Welcome to the dream worlds

By chance I recently heard of the late illustrator Peter Elson, when someone (thanks Alexander) directed me to a site with his works, mainly book covers. Top-notch craftsmanship — link >>>

To me, this dreamy landscape by Peter Elson depicts Leigh Brackett’s Mars with canals and cities older than Uruk. (Click on the picture to get a larger version.)

Atomretro Mars: Peter Elson’s depiction of a car chase on Mars in Robert A. Heinlein’s novel “Double Star”. If I remember correctly (it was years since I read that book), the car is a Rolls-Royce. (Click on the picture to get a larger version.)

The Orion Space Craft — Nuclear Bomb Propulsion

During the Cold War, top-notch scientists and engineers in the United States developed plans for a interplanetary spacecraft, called the Orion, which was to be propelled by a string of nuclear explosions, hundreds or thousands of them. Project Orion’s first target was — unsurprisingly — Mars. BBC has made a documentary on the story.

X-15 and Its Current Heirs

X-15 heading for space

The X-15 research plane was a legendary rocket aircraft when I was a kid in the 1960s: a sleek black beauty that daring silver-suited pilots steered to the edge of space.

It turns out that its accomplishments fifty years ago have become useful once again in the current development of the state-of-the-art spacecraft SpaceShipTwo and DreamChaser. BBC has published an article on these aspects of the X-15 project – link >>>

And here is a period NASA documentary on the original X-15 project — link >>>

Interplanetary Rosetta Stone

More than fifty years ago, science fiction author H Beam Piper penned Omnilingual, a novelette* about archeology and “forensic” linguistics on an alien world. I read it for the first time in an SF anthology in the late 1970s and it struck a chord deep in my heart, my being a language nerd. I would have loved to participate in that interplanetary expedition and test my wits against the enigmas of the distant past.

By chance I recently discovered a lightly edited version of the story being freely available on the Internet. It seems that the original story has entered public domain, at least in the United States (I am not sure how, because Piper died only about 50 years ago).

In Omnilingual, Piper combines the spirit of field work with the alien-ness of being elsewhere in cosmos. He expertly mixes some of the genres that I love: alternate history, legendary “Mars”, scientists in action (i.e. researching and analyzing while squabbling and practicing scholarly one-up-manship — yes, research funding disputes, college politics and “publish or perish” are all there).

You can enjoy the story here >>>

*i.e. a long short-story.