Literature: A Martian Odyssey
We are v-r-r-r-iends! Ouch!
- The barrel creatures, mindlessly parroting the main characterA Martian Odyssey
is a science fiction short story by writer Stanley G. Weinbaum that was published in the July, 1934 issue of Wonder Stories
magazine. It is famous as one of the first "planetary romances"
as well as having one of the first extraterrestrial characters who was more than just a "human with a few differences"
. Not to mention being friendly rather than a fearsome monster.
The story is set in the early 21st century and features an American scientist, Dick Jarvis, who is part of the first international expedition to the planet Mars. Jarvis sets out to explore the planet on his own when his flying vehicle malfunctions, leaving him stranded miles away from the landing site. He decides to walk back to the camp.
Along the way, Jarvis encounters a plant-like monster about to devour a creature resembling an ibis. Noticing that the creature is carrying a pouch, he concludes that it's a sentient being and saves it from the monster. The creature, named Tweel, is obviously grateful, though they cannot speak directly since their languages are too different. However they manage to communicate by a combination of body language and basic mathematical concepts. Tweel decides to accompany Davis as he makes it to safety.
Along the way they encounter an amazing selection of lifeforms, most notably a race of barrel-shaped creatures, whose bizarre behavior even Tweel cannot figure out. Davis finds out that the creatures own a crystal with healing properties and tries to take it, but is attacked by them; he escapes with Tweel's help and is rescued by the rest of the expedition. Once Davis is reunited with them, Tweel departs without meeting the others.
The story was followed by a sequel, "Valley of Dreams" (November, 1934) where Jarvis is reunited with Tweel and discovers that the martian's race had visited Earth in ancient times (the Egyptian god Thoth was apparently based on them.) Weinbaum later wrote similar stories set in other planets.
Tropes in "A Martian Odyssey":