Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 26 July 2012.
Twenty light years away, Rustum, a planet of e
Eridani, hotter and more oceanic than Earth and with one and a quarter
terrestrial gravities, has a semi-permanent cloud layer separating two
life zones (eg, lower spearfowl are larger) and containing
nebulo-plankton browsed on by occasionally glimpsed cigar-shaped,
jet-propelled air porpoises.
Theory: the dense air carries fine
particles scoured by wind from surface rocks into the clouds where water
drops dissolve out minerals which are consumed by microscopic organisms
preyed on by larger life forms like the porpoises which rise by filling
a bladder with biologically generated hydrogen, eat by sucking in air
and plankton and move by blowing air out.
Vegetation is blue-tinged green, brown or
yellow. Sea level air pressure is too high for most human beings who
therefore colonized an above-the-clouds plateau, High America, where the
Swift and Smoky Rivers from the western Centaur Mountains join to form
the Emperor River. Hercules Mountains are to the south.
Rustum has two moons:
outer Raksh changes apparent size as seen from Rustum, sometimes
appearing twice the size of Luna as seen from Earth, and raises tides in
a lowland lake;
Sohrab moves fast enough
for its motion to be seen, like the hurtling moons of Mars in Edgar Rice
Burroughs' John Carter series.
Three thousand colonists, transported from
Earth in suspended animation, increase their numbers by both natural and
exogenetic births. Little native life is edible so they grow
terrestrial crops. Because the ecology supporting the crops is not yet
firmly established, harvests are poor and most colonists must farm
immense holdings with children transported to the Anchor village school
in a publicly owned airbus. More scientifically oriented colonists
become, e.g., iron miners or lowland explorers, competing with farmers
for machinery and differing culturally, being more pragmatic and
The day-night cycle is longer than Earth's
so Rustumites must be active at night although Dan Coffin wonders why
they could not adapt to forty hours of activity and twenty of sleep.
Public policy is settled by televisual
discussion without formal government. Military defense is unnecessary
and public services are voluntary but one elected official, the mayor,
administers laws, presides in debates, judges disputes, oversees
medicine and education and collects taxes.
Most sea level explorers must wear helmets
but a minority who can live there comfortably settle and begin the
colonization of the entire surface of Rustum.