On Venus, no one can hear you sob…
Even more than usual, I’m dreaming of escaping this grubby old world and seeking purer air and better manners somewhere far away, where inventing Twitter is a criminal offence, politicians must take a vow of silence, and chocolate grows on trees. Perhaps Venus will be an idyllic vacation spot… let’s see…
Foundling on Venus
by John and Dorothy De Courcy
(I have no idea what this picture is supposed to represent since there is absolutely no scene in the story like this!)
Unlike Gaul, the north continent of Venus is divided into four parts. No Caesar has set foot here either, nor shall one – for the dank, stinging, caustic air swallows up the lives of men and only Venus may say, I conquered.
Hmm, so not an environmental paradise then, but surely the inhabitants will be advanced, peaceful, artistic? Well, apparently the Africans exploit their quarter, the Asians engage in…
…the bitter game of power politics, secret murder, and misery – most of all, misery.
… and the Martians use their quarter as a penal colony. So it looks as if my last hope rests in the American zone…
The Federated States, after their fashion, plunder the land and send screaming ships to North America laden with booty and with men grown suddenly rich – and with men who will never care for riches or anything else again. These are the fortunate dead.
I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve selected the right location, but look! There’s a town, built just at the intersection where all four quarters meet! Maybe it will be a perfect spot for tourists…
From the arbitrary point where the four territories met, New Reno flung its sprawling, dirty carcass over the muddy soil and roared and hooted endlessly, laughed with the rough boisterousness of miners and spacemen, rang with the brittle, brassy laughter of women following a trade older than New Reno. It clanged and shouted and bellowed so loudly that quiet sobbing was never heard.
Think I might have a staycation this year after all. Anyway, one day a young waitress, Jane, comes across a little child, sobbing as he sits on the street, apparently abandoned.
….Oh, my!” she breathed, bending over the tiny form. “You poor thing. Where’s your mama?”
….The little figure rubbed its face, looked at her blankly and heaved a long, shuddering sigh.
….“I can’t leave you sitting here in the mud!” She pulled out a handkerchief and tried to wipe away some of the mud and then helped him up. His clothes were rags, his feet bare.
She takes the child home and feeds him and puts him to bed, but he’s still wide awake, so she begins to tell him a story – the tale of a ship that crashed on an unknown planet…
“The big, beautiful ship was all broken. Well, since they couldn’t fix the ship at all now, they set out on foot to find out where they were and to see if they could get help. Then they found that they were in a land of great big giants, and the people were very fierce…”
(Nope, this scene doesn’t exist either!)
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The actual story of this is quite slight and it’s not too hard to work out what the twist at the end is likely to be. But it’s a lovely description of a frontier society, much like the Old West but transplanted to a truly hostile environment where people can’t venture outside without protection from the very air they must breathe. It’s also got a few nicely imaginative touches, like the Martian society as shown by their attitude towards their penal colony, or the way the crash victims set out to survive. It’s very short, but well written and entertaining, and with just enough substance to scrape into the thought-provoking category – thoughts that are not very complimentary to Earthlings, I must admit.
(Bland, but better.)
I read it in Born of the Sun, edited by Mike Ashley – a collection which promises to take me to each of the planets in our solar system, so I haven’t given up all hope of finding my paradise yet. Maybe I’ll visit The Hell Planet next – I hear it’s nice this time of year…
Meantime, if you’d like to read this one, it’s available on Project Gutenberg – here’s a link.
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