tag: Other Planets

Chains of Air, Web of Aether

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Stellar #5 1980

On the far-flung planet CY30 II Leo McVane lives alone in a dome monitoring communications equipment where it seems his only job is to rebroadcast transmissions of the pop singer Linda Fox from a satellite. McVane finds out from the food delivery man that Rybus Rommey, a neighbor he doesn’t know very well in another dome, is dying of multiple sclerosis. She refuses to abandon her dome for treatment, and so Rybus and a reluctant McVane form an uneven relationship until eventually Rybus beats her illness. 

Dick reworked “Chains of Air, Web of Aether” into his novel The Divine Invasion.

Cast of characters

  • Leo McVane – operates a communications dome on CY30 II
  • Rybus Rommey – McVane’s neighbor in a nearby dome
  • the food delivery man


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First published in Fantastic Universe Oct 1954

Frank Williamson was the first human from Earth to create a space-drive capable of leaving the solar system. It was always assumed he found another Earth-like planet to colonize, but it took the Galactic System three hundred years to eventually find it. 

In the years since Williamson left Earth the galaxy has organized itself according to the Relay coordinates where all information is uniformly transmitted to every planet in order to form a rational galactic society free of any sort of class warfare. 

Williamson’s World, on the other hand, is made up of scattered villages and clan conflicts. When the inhabitants of Williamson’s World are given the Articles of Incorporation to sign in order to join the rest of the galaxy under Relay control they refuse, preferring their own way of life. They know this will mean their planet will be destroyed, but the galaxy can’t risk their individualistic ideas from spreading. 

In a ham-fisted, tacked-on ending, after the planet has been obliterated one of the soldiers who had been on the surface returns to his family and gives his son the titular souvenir, a hand-made wooden cup that he smuggled away from Williamson’s World. His son’s eyes light up as we see the first seeds of independent thought have been planted. 

Cast of characters

  • Edward Rogers – sent from the Galactic Relay Center to explore Williamson’s World
  • Gene Williamson – an offspring of Frank Williamson living on Williamson’s World
  • Commander Ferris – in charge of the battleship attacking Williamson’s World
  • Corporal Pete Matson – a soldier sent to destroy Williamson’s World

Shell Game

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Galaxy Science Fiction Sep 1954

The leaders of a settlement on Betelgeuse II believe they are a superior mutant race who crashed on that planet during a war with Terra which is now repeatedly trying to sabotage their camp. 

When they finally raise their damaged spacecraft they learn the truth that they were actually paranoid mental patients on a ship en route to a mental hospital. Or at least it seems that way. Several of the leaders question whether the attacks by Terra are truly collective hallucinations. They devise a way to test their sanity which exposes four of them as Terran spies. The rest, now convinced they aren’t crazy, commit to defeating Terra. 

“Shell Game” is a prototype of sorts for Dick’s later novel The Clans of the Alphane Moon which takes this idea of a group of isolated mental patients in a different direction. 

Cast of characters

  • O’Keefe, Fisher, Portbane, Horstokowski, Daniels, Silberman, Lanoir, Tate, Domgraf-Schwach – the nine leaders of the camp on Betelgeuse II

Tony and the Beetles

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Orbit Science Fiction #2 Dec 1953

A young boy has lived his entire life with his family on a planet in the Orion system. The Earth’s colonists have dominated the Pas-uedti natives which the humans refer to as Beetles both because of their appearance and because of Betelgeuse, the planet’s sun. When a Terran warfleet is defeated by the Beetles in a battle, the Pas-udeti begin to rise up against their oppressors, surprising the boy and teaching him a lesson about how the Pas-udeti really feel about the colonists inhabiting their planet.

Cast of characters

  • Tony Rossi – a young colonist on an alien planet
  • Joseph Rossi – Tony’s father
  • Leah Rossi – Tony’s mother
  • B’prith, Llyre – Pas-udeti children who Tony naively believes will remain his friends even after the tide has turned in the war with Terra

A World of Talent

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Galaxy Oct 1954

After years as second-class citizens the Centaurian colonies have decided to secede from Terra. The colonists have the advantage of Psi-class individuals who don’t exist on Earth, and the separatist movement is kept alive with the help of two precogs and the parakinetic talents of an overweight idiot savant Psi who keeps them safe.

Somehow the precog Curt locates the first known Anti-Psi Pat on the underdeveloped Proxima VI and with the help of the parakinetic Big Noodle brings her to Proxima III. The head of the telepathic corps sees a threat from an Anti-Psi who could block their abilities, and he has Pat killed just as he had done with the Anti-Psis he had found out about in the past.

Curt has Big Noodle send him to Prox VI where he hopes to find a Psi who can reanimate Pat. There he runs into an old man who he encountered several times earlier and discovers it is his son Tim. They believed Tim didn’t have Psi powers, except it turns out the offspring of the two precogs is a new class of Psi who has the ability to travel in time. Tim, to wrap this up, somehow manipulates the timeline and brings Pat back to life.

Dick would reuse some of these ideas along with the Anti-Psi character Pat Connley/Conley in Ubik

Cast of characters

  • Tim Purcell – an eight-year-old child of two precogs
  • Julie Purcell – Tim’s mother and a precog 
  • Curt Purcell– Tim’s father and a precog
  • Fairchild – a Norm-class bureaucrat
  • Reynolds – chief of the telepathic Corps
  • Sally – a thirteen-year-old girl and advanced Psi
  • Big Noodle – a parakinetic Psi with the mind of a three-year-old. Big Noodle is also the name of Earth’s vast artificial intelligence in The Divine Invasion
  • Pat Connley – an Anti-Psi with a counter talent against the telepaths. Pat Conley is also the name of the Anti-Precog in Ubik

Strange Eden

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Imagination Dec 1954

Two men on a survey of the galaxy touch down on an Earth-like planet. One man explores the forest and encounters an immortal woman whose race has visited Earth in the past inspiring many of Earth’s myths and legends about Gods and miracles. The woman fights off the man’s amorous advances, but then gives in, warning him first that if they have sex it will cause him to evolve. 

The next morning the woman approaches the ship and informs the captain the other man won’t be returning. As the captain leaves he sees a large cat-like animal gesturing angrily (in a way that is strangely human) as the ship flies away.

Cast of characters

  • Captain Johnson – captain of a survey ship
  • Brent – surveyor on the Terran ship
  • Aeetes and an unnamed woman – sibling inhabitants of the planet