Monday, May 16, 2005

Mutiny on Pluto

Mutiny on Pluto

Mutiny on Pluto (2003)


Although Pluto was discovered in 1930, limited information on the distant planet delayed a realistic understanding of its characteristics. Today Pluto remains the only planet that has not been visited by a spacecraft, yet an increasing amount of information is unfolding about this peculiar planet. The uniqueness of Pluto's orbit, rotational relationship with its satellite, spin axis, and light variations all give the planet a certain appeal.


The path toward its discovery is credited to Percival Lowell who founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona and funded three separate searches for "Planet X." Lowell made numerous unsuccessful calculations to find it, believing it could be detected from the effect it would have on Neptune's orbit. Dr. Vesto Slipher, the observatory director, hired Clyde Tombaugh for the third search and Clyde took sets of photographs of the plane of the solar system (ecliptic) one to two weeks apart and looked for anything that shifted against the backdrop of stars. This systematic approach was successful and Pluto was discovered by this young (born 4 Feb 1906) 24 year old Kansas lab assistant on February 18, 1930. Pluto is actually too small to be the "Planet X" Percival Lowell had hoped to find. Pluto's was a serendipitous discovery.

Having a Far Out Time on Pluto

Wish You Were Here?

How the planet and moon were named, from the Pluto Home Page:

PLUTO: Discovered in 1930 by American astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ during a systematic search for a trans-Neptune planet predicted by Percival Lowell and William H. Pickering. Named after Roman god of the under-world who was able to render himself invisible.

CHARON: Discovered in 1978 by 2 American astronomers, James W. Christy and Robert S. Harrington. Named after the mythological boatman who ferried souls across the river Styx to Pluto for judgment.

And from's "Pluto in Science Fiction":

Allen, Roger MacBride. The Ring of Charon. Tor, 1990.
Baxter, Stephen. "Gossamer." Science Fiction Age, November 1995.
Beattie, George B. "The 'Platinum Planets'." Wonder Stories, 8/32.
Benford, Gregory & Paul A. Carter. "Proserpina's Daughter." 1988.
Binder, Eando. "The Thieves from Isot." Wonder Stories, 10/34.
Budrys, Algis. Man of Earth. Ballantine, 1958.
Coblentz, Stanton. "Into Plutonian Depths." Wonder Stories Quarterly, Spring 1931. Later published in book form by Avon, 1950.
Coblentz, Stanton. "Riches for Pluto." Astounding, 12/34.
Daniel, Tony. Metaplanetary. Avon/Eos, 2001.
Wollheim, Donald A. Superluminal. Eos, 2004.
Ferrell, Joseph. "Mind-Stealers of Pluto." Planet Stories, Winter, 1944.
Gallun, Raymond Z.. "Blue Haze on Pluto." Astounding, 6/35.
Gauger, Rick. Charon's Ark. Ballantine, 1987.
Gottesman, S.D. (C.M. Kornbluth) "King Cole of Pluto." Super Science Stories, 1940.
Greenland, Colin. Mother of Plenty. Avon Eos, 1999.
Greenland, Colin. Seasons of Plenty. AvoNova, 1996.
Greenland, Colin. Take Back Plenty. AvoNova, 1992.
Heinlein, Robert. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. Scribner, 1958.
Kenyon, Joseph P. "Pluto." Scream Factory, Fall 1993.
Kostkos, Henry J. "Earth Rehabilitors, Consolidated." Amazing Stories, 3-4/35.
Kruse, Clifton B. "A Princess of Pallis." Astounding Stories, 10/35.
Latham, Philip (pen-name for R.S. Richardson). "The Rose-Bowl Pluto Hypothesis." Orbit 5, edited by Damond Knight. Putnam, 1969.
Laumer, Keith. "No Ship Boots in Fairyland," Once There Was a Giant. Edited by Keith Laumer. Tor, 1984.
Leinster, Murray. "Pipeline to Pluto." Astounding, 8/45.
Lowndes, Robert W. "Report of the Plutonian Ambassador by Sr. Doc Lowndes." Wonder Stories, 9/35.
Manning, Laurence & Fletcher Pratt. "Expedition to Pluto." Planet Stories, Winter, 1939.
Niven, Larry. "Wait It Out." Future Unbounded. Westercon Program Book, 1968.
Niven, Larry. World of Ptaavs, Ballentine, 1966.
Pong, Hoy Ping (Wilson Tucker). "Report on the 196th Convention." Wonder Stories, 11/34.
Post, Jonathan V. "Skiing the Methane Snows of Pluto." Focus, Autumn, 1979.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. Icehenge. Jove, 1984.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. "On the North Pole of Pluto." Incorporated into Icehenge.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. The Memory of Whiteness. Tor, 1985.
Rocklynne, Ross. "The Last Outpost," Astounding, 7/45.
Silverberg, Robert. "Pluto in the Morning Light.".
Simak, Clifford D. Cosmic Engineers. Gnome, 1950.
Simak, Clifford D. "Construction Shack." Worlds of If, 1-2/73.
Sloat, Edwin K. "Beyond the Planetoids." Amazing Stories, 8/32.
Smith, Clark Ashton. "The Plutonian Drug." The Outer Reaches, edited by August Derleth. Pelligrini Cudahy, 1951.
Smith, E.E. "Doc". "The Skylark Valeron." Astounding Stories, 8/34-2/35.
Stangland, Arthur G. "Crossroads of Space." Wonder Stories, 9/32.
Starzl, R.F. "The Earthman's Burden." Astounding Stories, 6/31.
Starzl, R.F. "Planet of Despair." Wonder Stories, 7/31.
Statten, Vargo. (John Russell Fearn). Deadline to Pluto. Scion, 1951.
Stearn, Charles A. "The Pluto Lamp." Planet Stories, Fall 1954.
Sterling, Kenneth. "The Brain-Eaters of Pluto." Wonder Stories, 3/34.
Stone, Leslie F. "The Rape of the Solar System." Amazing Stories, 12/34.
Tucker, Wilson. To the Tombaugh Station. Ace, 1960.
Varley, John. The Ophiuchi Hotline. Dial Press, 1977.
Wait, Robert A. "Cosmic Steeple-Chase'." Amazing Stories, 4/32.
Walters, Hugh. Passage to Pluto. Nelson, 1973.
West, Wallace. "En Route to Pluto." Astounding, 8/36.
Weinbaum, Stanley. "The Red Peri." Astounding, 11/35.
Williamson, Jack. The Cometeers. Fantasy Press, 1950.
Williamson, Jack. "The Plutonian Terror." Weird Tales, 10/33.
Winterbotham, R.R. "The Psycho Power Conquest." Astounding Stories, 2/36.
Wollheim, Donald A. The Secret of the Ninth Planet. Paperback Library, 1965.

I've long been a reader of science fiction, beginning with Tom Swift novels as a kid, and I believe that some of the finest political and social commentary still occurs in this genre. Entering into science fiction means checking traditional literary expectations at the book cover. If the opening sentence of a novel is "The two suns rose," then, as a reader, you either slam the book shut or forge ahead with disbelief willingly suspended. You better prime yourself for the literalization of metaphor, too. As Ursula K. Le Guin notes in her introduction to The Norton Book of Science Fiction:

The reader can't take much for granted in a fiction where the scenery can eat the characters.

In some ways, the bright colors in this image suggest a whimsical quality. The forms/beings do sort of resemble penguins at a Prince concert. But there are bleaker overtones reflected in the darkening skies overhead. Is this a desertion? Or, instead, are the protagonists forming military lines to advance against former companions?

Somebody -- or something -- wants a regime change...

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