Sunday, 4 February 2018

Return From Satan

Leaving the safety of the hurricane, Muddlin' Through rises slowly and rides a stratospheric current between the worst weather below and boiled-off vapors re-condensing into vast, sky-darkening, turbulent masses above. Her radar and other detectors penetrate the condensing masses as she approaches space. Anderson conveys that major natural events ceaselessly occur in Satan's cataclysmic environment and I have tried to re-convey this idea through succinct summaries.

Having disposed of nineteen pursuing robotic destroyers in the Satanic atmosphere, Muddlin' Through must fight three robotic cruisers orbiting incautiously close in inadvisably tight formation with attention directed outward, mistakenly expecting an attack from space. (Falkayn has not only utilized the turbulent planetary environment but also bluffed his enemy.)

While Muddlin' Through is still in the atmosphere, she fires three of her four nuclear missiles and destroys two of the cruisers. The third cruiser successfully deploys a counter-missile but is badly damaged by a near miss from Muddlin' Through's last torpedo. The damaged cruiser and the command battleship, now crewed by just one Shenn, retreat on hyperdrive. Muddlin' Through has won. She returns to space but stays near the planet with systems throttled down to conceal her continued existence from the retreating ships.

Return To Satan

Muddlin' Through returns to Satan where there are:

crazy winds;
mountainous ocean waves torn to spume;
air nearly solid with rain, hail and flung stones;
one immense convulsion where it seems no ship may descend.

Atmosphere strikes. The hull rings. Lightning explodes in darkness. Despite interior regulators, the deck pitches, yaws, falls and rises. Lights flicker. The computer, Muddlehead, keeps the ship in the safe region of a hurricane that is a dead spot in a continental storm driving half an ocean before it whereas the nineteen pursuing robot spacecraft, blown away like dead leaves, are variously:

bounced around and cast aside;
peeled open;
broken apart by meteroidal matter;
tossed against mountains.

Muddlin' Through, using cloud cover, returns aloft to fight the attacking cruisers that will be unable to detect her in the electric noise.

Each new description of Satan is as fresh as the last.

Fire And Ice

Primordial Fire and Ice  are equally, almost infinitely, present on Satan:

the spaceship, Muddlin' Through, pumps heat from her nuclear power plant into her landing jacks to counteract the cold of the planetary surface;

going EVA, Falkayn needs thick soles attached to his boots and cannot stay outside for long;

at the same time, the sheilding in his armor can protect him for only half an hour from the heat of Beta Crucis;

when Beta Crucis rises, his self-darkening faceplate goes almost black;

the combination of glare and protection from it handicaps his eyesight;

the lethal radiation level mounts rapidly;

Falkayn deploys a Geiger counter, a neutron-analysis spike and a sonic prose;

he is buried in an avalanche - but rescued by Muddlin' Through -  when an unstable dry ice glacier sublimes, the kind of catastrophe that we have come to expect for Anderson's space explorers, e.g., see "The Saturn Game."

When Falkayn names the planet Satan, he mentions that there is already a planet called Lucifer, which we encountered in "The Problem of Pain." When he explains to Chee Lan that Satan is an enemy of the divine and a source of evil, she starts to say that the divine itself is - and breaks off. The divine itself is the source of all things and therefore also the source of evil? She knows that, mythologically, there are anti-gods who can bestow wealth but that it is not a good idea to bargain with them. Will this be true of the planet Satan?

The Satanic Landscape

The spaceship, Muddlin' Through, circumnavigates Satan and descends:

Beta Crucis, four times the size of Sol seen from Earth, rages on the horizon;

the sky is incandescent;

roiling clouds are steaming white or gray and lightning-riven or black with volcano smoke;

glacial melt cascades from mountains;

terrible winds, rain, earthquakes and floods lash stony plains;

a tornado and gales blow away vapors that had covered half a continent;

giant icebergs clash;

atmospheric turbulance rocks the spaceship;

there are repeated shocks and a rising noise;

the computer pilots while Falkayn and Chee Lan wait to make decisions;

rising wind velocities are already over 500 kph;

heavy rain and frequent supersqualls bombard the antarctic;

the ship passes through thunder and wind-swept snow and lands just below the cold but quieter arctic circle.

I have tried, by summarizing Poul Anderson's narrative, to show that he describes a dynamic environment where major events occur without any interventions by intelligent beings. The description of Satan continues when we had thought that it was already complete.

Dark Satanic Mills

Ten years after passing Beta Crucis, Satan should have (many unknown, remember) calmed down:

it will no longer be illuminated any more than inhabited planets;

the cold, exposed rocks will have absorbed any excess heat that has not been re-radiated;

temperature will be tolerable and decreasing steadily though not rapidly;

 industry will be able to build;

heat output will be balanced with loss;

the atmosphere will be poisonous and most jobs will be automated so radioactive waste will be unproblematic;

the surface will be warm, lit by stars and lamps;

radio beacons will guide cargo shuttles;

there will be nuclear conversion units everywhere;

tons of formerly rare materials will be exported daily;

hopefully, SSL will monopolize the sale of franchises;

there will be both great wealth and great war potential as later with Mirkheim which Falkayn will seek, find and not hand over to van Rijn.

Friday, 2 February 2018

The Transformation Of Satan

This post follows Too Many Unknowns and Too Many Unknowns II.

Another unexpected feature of the rogue planet, Satan: although most of its natural radioactivity has gone and the surface temperature is close to absolute zero, the magnetic field indicates that part of the core remains molten. This heat, insulated by mantle, crust and cryosphere, dissipates slowly.

The planet is lit by:

light from Beta Crucis, refracted through the atmosphere;
atoms and ions from sun-split molecules recombining;
lightning reflected by clouds;

The cyrosphere dissolves;
glaciers become torrents;
torrents boil, becoming stormwinds;
lakes and seas melt;
global pressures shift;
isostatic balance is upset;
released energy melts rocks;
land quakes;
thousands of volcanoes start;
geysers spout;
there are blizzards, hail, rain and mounting tempests.

Anderson compares it to Ragnarok.

Too Many Unknowns II

When Satan passes Beta Crucis:

"'...maximum atmospheric instability will occur after periastron passage.'" (Chapter XI, p. 438) (For full reference, see here.)

While the planet approaches the star, fusion, vaporization etc absorb most of the stellar energy. However, energy input will continue when absorption is complete. Temperatures will soar and storms of great magnitude will prevent landing but ground observation remains feasible during the approach.

More counterintuitivity.