Thursday, 28 October 2021

Robert’s Time Capsule: Adventures in Space

Robert writes:

Last week, astronomers discovered a planet orbiting the star closest to Earth, Alpha Centauri. With an orbital period of three days, it’s much too hot to support life, but astronomers plan to take a closer look at the star in hope of finding a planet in its habitable zone.

In fact, I happen to know that there is such a planet. Not only does it support life, but it is home to an advanced civilization.

The planet is called Yex. In elementary school, starting in third grade, I drew reams of comic books about Earth people who had adventures there in the year A.D. 2298. Decades before Star Wars and years before Star Trek, my heroes (job description: astronauts/scientists/detectives/spies) rocketed into space to brave its many dangers:

Space pirates!

(I didn’t have much artistic ability and lacked the patience to make good use of the meager talent I did have. In my imagination, however, my comic books all looked as if they had been drawn by my favorite illustrator, Jack Kirby.)

Galactic exploration was just beginning in 2298. Fortunately, an early expedition to Alpha Centauri — just 4.3 light-years away! — found extraterrestrial life, including hairless cloven-footed doglike quadrupeds called zamboons:


(Sorry about that zamboon. I drew better ones, but that’s all I could find.)

More astonishing, the planet also supported an alien civilization, the Yexians: humanoids with weird eyes and telepathy (a handy way around the language barrier). Humans and Yexians didn’t get along very well at first, but eventually they established diplomatic relations, and my human heroes were dispatched to escort the new Yexian ambassador to Earth. On arrival, they were shocked to find that while they were in hyperspace or suspended animation or however I got them there, a global plague had devastated Yexian civilization. The Yexian ambassador’s futile attempt to conceal the magnitude of the tragedy culminated in a touching death scene. (I’ll supply captions to interpret my unreadable dialogue balloons.)

Yexian ambassador greets the humans

“For years you have feared us! It is good that we can live in peace at last!”

Yexian ambassador reveals that he is dying

“I…am…dying! You must go! Or you will be…killed to[sic]!! If any of my people survive, they shall be sent to Earth! Do…you understand?”
“We do!”

Yexian ambassador's last words

“Tell them [i.e., Earth officials] Yex is quitting the Union of Civilized Planets!”

(Why Yex should quit the Union of Civilized Planets instead of requesting its assistance, I don’t know. Maybe the Yexians were too proud to ask for help from lesser beings and preferred that no one else witness the indignity of their demise. I didn’t overthink things when a juicy scene was crying out to be written.)

I spent many happy hours on Yex and am sure our scientists will discover it someday. If it happens during your lifetimes, please tell them not to shoot the zamboons. They’re friendly and a lot of fun to play catch with.

Again, the planet that astronomers have just spotted is not Yex. When I was in third grade, I probably would have called it something like “Qaltyr,” and I hope the International Astronomical Union thinks up an equally cool-sounding name for it.

Coming soon: more pictures of Prussiania!

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