Saturday, March 3, 2012
Five monobiome worlds
Sheri S. Tepper’s Grass begins with a lyrical description of the world—how the grass forms hills and dunes that fall away into valleys of grass. The colors are different—some grass might be more blue than green, some yellowing—but it’s all a single great endless sea of grass.
Jungle planets fall into the same category—the future Earth in Brian Aldiss’s Hothouse is one. A true Daisyworld isn’t ecologically feasible, but more biodiversity can be added—or the single-species system itself could be sustained through some alternate method, such as magic.
There’s the planet of Winter in Ursula K. LeGuin’s classic The Left Hand of Darkness, and any SF story about an expedition to the outer giants of the solar system or their moons is likely to describe such conditions.
I’d love to read about iceworlds in a fantasy setting, though, where the characters have fewer hi-tech resources to help them survive. It would be especially cool, no pun intended, for the perfectly preserved corpses of woolly mammoths and so on to be found entombed in the ice—or, for that matter, utilized by the people.
Arrakis, the world described in Frank Herbert’s Dune, is a great example of this, but a far more frightening sandland is the one in Stephen King’s short story “Beachworld”. Not only is there no water to relieve the endless miles of sand, the sand itself is sentient, seeping into machinery to damage it and hypnotizing one of the astronauts into swallowing great handfuls of it.
Reviews of Waterworld don’t paint it as promising, but such a biome has a lot going for it. Even if the people haven’t physically altered to handle such an environment (growing gills, being able to hold their breath for long periods), they could adapt in other ways. A tamed dolphin helps protect the ship-city of Armada in China Mieville’s The Scar (the book for sea adventure), but I’d love to see something other than dolphins or killer whales in such a role. A plesiosaur, maybe.
Perhaps not literal fire, but a world like Venus would be interesting.
Everywhere I look, all across the expansive basaltic plains, geysers and fumaroles belch up sulfurous plumes of smoke.
Volcanic features, water reserves deep underground, physical modifications to cope with high CO2 levels and most of all, lots and lots of volatile, dangerous and potentially explosive chemical compounds. What’s not to love?