Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Science fiction from before we went to the Moon can be fun.

A stick-figure astronaut with blue feet and a red head (and red stream rising). '"Help!" says Mr. Astronaut. "I'm burning up and freezing!"'In Poul Anderson's 1957 short story 'The Light'1, the astronauts have cold feet.
I'm not saying that they're scared. It's their feet. In the story, the astronauts are very warm at the top of their spacesuits, as very little heat escapes via radiation, but very cold at the bottom, because the freezing Moon surface rapidly sucks the heat out through the soles of their shoes. Major heat gradient goes on inside.
Now, I personally have never been to the Moon--my vials froze and exploded at an altitude of several thousand feet--but I'm fairly confident this isn't how it is. Still, it's a brilliant insight on the part of the author. It's things like this that make me understand why scifi is so geek-loved. I often find scifi novels boring, but the authors think, and come up with some very artful concepts.

Of course, it's not all genius. One children's scifi series I enjoyed when I was young was Jerome Beatty Jr.'s Matthew Looney series. The Looney's were a family of Moon-dwellers.
On the Moon, people had to walk a special way. Otherwise, they'd find themselves hovering ten(?) feet off the ground for a few hours before finally settling back down to the surface. Low gravity, you know? However, when the Moonfolk visited Earth, the planet's gravity was so strong that they couldn't move at all unless they had their personal anti-grav units.

At one point, Maria Looney--I think it was her--was launched high into the Moon's sky, and oh my goodness! She couldn't breath. Luckily, she floated back down nearer to the surface quickly and was able to fill her lungs with 'atmos'.

(Sidenote: The Moonfolk were very wasteful. They used each article of clothing once, after which they'd be converted into Moon dust and used to fill craters. They were shocked to discover Earthlings use the same clothing over and over again.)

1 Poul Anderson, THE LIGHT © 1957 by Galaxy Publishing Corporation. So says 13 Great Stories of Science Fiction, edited by Groff Conklin, which is where I read it.

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