H. G. Wells' "The Star", published in 1897, is one of the best early
science fiction short stories. In 1996, to honor its approaching
centennial, I wrote a new short-short version that brings the tale up to
date with a new twist based on actual recent events.
|Actual NASA photo of T'klak disaster.|
And so these brightly-plumed creatures--"birdpeople" is perhaps a misnomer, for their flexible bodies could soar effortlessly through tornados, and their biochemistry differed radically from ours--continued their lives as usual: tacking and gliding merrily through the windy skies between their floating aeries, singing melodic love songs, and feeding their chicks. They were completely oblivious to the doom that hurtled toward the great gas giant in whose upper atmosphere they lived. Perhaps it was a merciful ignorance, for they had no means to escape their fate.
Twenty-one times their entire gaseous planet roiled thunderously. Twenty-one times immense firestorms and devastating atmospheric compression waves blasted the T'klakians' nests, vaporized their incubating eggs, and charred and crushed their feathery bodies. Twenty-one times screams of the dying echoed around the world, carried on roaring winds.
The population of T'klak was decimated. A hundred million beings perished. In all their history, never before had such a horrific tragedy occurred. The generations that followed would call these days the C'kulka tak K'tarr.
"Wrath of the Gods."
But for the public at large, it was at best a seven-day wonder. Although telescopic photographs depicting the incident were widely circulated via newspapers, magazines, television, and the Internet, they revealed only a few tiny, innocuous dark blotches on the familiar face of Jupiter. The great planet continued steadily in its orbit, and its overall shape, color, composition, temperature, and mass remained, for all practical purposes, unaffected.
And there were, after all, more important and immediate issues: "How did they do the special effects in Forrest Gump?", "Who killed O. J. Simpson's ex-wife?", and "Will there really be another baseball strike?"
|Which only shows how small the vastest of...catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.|
|H. G. Wells, "The Star", 1897|
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