Jupiter

Tagged: Theme

Jupiter's importance in sf is derived from its status as the largest planet in the solar system and also the most accessible – because nearest to Earth – of the Gas Giants. Its four major moons – Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa – were discovered by Galileo, but it was not until 1892 that the US astronomer Edward Barnard (1857-1923) discovered the fifth. About a dozen others were discovered in the twentieth century. The visible "surface" of Jupiter is an outer layer of a very dense, deep atmosphere and is thus fluid, though it does have one enigmatic feature that has endured at least since 1831: the Great Red Spot.

Jupiter was included in various interplanetary tours inspired by the religious imagination, and is prominent in several nineteenth-century interplanetary novels, including A World of Wonders (1838) by Joel R Peabody, the anonymously published Voices from Many Hilltops, Echoes from Many Valleys (1886) by John B Fayette, and John Jacob Astor's A Journey in Other Worlds (1894), in which it is a "prehistoric" version of Earth, replete with Dinosaurs, etc. It is a parallel of Earth in A Fortnight in Heaven (1886) by Harold Brydges and in the anonymous To Jupiter via Hell (1908). As astronomical discoveries were popularized, however, the credibility of an Earthlike Jupiter waned rapidly. The last significant novel to use a Jovian scenario for straightforward Utopian modelling was Ella Scrymsour's The Perfect World (1922), though pulp-sf writers squeezed a little more melodramatic life out of the notion. Edmond Hamilton's "A Conquest of Two Worlds" (February 1932 Wonder Stories) tells the harrowing tale of the human invasion of Jupiter, and Edgar Rice Burroughs sent John Carter there to fight the eponymous "Skeleton Men of Jupiter" (February 1943 Amazing).

Many exotic romances set beyond the orbit of Mars employ the satellites of Jupiter. Ganymede is featured in E E "Doc" Smith's Spacehounds of IPC (July-September 1931 Amazing; 1947) and in Leigh Brackett's "The Dancing Girl of Ganymede" (February 1950 Thrilling Wonder), and Io features in two notable early pulp-sf stories: Stanley G Weinbaum's "The Mad Moon" (December 1935 Astounding) and Raymond Z Gallun's "The Lotus-Engine" (March 1940 Super Science Stories). Lin Carter's much later Callisto series, beginning with Jandar of Callisto (1972), uses Callisto as a setting for Planetary Romance in homage to the Mars of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

John W Campbell Jr required contributors to Astounding Science-Fiction to pay more attention to what was actually known about the planets. Early applications of this new realism to Jupiter include "Clerical Error" (August 1940 Astounding) by Clifford D Simak. Simak revisited Jupiter in his curious "Desertion" (November 1944 Astounding), in which humans undergo biological metamorphosis to endure the planet's harsh extremes, and (with their changed Perception) find it so paradisal that they refuse to be changed back. Isaac Asimov set one of his earliest stories, "The Callistan Menace" (April 1940 Astonishing), in the neighbourhood, then turned his attention to Jupiter itself in "Not Final!" (October 1941 Astounding), in which hostile Aliens are discovered there, and in "Victory Unintentional" (August 1942 Super Science Stories), in which the same hostile Jovians fail to realize that their invulnerable visitors are Robots rather than men.

Eric Frank Russell's "U-Turn" (April 1950 Astounding as by Duncan H Munro) takes the Colonization of Other Worlds theme to Callisto via a highly unreliable Matter Transmitter. Two classic magazine sf stories dealing with conditions on Jupiter itself are James Blish's "Bridge" (February 1952 Astounding; incorporated into They Shall Have Stars fixup 1956; rev vt Year 2018! 1957), in which a colossal experiment to test hypotheses tests also the psychological resilience of the experimenters, and Poul Anderson's "Call Me Joe" (April 1957 Astounding), about the everyday life of an artificial centaur-like creature designed for the Jovian environment. Anderson later made use of a similar background in Three Worlds to Conquer (1964) – the worlds being Jupiter, Ganymede and Earth – in which Ganymede comes into focus as a possible site for a colony, a notion developed also by Robert A Heinlein in Farmer in the Sky (August-November 1950 Boys' Life as "Satellite Scout"; exp 1950), Anderson again in The Snows of Ganymede (Winter 1955 Startling; 1958) and Robert Silverberg in Invaders from Earth (1958). Blish, however, recognized that such Colonization would require considerable Genetic Engineering (which he called Pantropy), as displayed in "A Time to Survive" (February 1956 F&SF; incorporated into The Seedling Stars, fixup 1957).

Although it has become obvious that humans could never live on Jupiter, the idea of a descent into its atmosphere continues to attract attention. Such descents are featured in Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter (1957 as by Paul French; vt The Moons of Jupiter), the brothers Strugatski's "Destination: Amaltheia" (1960; trans 1962), Arthur C Clarke's "A Meeting with Medusa" (December 1971 Playboy) and its elaboration as The Medusa Encounter (1990) by Paul Preuss, Ben Bova's As on a Darkling Plain (1972) and Gregory Benford's and Gordon Eklund's "The Anvil of Jove" (July 1976 F&SF; incorporated into If the Stars are Gods, fixup 1977). Several of these stories cling to the hope that Jupiter might harbour alien life of some kind, albeit nothing remotely humanoid, as does Benford's juvenile novel Jupiter Project (1975; rev 1980). By far the most spectacular use to which Jupiter has been put, however, is in Arthur C Clarke's 2010: Odyssey Two (1982), in which it is elevated to the status of a second Sun by a swarm of Clarke's famous deus-ex-machina monoliths in order to give a crucial boost to evolution on Europa – an idea echoed in Charles L Harness's Lunar Justice (1991). Europa (as revealed by the Voyager probes) is also the centre of attention in Charles Sheffield's Cold as Ice (1992).

In film, Jupiter is the approximate destination of the space mission of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), although Arthur C Clarke's book version continues to Saturn (> Outer Planets). The book and films sequels 2010: Odyssey Two (1982) and 2010 (1984) agree on Jupiter and its ignition as above. The film Outland (1981) is set on the Jovian moon Io.

Ben Bova's scientifically realistic Tales of the Grand Tour sequence turns its attention to this planet in Jupiter (2000). It has been colonized by Posthuman "fast-folk" in Ken MacLeod's The Stone Canal (1996) and The Cassini Division (1998). Iain M Banks generalizes from Jupiter to a galactic network of Alien-inhabited Jovian planets in The Algebraist (2004).

The mining of helium-3 fusion fuel from Jupiter's atmosphere – as seriously proposed in the 1970s – has become an sf commonplace, although this planet's intense local radiation may make Saturn (> Outer Planets) or its moon Titan a more feasible source despite the vastly greater distance from Earth. In Firstborn (2007), Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Baxter posit the "mining" of naturally created Antimatter from the high-energy magnetic flux tube known to exist between Jupiter and its moon Io.

A relevant theme anthology is Jupiter (anth 1973) edited by Frederik and Carol Pohl. [BS/DRL]

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