Frederik Pohl's most famous Science Fiction creation, the Heechee Saga (beginning with a short story, The Merchants of Venus, though most people know it through the 1976 novel Gateway) details humanity's discovery of the Heechee, a long-vanished race of advanced aliens. More particularly, humanity's discovery of Gateway, a large asteroid base filled with Heechee tunnels and covered in long-abandoned faster-than-light starships.Gateway, the first novel in the series, is widely recognised as a classic of the genre, and a perfect example of New Wave science fiction besides.Robinette Broadhead (who is, in spite of his name, male) is very rich, and very troubled. In between his therapy sessions with the robot psychiatrist he's nicknamed Sigfrid Von Shrink, he tells the story of his time on the titular asteroid Gateway, where he eventually made his fortune.Gateway is largely a De Construction of Imported Alien Phlebotinum. Only some of the thousand-odd starships left by the Heechee work, and nobody knows exactly how. Programming in a new destination consists of twiddling twelve wheels until something glows pink, and squeezing the go-teat. The ship will go somewhere, but there's no telling where, or how long it will take, until the ship starts decelerating, meaning you damn well better have enough supplies to last the trip. If you haven't reached the midway point of the outbound voyage by the time a quarter of your food is gone, you draw straws... loser goes into the fridge. Some ships that went out with 5 people got back with one. Whatever happens when somebody tries to change course mid-flight, none of the ships that tried have ever come back. The Mega Corp. in charge of Gateway offers a relatively small bonus for discovering an inhabitable planet, in spite of the fact that Earth is a Crapsack World where people have to mine oil for food, since the biggest starships in Gateway can only carry five people, and somebody has to bring the ship back. Experiments to get ships to carry more people have not ended well.In the early 1990's, Legend Entertainment published two videogames based on the Heechee saga.
Gateway provides examples of:
Other stories in the Heechee Saga provide examples of: