“Desertion” is a 1944 science fiction short story by Clifford D. Simak. It is about the director of a Jovian survey dome who keeps losing men to Jupiter’s open atmosphere.
Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:
Fowler has lost four men to Jupiter’s raging atmosphere and is getting ready to send out a fifth. The journey should be relatively easy – each man is transformed into a native Jovian Loper and then is supposed to go to the first survey stake and return. Doesn’t sound too difficult does it? Nope. But apparently it is because no one has ever come back! Now as the rest of the people in the survey dome are talking about the disappearances, and the biologists are insisting that it has nothing to do with the Loper transformations, Fowler decides to take a huge risk to find out exactly what is happening to his men.
Allen stood waiting, quietly.
“Four other men have gone out and have not returned,” said Fowler. “You know that, of course. We want you to return. We don’t want you going off on any heroic rescue expedition. The main thing, the only thing, is that you come back, that you prove man can live in a Jovian form. Go to the first survey stake, no farther, then come back. Don’t take any chances. Don’t investigate anything. Just come back.”
Allen nodded. “I understand all that.”
My Two Cents:
• The good:
- I liked reading a story that was set on the surface of Jupiter. That is definitely something that you don’t see in today’s newer stories.
- The Lopers – the native lifeforms of Jupiter – were pretty cool. Their view of living on Jupiter was fascinating.
- I loved the whole idea of transforming humans to native lifeforms in order to better adapt to and live on other planets. Very cool indeed!
• The bad:
- Even though I liked the setting, there were definitely some outdated ideas about Jupiter. Not the most factual of stories, but enjoyable none-the-less.
• Page Count: 12
• Word Count: 4,436
Where you can find “Desertion”:
- This short story first appeared in the November 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.
- “Desertion” is included in The Road to Science Fiction: Volume 3: From Heinlein to Here.
- I was able to read this entire story online, but only by jumping back and forth between the Google Book Preview for The SFWA Grand Masters, Volume 1 and the Russian bulletin board AstroForum.
Some Interesting Links:
- Did you know that Clifford D. Simak was the third Grand Master named by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America? Yep. You can learn more about this science fiction author by reading the Wikipedia page about him.
- This story is one of the tales in Clifford D. Simak’s famous novel 1952 novel City – where dogs and robots recount old stories and debate whether Man ever existed at all.
- Special thanks to one of my readers, Wagers, for pointing out this great story!
Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like A Martian Odyssey, about an astronaut who walks several hundred miles across the Martian landscape, and the amazing life forms he encounters, by Stanley G. Weinbaum.