Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Quiz: Science Fiction Planets

Recently I wrote a quiz for a trivia site I am a member of. The subject was Science Fiction Planets. I prepared 15 questions -- only the first 12 were used, but I'll add the other three at the end. If anyone wants to email me their guesses at the answers (no cheating please!) I'll try to compile a list of who got the most right. (I expect a fair amount of 15s, actually!), and I'll publish the answers in a day or two. (email: rrhorton@prodigy.net)

Thanks to Steven Silver, by the way, who helped with some of the questions.

1.  This image is based on a Star Wars prequel film, and portrays the capital city of the Empire, which is an "ecumenopolis," or planet-spanning city. Many people think that an inspiration for this city is the capitol city/planet of the Empire in Isaac Asimov's Foundation seriesName either planet/cityClick here

2.  Pierre Boulle, author of Bridge on the River Kwai, also wrote a novel set on a planet of the star Betelgeuse, and it too spawned a successful movie (and eventually many more.) Name the first movie made from that book. (Note that the movie, unlike the novel, is revealed to be actually set on Earth in its famous final scene.)

3.  Planets of this three-star system are understandably a common site for science fiction stories. Examples include Robert Silverberg's first book; the planet Rakhat in Mary Doria Russell's novel The Sparrow; as well as the planet Pandora in the movie Avatar. This star system was also the original destination of the Robinson family before they became Lost in Space (in the '60s TV series.) Name this star system.

4.  This planet with a mysterious worldwide intelligence is featured in films by Andrei Tarkovsky and Stephen Soderbergh, based on a novel by a Polish science fiction writer. Name both the planet (which has a name recalling our sun) and the author (whose name might recall our moon, or at least our lunar exploration).

5.  N. K. Jemisin made history when she won the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years running, for each volume of a trilogy. Most of the action is set on a continent called the Stillness. Per the title of the trilogy, on which planet is this continent located?

6.  The late great Ursula Le Guin set much of her science fiction in a future sometimes called "Hainish". She won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, set on the notably cold planet Gethen. What is the English name for that planet (supposedly also the translation of Gethen into English?) (That English nickname is also used in the title of a short story set on the planet.)

7.  Perhaps the most famous planet located outside our Solar System in TV is Vulcan. In which episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, written by Theodore Sturgeon, did Spock's undergoing pon farr force the Enterprise to return to Vulcan.

8.  Samuel R. Delany gave one of his novels the subtitle "an ambiguous heterotopia". The novel's protagonist, Bron Helstrom, lives on a moon of the planet Neptune, though he was born on Mars and visits Earth during the novel. Name either the original title of the novel or Delany's preferred title.

9.  A long series of novels beginning with Dune,by Frank Herbert, centers around control of which planet(also sometimes called Dune), the source of the spice mélange, which among other things is used to help navigate starships. If you don't remember the novel, you may remember David Lynch's film, or the SyFy Channel miniseries. (And, reportedly, Denis Villeneuve is working on a pair of films based on Dune.)

10.  Cixin Liu (or Liu Cixin), was the first Chinese writer to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel, not to mention gaining fans including Barack Obama. The novel in question concerns invaders from the planet Trisolaris, so-called because its system has three suns. What is the title of the novel, in its English translation, based on the difficulties caused by the complex orbit of Trisolaris due to those three suns (and also representing a system in Newtonian mechanics that is not amenable to a closed-form solution?)

11.  In recent years a great many extrasolar planets have been detected by various means, and science fiction writers are beginning to use those planets in their novels. Allen Steele has written a long series of novels set on a (as yet undetected!) moon of one of those extrasolar planets, 47 Ursae Majoris b. The planet is called Bear (for obvious reasons) – what is the trickier name of the moon which Steele's characters colonize?

12.  While more famous for the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis also wrote a trilogy about a man named Elwin Ransom, with books set primarily on Malacandra, Perelandra, and Thulcandra (the Silent Planet.) Give the usual English names for these planets (in the above order.) 

13. The planet Mesklin is noted for its unusual shape, which leads to a very strange gravity gradient. The novels set there were written by a high school science teacher named Harry Stubbs, who used this name as a pseudonym.

14. On which planet is the title structure of Kim Stanley Robinson’s first novel, Icehenge, found? (Well, at least it was a planet when the book was published!)

15. Leigh Brackett wrote a number of stories and novels about this recurring character. Though he is most associated with Mars, his adventures also took him to Venus, and out of the Solar System to the planet Skaith, and he was actually born on Mercury. His last name might suggest the nature of the landscapes of, at least, Mars and Mercury. Who was this character?

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