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Not the Only Planet
compiled by Damien Broderick
Lonely Planet, 256 pages

David O'Brian
Not the Only Planet
Damien Broderick
Some consider Damien Broderick to be Australia's premier SF novelist. He is the author of many non-fiction books on science, technology, and culture. He grew up in Reservoir, attended a seminary for a while and spent a fair bit of time at Monash University. Assorted careers -- including computer programming and editing a national magazine -- led him to writing. His works include The Judas Mandala and The Dreaming Dragons.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The White Abacus
Avon Eos Bio
National Australian Voices Essay

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Lonely Planet is best known for publishing an excellent series of travel guides, so it is a little surprising to see them getting into the fiction field. However, Not the Only Planet, a collection of science fiction stories with travel themes, is not their first venture into fiction. They have already published Brief Encounters, romance tales set against the background of travel. Not the Only Planet, edited by Australian science fiction author Damien Broderick, is a reprint collection which draws from three countries and as many decades to look at how travel is tied to our image of the world around us.

Gene Wolfe's look at travel in America is a reverse of the travelogues so many Westerners have written about third world countries. His is a world in which America is no longer the powerful super-power it became in the 20th century. While the history of Wolfe's America is familiar to the reader, the foreign country of Lisa Goldstein's "Tourists" is as much an enigma to the reader as it is to Charles, the tourist who has forgotten where he is. Content to lie around the pool all day, he doesn't care about the differences between his home and the exotic vacation spots he travels to. He would feel uncomfortable carrying the booklet "Useful Phrases for the Tourist" which Joanna Russ contributes to this anthology. This short piece is a collection of phrases which you might find in any phrase book, but the ideas and images they imply tell the reader that they aren't for any human culture.

Travel, of course, is as much about seeing different cultures as it is about seeing different places, and several of these stories involve this cultural change. Robert Silverberg's "Trips" (1975) has his hero, Kit Cameron, travelling through a multitude of alternative San Franciscos in search of his wife's analogues. Although Cameron always remains, ostensibly, within a few miles of his home, he sees cultures ranging from Mongol to European to futuristic. When he does make contact with his wife's analogues, he sees both her natural similarities to his own wife as well as the cultural differences.

Interestingly, the stories set in the far future allow the travellers to look at our own time. Paul J. McAuley's "All Tomorrow's Parties" is a millennial tale set on a re-creation of Earth which allows each region of the planet to spotlight its heyday. Stephen Dedman's Manhattanland has turned New York City into a strange, dark theme park where tourists can go to try themselves against muggers and rapists. Neither story gives a particularly upbeat vision of our world or travel.

The main character in Greg Egan's "Yeyuka" travels from Australia to Uganda to help combat an outbreak of yeyuka, a cancerous disease. Upon his arrival, he sees himself as an imposter, showing up to briefly touch the Ugandan lives and then returning to his own world. However, like the best of travellers, his life is irrevocably changed by what he sees and does when he is in Uganda.

Both Brian Aldiss and John Varley are represented by tales set on neighbouring planets in our own solar system. Aldiss's "The Difficulties Involved in Photographing Nix Olympica" tells the story of two servicemen who set out to photograph Olympus Mons, the tallest volcano in the solar system, before it is tainted by humans. The experience is quite different for each man, demonstrating how individuals see things differently. Varley's story of Venus is a cross between a Stanley Weinbaum planetary tour and an Heinlein juvenile. Unfortunately, Varley's 11-year-old is unbelievably precocious which tends to rule out a reader's suspension of belief. The story does drive home the fact that, as a traveller, no amount of research can adequately prepare you for the actual experience.

As Broderick comments in the introduction to Not the Only Planet, "it isn't difficult to find SF tales dealing with travel." However, there are a few which definitely deserve a place among those presented here.

Most notably, Kim Stanley Robinson's story of an insane attempt to climb Olympus Mons, the original novella "Green Mars" (1985) of which Aldiss's "The Difficulties Involved in Photographing Nix Olympica" (1986) is eerily reminiscent, and Mike Resnick's more recent "The 43 Antarean Dynasties" (1997) about the trials and tribulations of a tour guide.

Table of Contents
"Tourists" Lisa Goldstein
"Yeyuka" Greg Egan
"The Difficulties Involved in Photographing Nix Olympica" Brian W. Aldiss
"Seven American Nights" Gene Wolfe
"Tourist Trade" Stephen Dedman
"In the Bowl" John Varley
"Let's Go to Golgotha" Garry Kilworth
"Useful Phrases for the Tourist" Joanna Russ
"Trips" Robert Silverberg
"All Tomorrow's Parties" Paul J. McAuley

Copyright © 1999 by Steven H Silver

Steven H. Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000, and Clavius in 2001, and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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