Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Quetzas And Ythrians

SM Stirling, The Sky People (New York, 2007).

A pterodactyl with an eighty foot wingspan would not be able to fly on Earth but is able to fly on (this alternative version of) Venus because:

gravity is less;
air is thicker;
there is more oxygen.

At this point, sf readers remember:

many other fictional encounters with dinosaurs (see here);
Poul Anderson's question to John W Campbell - what comes next after fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals?

Campbell suggested an animal that can energize its body by pumping atmospheric oxygen directly into its bloodstream. Anderson utilized this suggestion to imagine Ythrians, able both to fly under terrestroid conditions and to carry a body and brain heavy enough for intelligence.

Reading about Stirling's Quetzas and remembering Anderson's Ythrians, we next ask: do the conditions on Stirling's Venus allow for intelligent fliers?

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