Monday, May 2, 2022

Mothership Adventure Inspiration from the Pulps

The varied worlds appearing in the short fiction of science fiction magazines in the 30s through the 50s have a lot to offer any of the recent sci-fi horror games. Few of these stories are actually horror, but elements of them can easily be viewed through a horror lens. Here are few examples:

"Immortals of Mercury" (1932) by Clark Ashton Smith. Explorers on a tidally locked Mercury have to deal with resentful indigenous people, one a known, primitive, group, and another an advanced subterranean species that would like to wipe humanity off the planet. In many ways, this story is in large part of dungeon-crawl, but the basic set-up could be played all kinds of ways.

"Salvage in Space" (1933) by Jack Williamson. This one is reminiscent of Alien. A down-on-his-luck asteroid prospector finds a derelict ship floating in the Belt and attempts to salvage it. The ship is loaded with jewels, but also taxidermied alien monsters. The crew have all apparently been killed by violence, but the bodies are gone. It turns out the ship had carried an expedition to the Titania, the moon of Uranus, which is covered with "unearthly forests sheltering strange and monstrous life." The miner must discover what happened and find a way to survive the danger still stalking the ship. 

"Parasite Planet" (1935) by Stanley Weinbaum. Weinbaum's Venus is probably the most "ready to be used for horror" setting that isn't already already a horror setting in science fiction. This is how it's described in this story:

A thousand different species, but all the same in one respect; each of them was all appetite. In common with most Venusian beings, they had a multiplicity of both legs and mouths; in fact some of them were little more than blobs of skin split into dozens of hungry mouths, and crawling on a hundred spidery legs. 

All life on Venus is more or less parasitic. Even the plants that draw their nourishment directly from soil and air have also the ability to absorb and digest—and, often enough, to trap—animal food. So fierce is the competition on that humid strip of land between the fire and the ice that one who has never seen it must fail even to imagine it.

Humans have to wear full body suits with respirators least mold spores get into their bodies. And if all that isn't enough it's terrifically hot and humid. "Prospectors" come to Venus to get rich acquiring native plant life with pharmaceutical value.

"Love Among the Robots" (1946) by Emmett McDowell. As the title suggests, this story is light in the way it plays out, but absent the "meet cute" there's an isolated asteroid mining operations with a small human crew testing learning and adapting robots, where the robots begin to gain a bit too much freewill. If it can't be gotten under control, the company will nuke the asteroid.


Forrest Aguirre said...

These could all make great adventures or even mini-campaigns!

Kevin Mac said...

Before The most recent movies screwed everything up, I used to like to imagine the Alien xenomorphs evolved on a planet that was all predators. With more and more competition they just started evolving into these “perfect organisms” as Ash would say.

Dick McGee said...

Heh. I've run into Salvage In Space before in some compilation. Still get a chuckle out of the "smoking a cigarette in your spacesuit" thing.