The1960s and 1970s were an exciting time for science and SF. Roboticprobes had given humanity its first close up look at the worlds ofour solar system: Lunar farside in 1959, Venus in 1962, Mars in 1965,Jupiter in 1973, Mercury in 1974 and Saturn in 1979 (the other worldswould have to wait until the 1980s). The flood of increasinglydetailed information about the worlds of our solar system gave riseto a short-lived genre, one that it existed in the tension betweenhow SF had imagined the neighbour worlds to be and what our spaceprobes were revealing.
Caroland Frederik Pohl’s 1973 anthology, Jupiter ‚is perhaps my favourite exemplar of that mayfly genre. It is filledwith classic SF stories, most of which had been published between the1930s and the 1950s (1971’s “A Meeting with Medusa” is theoutlier). All these stories doomed to obsolescence thanks to humaningenuity . However, they still make good reading, for the mostpart.
Introduction:Jupiter the Giant • (1973) • essay by Isaac Asimov
Asimovprovides a brief account of the various Jupiters of science fictionbefore discussing what was known about Jupiter in 1973, what couldreliably be deduced about Jupiter, and the long list of questionshumans hoped Pioneer 10 and 11 would be able to answer.
Andof course, some answers only led to more questions.
Preface:Jupiter at Last • (1973) • essay by Frederik Pohl and Carol Pohl
Pohloutlines the purpose of this anthology, which is to celebrate Pioneer10 and 11, with an assortment of the better classic stories aboutJupiter.
Whatcaught my eye with this preface and the Asimov intro is that bothPohl and Asimov took the time to assess the appearance of someoneelse’s wife (golf clap).
Bridge • [Citiesin Flight ]• (1952) • novelette by James Blish
Thegreat bridge being constructed on Jupiter is vast, impressive andutterly pointless. Or so it seems. In fact, it may deliver tohumanity the stars themselves.
Inever cared for this story or the novel that later incorporated it,TheyShall Have Stars .I do have fond memories of the series of which these texts form asmall part: Citiesin Flight .I admit I hesitate to revisit the series. The Bird is cruel!
“VictoryUnintentional” • (1942) • short story by Isaac Asimov
Theinhabitants of Jupiter are hostile, powerful, and aggressive. Nothinghumanity can bring to bear can possibly defeat them. Nothing, thatis, except miscommunication and ignorance!
Assomeone who continually stumbles over information apparentlydisseminated in briefing sessions to which I was not invited, I don’tfind this funny at all. To judge by the popularity of this story, Iam probably in the minority here.
Thisis an early Asimov, so don’t expect scintillating prose. In general,if you want a polished sentence, pulp-era science fiction is not ahigh grade ore.
“Desertion”• [City ]• (1944) • short story by Clifford D. Simak
Jupiteroffers an unparalleled frontier. The converter, able to change ahuman into a native Loper, seems to offer the means to exploit thatfrontier. Yet, two by two, converted explorers head out intoJupiter’s howling wilderness and none return. A desperate projectmanager offers himself and his dog to conversion to unravel themystery of Jupiter.
Thishas, I think, one of the more memorable final lines in pulp SF.
Onits own, this story is a bit of a downer but in the context of theentire City series of which it is a part, it is even more depressing.
TheMad Moon • (1935) • novelette by Stanley G. Weinbaum
Atrader eking out a desperate living on Io faces unreliable natives,plague, and madness. He also discovers the key to a secret none hadsuspected even existed.
Thisis part of Weinbaum’s future history and the antagonists, the ratlikeslinkers ‚turn up in a number of places, generally in the context of an aliencivilization that has for some reason declined. I think the slinkers,somehow, cause the fall of civilizations. But not on Earth. We knowfrom another story that while Earth was visited millennia ago by theMartians, the Martians touched down in Egypt and Egypt, as you know,has cats.
Ihad never noticed how … badly the treatment of the Ionian natives,loonies as humans call them, has aged. Or how off offhandedly the explorerassumes that of course the loonies cannot understand the significanceof the ruins they guard.
“Heavyplanet”• (1939) • short story by Milton A. Rothman
Normal,everyday conditions routinely faced by a patrolman at sea areinstantly lethal to the unfortunate off-worlders whose ship touchesdown nearby. The occupants have been transmogrified into a thin,sticky film on the ship’s deck, but the damaged ship remains atreasure worth fighting for.
Recallmy comments about pulp prose. Still, Rothman uses the word “actinic.”which is a fine word. Not 100% sure that this story is actually seton Jupiter; the gravity seems much higher than a mere 25 m/S^2.
“TheLotus-Engine” • (1940) • short story by Raymond Z. Gallun
TheIonian sun-engine, relic of a long dead race, promises wealthincalculable… if the explorers can survive what the sun-engine ispowering.
Anunremarkable story, to my mind. Not bad, not all that good. This isone of the stories I did not immediately remember on seeing thetitle. I think I may not have Gallun receptors in my brain.
CallMe Joe • (1957) • novelette by Poul Anderson
Acrippled man finds new life, telepathically controlling an artificiallife form down on the surface of Jupiter.
Ifyou’ve seen the movie Avatar ‚this will seem very familiar. Note the publication date. I wouldreally like a look at James Cameron’s book shelves.…
Habit• (1939) • short story by Lester del Rey:
Jupiter’svast gravity well may prove the key to an interplanetary rally!
Onthe one hand, yay for recognizing that Jupiter’s mass is a handyresource (don’t ask unless you want a long hand wavey discourse). Onthe other hand, someone had to write the worst clunker in thiscollection and that dubious honor fell to Del Rey.
AMeeting With Medusa • (1971) • novelette by Arthur C. Clarke
Anear-fatal airship accident leaves Howard Falcon a different man, theideal candidate for the first crewed exploration of Jupiter. It isgood the Kon-Tiki will have a thinking mind on it, for Jupiter is aninhabited world.…
Thismay or may not be in the same world as Rendezvouswith Rama .It definitely shares a detail with it, genetically engineeredprimates called simps .In Rama ‚the purpose might have been to drawn a parallel between the Ramansand the humans. I have no idea what was going through Clarke’s head,except to hope the buttons he seems to be pushing with hisobsequious, dim serviles are not the ones he intended to push. Thesimps are a minor part of the story (far more space is spentexploring Clarke’s vision of Jupiter) but they are an uncomfortableone.
Thecover is by John Berkey.Berkey provided the cover art for a lot of the books I enjoyed as ateen. I have a conditioned reflex to look on any book with one of hiscovers with anticipation and hope. This book is one of the reasons Ihave that reflex. If I had to make a list of notable pulp storiesabout Jupiter, the list I would come up with would be that table ofcontents.
Well,minus the Gallun and the Del Rey. The prose in these stories is oftenclunky, and time has not been kind to some cultural assumptions.
FredPohl had extensive experience editing anthologies . Carol Pohl’sCV is much shorter, but even if this had been her only anthology,that would be sufficient to earn my warm regard.
Jupiter seemsto have had one printing a half century ago. I don’t offer much hopeof finding it.
1:George R. R. Martin would be nominated for a Hugo for his examinationof the tension between science and myth in 1973’s “With MorningComes Mistfall.” But that is a tale for another review.
2:Also magazines, and books. If there existed a job classification inSF publishing, Fred Pohl filled it at some point in his career.