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Authors: Trouble on Titan

Alan E. Nourse

trouble
on
Vitan

A
Science
Fiction
Novel

 

Trouble on
Titan

By
Alan
E.
Nourse

Jacket and Endpaper Designs by
Alex
Schomburg

Cecil®
Matschat
,
Editor
Car/
Carmer
,
Consulting Editor

THE JOHN
C. WINSTON COMPANY

Philadelphia
*
Toronto

Copyright,
1954
B
y
A
lan E.
Nourse

Copyright in
Great Britain and
in
the
British
Dominions

and
Possessions Copyright in
the Republic of the Philippines

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST
EDITION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Made in the United States
of America

L.
C. Card
#54-5067

To JOE
For
his help along the way

Oh, East is
East
,
and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand
presently at God's great Judgment Seat;

But there is
neither
East
nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand
face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

 

 

 


R
udyard
K
ipling

From: "The Ballad of
East and West" from

departmental
  
ditties
  
and
  
ballads
  
and

barrack-room ballads
, by
Rudyard
Kipling, reprinted by permission of Mrs. George
Bambridge
and Doubleday & Company, Inc., and Messrs. Methuen & Co., Ltd., and The
Macmillan Company of Canada.

I've
Never
Been There

One of the most exciting things about science
fiction, both reading it and writing it, is the freedom of imagination it
offers to both the reader and the writer.

It's
perfectly true that adventure stories, and Indian stories, and
mysteiy
stories, and stories of history and exploration are
imaginative. I'd be the last to deny it. But they all have strings attached. We
know a great deal about the Indians, for instance—historical facts, figures,
geographical data, biographies. We can't make Sitting Bull a Navaho. We can't
write a story about the Indians that violates any of the known facts about
them, and if we read a story that does, we toss the book aside and say, "That
fellow isn't much of a
writer—"
But in science fiction, neither the writer nor the reader has any such narrow
limitations.

Perhaps
I'd
better modify that just a
little, before the tried-and-true science fiction readers start crawling down
my throat. There
are
limitations in science
fiction which the readers demand, and which the writers must obey. But the
limitations are different in science fiction—and it's that difference that
makes these stories so exciting to me.

 

I think
T
rouble
on
T
itan
is a good story to illustrate my point. Basically, this is a
free-wheeling adventure story. But in writing it, I could not violate what is
already proved, known fact about the background where the story is set, or the
events in the course of the story. If my book had been set in San Francisco
during the great earthquake, I'd have been very limited in the picture I could
have painted with the story. But it
wasn't
set
in San Francisco. It was set on Titan, the fifth moon of Saturn—and here, my
friends,
we can take off with a vengeance. Because I've
never been on Titan—
and
neither has anybody else!

In
planning the story, I had to ask myself, "What do we really know about
Titan?" A surprising amount, for a place we've never come close to
approaching. We know, for instance, that it
is
a moon, circling the sixth planet of our Solar System much the same as
our Moon circles the Earth. We know that it has at least eight brother and
sister moons circling the same planet:
Mimas
,
Enceladus
, Tethys,
Dione
, Rhea,
Hyperion,
Japetus
, and Phoebe. We even know that it
might
have another—
Themis
, which was reported by
Professor Pickering in 1905, and has not been seen since. But of all these
moons, we know that Titan is the largest, approximately 3,550 miles in diameter
(compared to our own Moon's 2,160 miles in diameter). We know that Titan makes
one complete revolution around Saturn in a period of 15.94 days, that its mean
distance from its planet is 759,000 miles, and that of all the moons of Saturn,
Titan is the only one that has an atmosphere.

Well, that still gave me room enough to move
around quite a bit. What kind of atmosphere could we look for on Titan? By use
of the spectrograph, astronomers have determined that it contains large amounts
of methane. The astronomers suspect ammonia, too, as well as
cyanogen
and water vapor.
In short, a
thoroughly poisonous atmosphere very similar to, but less dense than, that of
Saturn herself.
Further, since the structure of Saturn, like Jupiter and
Uranus, is probably a huge core of rock and mineral material surrounded by a
thick ice pack and an outer blanket of volatile material, it's safe to assume
that Titan would be a rather large and bitterly cold chunk of rock and metal.

You
can see upon examination of these facts that we still aren't hemmed in very
much. We can have fun speculating on some of the possibilities of a planetoid
with a methane atmosphere. Mines, under the surface, would require either
positive pressure oxygen to enable the miners to work, or else they would have
to work constantly in protective suits—a clumsy arrangement, as you know if
you've ever hopped into a
divers
suit. But with oxygen
in the tunnel, and methane on the surface—leaks would spell trouble. Still, the
same principle of methane burning in oxygen would be very useful if one wanted
to do some welding out on the surface—or if one wanted to pilot a small jet
plane, for that matter.

There
were other limitations, too. One of them was quite basic to the story, and is
basic to thinking about space travel and eventual travel to other star systems.

It's
a point that many science fiction writers either ignore altogether or sideswipe
in a most disgraceful fashion. Taking a rocket ship to the Moon, or to Mars, or
to Venus, or to Titan is one thing. Taking a rocket to another star system is
quite different. The distance is prohibitive, unless a ship could somehow
accelerate enough to cut the time of the star-journey down to something
reasonable. But a fine old gentleman named Einstein has put the lid on that for
us. The speed of light is approximately 186,000 miles per second. Thou
shalt
go no faster. Thou
shalt
not even approach that speed without having upsetting things happen—unless the
current theories of the nature of space and time are way off base. And we have
no right to assume that they are without a great deal of justification.

Well,
to a culture which has gone to the planets, and is looking for new worlds to
conquer, an interstellar drive of
any
sort
would be quite a plum. Yet we know of one interstellar drive that exists right
now—
1

T
rouble
on
T
itan
is a free-wheeling adventure story. It makes no claim to be anything
else. But if the story of Tuck Benedict and David
Torm
makes you pause and think a bit, perhaps even to reshape your ideas about the
people in the world about you just a trifle, it was worth the writing a
thousand times over. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing
it!

A. E. N.