When Kirk, Spock, and an anonymous crewman in a red shirt beam down onto an unexplored planet, things never go well. Whether you view the events that follow as high drama or low soap opera is a literary judgment, but did you ever consider what you would really face if you were the first down on a new planet?
The closest thing in history would be Captain Cook landing at Botany Bay (Australia, not Ceti Alpha V). The natives were as black as Africans, but otherwise resembled them very little. The animals couldn’t run, but they hopped at super speed. The trees shed their bark instead of their leaves.
But these were humans and animals and plants. Explorers of other planets won’t find that level of similarity. I considered this in my first novel Jandrax. Jan Andrax, a Scout, is stranded with a group of untrained colonists. Talking to a friend among the crew of the damaged starship, he says . . .
”Jase, do you know what the mortality rate is for Scouts on a new planet? Trained men whose whole life is dedicated to survival?”
“Ten percent for each new planet.”
Jason greeted that with stunned silence.
“Jase, the first planet I explored, three of my twenty companions died; nor was it an exceptionally dangerous planet. On my second planet two of my friends were cut down before my eyes by an innocuous-looking flying mammal whose poison was deadly to humans.
“I came through my third planet with no particular difficulty, but on the last one I tangled with a large, horned herbivore during my first day planetside and left in a coma. I spent a total of two hours on her surface.
“Those were planets which had been properly scanned from orbit. I was working with trained and experienced scouts and the latest equipment. Here . . . I’d give odds there won’t be a human alive inside ten years.”
The day I wrote those lines, I decided the life of first-in scouts deserved to be to explored further. Three books later I began the novel Cyan about a group of them. More about that next post.