These short stories are set, or have action that takes place, on other planets with an emphasis on Mars and Venus. They’re divided into their own sections. Most are set on these other planets, but some might have Martians or other native species outside their home world.
• Short Mars Stories •
“Martian Blood” by Allen M. Steele
Dr. Omar al-Baz arrives on Mars. The thin air and cold make him temporarily sick, as it does to many. He’s been sent by his university on a project. He meets his guide, Jim, who helps with the luggage and prepares to take him to the hotel. Dr. al-Baz wants to visit an aboriginal settlement. He also reveals a specific and surprising thing he wants to obtain.
This story can be read in the preview of Old Mars.
“How We Went to Mars” by Arthur C. Clarke
The president of a rocket society addresses the accusations that have been made against his group. They worked up from unmanned test rockets to a passenger carrying spaceship. They didn’t intend to go very far on their first flight, but an incident changed their plans. They ended up landing on Mars.
This humorous story, which was awarded a Retro Hugo, can be read in the preview of The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke. (10% into preview)
“A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum
The Ares is the first ship to land on Mars. The chemist, Jarvis, set out in an auxiliary rocket on a mission, but crashed. As he was walking back to the Ares, he came upon a sentient bird who was being attacked by tentacled creature. He assisted. It identified itself as Tweel. They traveled together.
This is the first story in the preview of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Vol 1.
“Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar
Some people have chosen to leave Earth for Mars in cheap, individual, one-way spaceships. They have various reasons—some are sick, some have nothing to lose, some are loners. The occupants are able to communicate along the way.
This story can be read in the preview of The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection. (46% in)
“The Metal Men of Mars” by Joe R. Lansdale
John Carter, Jeddak of Helium, is restless for some adventure. He takes his weapons and heads out in a small flyer over the Martian desert. One night, while his ships floats moored to the ground, he closes his eyes to sleep. His ship is struck by something that sends him over the edge, dangling from the side.
This story can be read in the preview of Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom. (35% in)
“It Was the Meat” by J. A. Taylor
A man on Earth gives an official statement on the Mars mission. He says it will eventually be finished. A member of the colonization team who’s watching the feed on Mars knows this isn’t true. He knows what really happened.
This story can be read in the preview of A Sci-Fi Shorts Anthology: Vol 2. (55% in)
“Keep Out” by Fredric Brown
Mars is being colonized by humans. It had no intelligent life of its own, so they will become the first Martians. A group of ten-year-olds were sent to Mars. Their parents took a drug called Daptine, which would allow their children to be highly adaptable to various environments. The children will be perfectly suited to life on Mars.
Dear Devil | Eric Frank Russell
A Martian vessel lands on earth. The Martian crew has tentacles and communicates with signs and telepathic touch. Earth has been devastated by some kind of disaster. One of the crew, a poet, finds a statue of a woman. The captain is preparing to leave when the poet says he wants to stay. The captain allows it.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
This collection of connected stories is about the human colonization of Mars, while still inhabited by native Martians. A few of the following stories are from that collection.
“Ylla (I’ll Not Ask For Wine)”
Mr. and Mrs. K are Martians who aren’t happy anymore. One day Mrs. K has a dream about a man, tall with blue eyes. This sounds ridiculous to Mr. K, as Martians don’t have these traits. She fills in more details of the dream. She thinks it would be fascinating if there were people from another planet who could travel through space to visit them.
This story can be read in the preview of The Martian Chronicles.
“The Earth Men”
Captain Williams and his crew knock on a door on Mars. They’re delighted the homeowner, Mrs. Ttt, speaks English. The Captain introduces them as the Second Expedition from Earth. Mrs. Ttt has little interest in the humans. They’re disappointed with the reception. She sends the crew to Mr. Aaa.
“The Third Expedition (Mars is Heaven!)”
A space ship with a crew of seventeen lands on Mars. To everyone’s surprise, Mars looks like small-town America in the 1920’s. Captain John Black is hesitant to leave the ship, but after confirming the atmosphere is breathable, he allows a small party to disembark. The ship’s navigator and the archaeologist offer theories to explain what they see. They approach a house.
“August 2002: Night Meeting”
Tomas stops at a lonely gas station on Mars on his way to a party. He talks to the old owner about how different Mars is from Earth, and how time seems different as well. Tomas leaves and soon meets a native Martian; they make a surprising discovery about each other.
“April 2005: Usher II”
William Stendhal is given the key to his new house on Mars. The architect has made it just as William wanted—desolate, terrible, and hideous. All life has been exterminated around the house and hidden machines block out the sun. Years ago on Earth, all horror and fantasy stories were banned. William lost his huge library. Now he’s built the House of Usher from Poe’s story, and he has a plan for revenge.
“The Fire Balloons”
A delegation of Episcopal priests led by Father Peregrine go to Mars as missionaries. While there’s a human colony on Mars, Father Peregrine plans to focus on the Martians and possibly discover new sins. Upon arriving they find their task will be difficult. There are two kinds of Martians—one is very hard to find, and the other are luminous globes of light.
Read “The Fire Balloons”
Saul wakes up on Mars, quarantined because of the “blood rust.” He longs to be back in New York. He’s lonely. The sickness makes it difficult for people to talk. A rocket lands and hastily drops off another exile. Saul runs to meet him. He’s a young man named Leonard, still relatively healthy, and he has a valuable ability.
“Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed”
Passengers step off a rocket on Mars. Due to a war on Earth, they are colonizing Mars until they can return. The Bittering family settles in, but they are looking forward to going back. One day the daughter runs home with news of an atomic attack on New York.
“The Strawberry Window”
A family is living on Mars. The wife, Carrie, wants to go back to Earth. She misses the small familiar things from home. Her husband, Bob, wants her to hang on. Just as she has reached her breaking point, Bob reveals that he has spent their savings on something.
“The Blue Bottle”
Mars is dead. Albert and Leonard are searching the abandoned buildings for the Blue Bottle, a legendary Martian receptacle that could contain anything.
“A Rose for Ecclesiastes” by Roger Zelazny
The narrator, Gallinger, is busy translating one of his own works into Martian when he gets the news that the Martians will receive him. He’s a particularly talented linguist, the first human to learn classical Martian, and now the first to learn their “high language”. He’s going to be allowed into the Temple to read the sacred texts.
Read “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” (PDF Pg. 5)
• Short Venus Stories •
“Frogheads” by Allen M. Steele
Ronson’s shuttle descends on Venus, settling on the ocean. A tugboat arrives and tows the shuttle to Veneragrad, a man-made island. Ronson is a detective. It’s hot and humid. He immediately goes to the police station. Ronson is looking for a young man last seen there a year ago. He’s from a rich family.
“Frogheads” can be read in the preview of Old Venus: A Collection of Stories.
“All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
Humans are living on Venus. The children are eagerly awaiting an event that scientists have confirmed: it will stop raining for two hours, the only break from rain in seven years. The kids speculate about what the sun is like. One student remembers the sun from earth, but the others don’t believe her.
“The Long Rain” by Ray Bradbury
Four survivors of a rocket crash on Venus are trudging through the jungle in heavy rain. They’re looking for a Sun Dome, a structure with hot food, dry clothes, and an artificial sun inside. The rain is unceasing. It puts a great mental strain on the travelers. They press on as they try to maintain their resolve.
Read “The Long Rain”
“Before Eden” by Arthur C. Clarke
A research team explores the surface of Venus in a scout car. They stop at a steep rise. Hutchins examines the cliffs. He sees a dried up waterfall, indicating water. The vehicle can’t make the ascent. They decide to proceed in thermosuits to check it out.
Other Planet Stories
“Sunrise on Mercury” by Robert Silverberg
As the Leverrier approaches Mercury, Second Astrogator Lon Curtis decides to end his life. He suddenly leaves his station and heads for the reactor compartment. Flight Commander Ross notices the unusual behavior and follows. Curtis has got the disease and will have to be kept confined for the duration.
This story can be read in the preview of Born of the Sun: Adventures in Our Solar System. (40% in)