The Man Who Walked On Venus


Artist’s concept of Venus’s forbidding surface. (ESA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

“How’s the weather down there?” Jeremy Howard heard Amy Jefferson’s voice in his ears accompanied by just a hint of static.

“Hot.” He chuckled. “472 degrees Celsius. Atmospheric pressure equivalent to being 900 meters under the surface of the ocean. The wind speed is 710 kilometers per hour with gusts up to 750.”

“Sounds like a wonderful vacation spot.”

“You’re welcome to come down and join me, Jefferson.”

“Not a chance, Howard. This one’s all yours.”

So far it was light banter, but Jefferson was monitoring Howard’s telemetry and she was starting to get worried.

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Integratron Investigation


© Google Maps / Don Darkson

George Van Tassel started constructing the Integratron the year I was born. He claimed aliens from Venus gave him the plans, which doesn’t seem likely given Venus’ harsh environment. Surface temperature in excess of 800 degrees, and atmospheric pressure 90 times that of Earth’s at sea level. Not a likely place to find life.

The Integratron is supposed to be capable of rejuvenating living tissue, anti-gravity, and time travel, none of which I’m seeing as I stand inside of what is now a tourist attraction. Still, Van Tassel’s sudden death at age 67 has never been explained. Maybe spending too much time in here is damaging instead of healing. I think Van Tassel was contacted, but not by aliens, and certainly nothing wanting to help humans. My name is David Norliss and I investigate spiritual phenomenon. I don’t think aliens gave Van Tassel the plans for the Integratron. I’m looking for demons.

I wrote this bit of flash fiction in response to a weekly prompt based on a view from Google Maps. The idea is to write a piece of fiction of around 150 words based on the prompt. Full details can be found at What Pegman Saw.

For more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit

Visit Wikipedia for more information on the Integration as well as its creator George Van Tassel.

Oh, I named my character after the protagonist in the 1973 made-for-TV thriller The Norliss Tapes starring Roy Thinnes.

This story has a word count of 149.

Book Review: “Old Venus”

old venusI decided to check Old Venus, an anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, out of my local public library, because I’d already read their Old Mars anthology last fall and enjoyed it.

The premise of both books is to get together a bunch of modern science fiction authors and ask them to write stories about Mars (in the case of “Old Mars”) or Venus (in the case of the book being reviewed here) as if it were before about 1960.

In the early 1960s, we sent probes to Venus and Mars and discovered one disappointing fact: there’s no way in hell either planet could support life now or probably not even in the dim past.

But before we knew that, science fiction writers were crafting wonderfully imaginative tales about both worlds and how we, as well as native Martians and Venusians, could live together and have adventures. What would it be like to just “ignore the rules” and pretend you could visit Venus, with its swamps, rain forests, vast oceans, unending clouds, and dip into the indigenous flora and fauna?

“Old Venus” answers that, and in most stories, does so remarkably well.

I can’t say I have a favorite story. “Frogheads” by Allen M. Steele was pretty predictable, and “Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan” by Ian McDonald was too British to hook me and I stopped reading after a few pages (having a headache, slight fever, and recovering from yesterday’s nasal surgery probably didn’t help).

“Pale Blue Memories” by Tobias S. Buckell tugged at my heart the most because the racism experienced by our protagonist wasn’t (and isn’t) limited to a single world. Oh, it was also a story depicting an old-fashioned, missile shaped rocket ship, like the one of the cover. “Old Mars” had a similar ship on the cover, but not one story about such a 1950s classic design was between the covers. I was tempted to write such a tale, but got stuck on Arabia Terra, a story I’m not (yet) qualified to write. If you’re going to have such a ship on the cover, make sure one of your stories actually is about such a ship.

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