LIVING WORLDS


LIVING WORLDS
   The notion that a planet might be a living creature is a rather startling one; indeed, it was initially used purely for its shock value. In R.A. KENNEDY's remarkable philosophical extravaganza The Triuneverse (1912),MARS begins to reproduce by binary fission and its daughter cells devour much of the Solar System. In "When the World Screamed" (1929) by Arthur Conan DOYLE a hole is drilled through the Earth's "skin" and the livingflesh within reacts against the violation. Other attempts to exploit this shock value include Edmond HAMILTON's "The Earth-Brain" (1932), Jack WILLIAMSON's "Born of the Sun" (1934) - in which the Sun is living, theplanets are its eggs, and Earth hatches - and Nelson BOND's "And Lo! The Bird" (1950). The perishability of easy shock value inevitably gives riseto an escalation of scale; Laurence MANNING soon took the idea to its extreme in "The Living Galaxy" (1934).The notion of living STARS seems to fascinate sf writers more than that of living planets. Austere stellar intelligences are featured in STAR MAKER (1937) by Olaf STAPLEDON, though Stapledon discarded a first draft which featured the exploits ofintelligent nebulae; it was later published as Nebula Maker (1976). (An intelligent nebula, albeit a very small one, figures also in Fred HOYLE's The Black Cloud, 1957.) There are vestiges here of the occasional medievalequation of stars and angels, seen also in William Blake's poem "The Tiger" (1794). More recent examples of living stars are found in GerardKLEIN's Starmaster's Gambit (1958; trans 1973), Frederik POHL's and Jack Williamson's Starchild (1965) and Rogue Star (1969), Frank HERBERT's Whipping Star (1970) and If The Stars are Gods (fixup 1977) by Gregory BENFORD and Gordon EKLUND. Living planets have become rare, although visiting spacemen offend one in Ray BRADBURY's "Here There Be Tygers" (1951), but planets whose whole ecospheres are single individuals, oftenimbued with consciousness, are not uncommon. The planetary spirits in the Cosmic Trilogy (1938-45) by C.S. LEWIS are somewhat rarefied, as are thecurious world-consciousnesses featured in Theodore STURGEON's "Case and the Dreamer" (1972) and Neal BARRETT's Stress Pattern (1974), but more mundane life-systems which comprise single vast organisms are featured in such stories as Murray LEINSTER's "The Lonely Planet" (1949), Doris PISERCHIA's Earthchild (1977), M.A. FOSTER's Waves (1980), Brian M.STABLEFORD's "Wildland" (1989) and Isaac ASIMOV's Nemesis (1989). The most popular model for such integrated ecospheres is the forest, displayed in "Process" (1950) by A.E. VAN VOGT, "The Forest of Zil" (1967) by KrisNEVILLE, and "Vaster than Empires and More Slow" (1971) by Ursula K. LE GUIN. The most impressive presentation of a truly ALIEN world-intelligence is Stanislaw LEM's SOLARIS (1961; trans 1970), many features of which are prefigured in his Edem (1959; trans as Eden 1989). The recent popularization of James Lovelock's "Gaia hypothesis" has encouraged writers to pay more attention to highly integrated ecospheres, but the most radical repersonalization of the Earth is that in David BRIN's Earth (1990), in which the planet undergoes metamorphosis into a gargantuan AI -perhaps the most extravagant deus ex machina ever deployed.
   BS
   See also: BIOLOGY; HIVE-MINDS.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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