be pushed towards development of an advanced civilization by means of advanced alien technology.

Clarke's Europans can be viewed as one of the last great attempts by science fiction writers to make room in our solar system for another sentient life form. In an earlier Reality, did Clarke's analogue learn that Phari nanites, rather than giant monoliths, guided evolution under the ice of Europa?

Next: the Final Time Trip

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