Mission of Gravity
Overview
 
Mission of Gravity is a science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Hal Clement
Hal Clement
Harry Clement Stubbs better known by the pen name Hal Clement, was an American science fiction writer and a leader of the hard science fiction subgenre.-Biography:...

. The novel was serialized in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in April–July 1953. Its first hardcover book publication was in 1954, and it was first published as a paperback book in 1958. Along with the novel itself, many editions (and most recent editions) of the book also include "Whirligig World", an essay by Clement on creating the planet Mesklin
Mesklin
Mesklin is the name of a fictional supergiant planet created by Hal Clement and used in a number of his hard science fiction stories.It is distinctive for the interaction of its strong gravity with the centrifugal force due to its fast rotation, originating, according to Clement's original...

 that was first published in the June 1953 Astounding.

Clement published two sequels to Mission of Gravity, a 1970 novel called Star Light
Star Light
Star Light is a science fiction novel by Hal Clement. It is the sequel to one of Clement's earlier books, Mission of Gravity. The novel was serialized in four parts in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact Magazine from June to September 1970...

, and a 1973 short story called "Lecture Demonstration".
Encyclopedia
Mission of Gravity is a science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Hal Clement
Hal Clement
Harry Clement Stubbs better known by the pen name Hal Clement, was an American science fiction writer and a leader of the hard science fiction subgenre.-Biography:...

. The novel was serialized in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in April–July 1953. Its first hardcover book publication was in 1954, and it was first published as a paperback book in 1958. Along with the novel itself, many editions (and most recent editions) of the book also include "Whirligig World", an essay by Clement on creating the planet Mesklin
Mesklin
Mesklin is the name of a fictional supergiant planet created by Hal Clement and used in a number of his hard science fiction stories.It is distinctive for the interaction of its strong gravity with the centrifugal force due to its fast rotation, originating, according to Clement's original...

 that was first published in the June 1953 Astounding.

Clement published two sequels to Mission of Gravity, a 1970 novel called Star Light
Star Light
Star Light is a science fiction novel by Hal Clement. It is the sequel to one of Clement's earlier books, Mission of Gravity. The novel was serialized in four parts in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact Magazine from June to September 1970...

, and a 1973 short story called "Lecture Demonstration". Mission of Gravity was nominated for a "Retro Hugo" Award for the year 1954.

Setting

The story is set on a highly oblate planet named Mesklin
Mesklin
Mesklin is the name of a fictional supergiant planet created by Hal Clement and used in a number of his hard science fiction stories.It is distinctive for the interaction of its strong gravity with the centrifugal force due to its fast rotation, originating, according to Clement's original...

, which has surface gravity
Surface gravity
The surface gravity, g, of an astronomical or other object is the gravitational acceleration experienced at its surface. The surface gravity may be thought of as the acceleration due to gravity experienced by a hypothetical test particle which is very close to the object's surface and which, in...

 that varies between 700 g
G-force
The g-force associated with an object is its acceleration relative to free-fall. This acceleration experienced by an object is due to the vector sum of non-gravitational forces acting on an object free to move. The accelerations that are not produced by gravity are termed proper accelerations, and...

 at the poles and 3 g at the equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

. The story is told from the points of view of one of the local intelligent life forms and a human explorer. The locals are centipede-like, in order to withstand the enormous gravity, and terrified of even small heights (because in 700 g even a tiny fall is fatal). (See Mesklin
Mesklin
Mesklin is the name of a fictional supergiant planet created by Hal Clement and used in a number of his hard science fiction stories.It is distinctive for the interaction of its strong gravity with the centrifugal force due to its fast rotation, originating, according to Clement's original...

 for a more comprehensive description of the planet's characteristics.)

Plot summary

The native protagonist, Barlennan, a captain of a Mesklinite trading vessel, is on an expedition to the equator, where the gravity is a tiny fraction of what his culture is used to. At the story's opening, he has made contact with human explorers, who are barely able to survive what to the captain is the incredibly light gravity of the equator. The humans request that he recover readings from a scientific probe the humans had sent to one of the poles of the planet which had become stranded there. The captain agrees, and the remainder of the story deals with the journey from the equator to the pole and the recovery of the probe. Along the way, the ship encounters and overcomes a variety of obstacles, some of which the humans (who have provided the captain with radios in order to keep in contact) can help with, and some of which they cannot.

Reception

Boucher
Anthony Boucher
Anthony Boucher was an American science fiction editor and author of mystery novels and short stories. He was particularly influential as an editor. Between 1942 and 1947 he acted as reviewer of mostly mystery fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle...

 and McComas
J. Francis McComas
Jesse Francis McComas was an American science fiction editor. McComas wrote several stories on his own in the 1950s using both his own name and the pseudonym Webb Marlowe....

 found it "compact and unified, with a good deal of adventurous excitement" and characterized it as "a splendid specimen of science fiction in the grandest of grand manners."

Themes

A significant theme of the novel is the universality of physical law; regardless of the exotic nature of the location, the underlying rules of the universe are constant. Even in an environment of hundreds of gravities, the story states, a boat will still float (assuming structural integrity), because even if the weight of the boat is considerably greater than it might be, for instance, at Mesklin's equator, the weight of the fluid it displaces is also greater. A secondary theme deals with the scientific method, and the necessity of proceeding one step at a time. The trading ship's captain, originally skeptical of the human explorers' claim that teaching him to make the various devices they use would take prohibitively long, gradually grows to accept this explanation, and sees the value of walking before he can run, as it were—a theme not at all surprising in a work by Hal Clement, a high school science teacher.

Reputation

It is most often praised for the thoroughness and care with which Clement designed and described Mesklin — even today, it is considered one of the definitive examples of worldbuilding. Although Clement has stated that his original calculations concerning the polar gravity of Mesklin were inaccurate (he later estimated the polar gravity should have been ~250 g instead of 700), the exploration of what existence might be like in such extreme conditions is detailed, convincing, and persuasive. The novel is frequently invoked in discussions of the sense of wonder
Sense of wonder
A sense of wonder is an intellectual and emotional state frequently invoked in discussions of science fiction. It is an emotional reaction to the reader suddenly confronting, understanding, or seeing a concept anew in the context of new information....

, the sensation of dawning comprehension and understanding of a larger context for a given experience, that many readers of science fiction point to as the reason why they pursue the genre.

The personalities of Clement's alien characters have been criticized as being "too human" or not "alien enough", as failing to be, in the words of John W. Campbell
John W. Campbell
John Wood Campbell, Jr. was an influential figure in American science fiction. As editor of Astounding Science Fiction , from late 1937 until his death, he is generally credited with shaping the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction.Isaac Asimov called Campbell "the most powerful force in...

 "something that thinks as well as a man, but not like a man".

Translations

  • Chinese (Simplified): 重力使命, 2006 (first edition)
  • Finnish
    Finnish language
    Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

    : Painovoima 700, 1983 (first edition)
  • French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

    : Question de poids, 1971 (first edition)
  • Turkish: Ağır Görev
  • German
    German language
    German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

    : Unternehmen Schwerkraft, 1959 (first edition)
  • Hebrew
    Hebrew language
    Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

    : שליחות כבדת-משקל, first edition: 1981
  • Russian
    Russian language
    Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

    : , 1972 (first edition).
  • Italian
    Italian language
    Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

    : Stella Doppia 61 Cygni, 1954 (first edition)
  • Dutch
    Dutch language
    Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

    : Een zaak van gewicht, 1971 (first edition)
  • Hungarian
    Hungarian language
    Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

    : Az elveszett rakéta, 1978
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK