Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Surface Of Mirkheim

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 20 June 2013.

Mirkheim, the supermetal-coated remnant of a giant planet of a massive star that went supernova, is unlit by any sun so might resemble a rogue planet except that its surface is:

not covered by dust or frozen atmosphere;
not cratered;
metallic, hard, blank, dimly shining, almost mirror-like;
in some places, fantastically ridged and corrugated by congealed moltenness;
with five Terrestrial gravities and enough radioactivity to kill in weeks.

Rogue planets, which feature in more than one work by Anderson, are sunless because they move through interstellar space. Mirkheim, which appears in a short story and a novel, is sunless because its sun exploded a long time ago. Sunlessness suggests sameness but Anderson takes the trouble to imagine the differences, as summarized above.

Shortly before Sandra Tamarin visits Mirkheim, David Falkayn has visited the sub-Jovian Babur. Thus, although Anderson describes many beautiful humanly colonized planets like Hermes, Avalon and Dennitza, he also envisages planetary surfaces that are as inhospitable as space itself and also shows us what his characters see when they explore such places.

Living beings venture to Mirkheim not to live there but to mine the supermetals which are so valuable that a war is fought over them.

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