Aldebaran in fiction
The planetary systems of stars other than the Sun and the Solar System are a staple element in much science fiction. Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri) is an orange giant star in the constellation Taurus that is frequently featured in works of science fiction (see size comparison). It is classified as a type K5III star, with the corresponding suggestion that it has a stable habitable zone and is well suited for life. There have been claims by astronomers using radial velocity measurements that Aldebaran hosts a planetary system with at least one substellar companion, but none of these has been confirmed as of 2013. Aldebaran is a popular subject for ancient myths in multiple cultures (Inuit, Mexican, Native American) and, in more recent times, the mythologizing of science fiction.
General uses of Aldebaran
Aldebaran may be referred to in fictional works for its metaphorical (meta) or mythological (myth) associations, or else as a bright point of light in the sky of the Earth, but not as a location in space or the center of a planetary system:
- Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), novel by Thomas Hardy. Aldebaran makes several appearances in this book, first as a companion of other prominent stars (The kingly brilliancy of Sirius pierced the eye with a steely glitter, the star called Capella was yellow, Aldebaran and Betelgeuse shone with a fiery red.), then as the follower of the Pleiades (The Dog Star and Aldebaran, pointing to the restless Pleiades...). (sky)
- Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), novel by Thomas Hardy. Tess sits with her new husband Angel before the embers of a fire, and her jewelry sparkles in its crimson glare: Tess's face and neck reflected the ... warmth, with each gem turned into an Aldebaran or a Sirius—a constellation of red, white, and green flashes, that interchanged their hues with her every pulsation. (compare Sirius and Aldebaran in Far from the Madding Crowd above) (meta)
- Ulysses (1922), novel by James Joyce. In the novel, protagonist Leopold Bloom is engaging in a convoluted exchange of seeming non sequiturs with his friends, in the course of which he declaims a poem that appears to be assembled from abbreviations and Latinisms from a medical prescription. Chris Callinan responds to that with, "What is the parallax of the subsolar ecliptic of Aldebaran?" and Bloom replies "Pleased to hear from you, Chris. K. II." (meta, sky)
- Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), semi-autobiographical novel by George Orwell. In the novel's second half, Orwell describes the life of a vagrant in and around London. One of his acquaintances is the pavement artist Bozo who, despite his reduced condition, has a literary education and an interest in astronomy scholarship. The novel's narrator describes a walk they take together: [Bozo] fell silent for a minute or two, and to my surprise I saw that he was looking at the stars. He touched my arm and pointed to the sky with his stick. "Say, will you look at Aldebaran. Look at the color. Like a great blood orange!" From the way he spoke he might have been an art critic in a picture gallery. I was astonished. I confessed that I did not know which Aldebaran was—indeed, I had never even noticed that the stars were of different colors ... (sky)
- The Lord of the Rings (1954–1955), fantasy epic written by J. R. R. Tolkien. Frodo, Sam, and Pippin are beginning their great journey, still in the Shire and already shadowed by Black Riders, when they take refuge for a night with the elf Gildor and his companions. On that night, ... high in the East swung Remmirath, the Netted Stars, and slowly above the mists red Borgil rose, glowing like a jewel of fire. Then by some shift of airs all the mist was drawn away like a veil, and there leaned up, as he climbed over the rim of the world, the Swordsman of the Sky, Menelvagor with his shining belt. Borgil, which follows Remirrath (the Pleiades) and precedes Menelvagor (Orion) has been convincingly identified as Aldebaran. The Tolkienian goddess of light Varda made the stars and the constellations, including those described here, in preparation for the awakening of the elves. (myth, sky)
There follow references to Aldebaran as a location in space or the center of a planetary system, categorized by genre:
- The Cthulhu Mythos (1921- ), fictional universe created by H. P. Lovecraft et al. Hastur is a fictional entity in the Mythos, ambiguously referred to as a place, an object, or a deity, and developed into a Great Old One by August Derleth. Robert W. Chambers uses Hastur to represent both a person and a place associated with the names of several stars, including Aldebaran: more particularly, Hastur inhabits the shores of Lake Hali on a planet circling a dark star near Aldebaran.
- Lensman series (1934–48), novels by E. E. "Doc" Smith. The Lensman series takes place over a vast sweep of space and on many different worlds. These include the planets Aldebaran I, occupied by the Wheelmen, and the scene of Kimball Kinnison's first major injury requiring hospitalization (leading to his first meeting with Clarrissa MacDougall), and Aldebaran II, one of the first human-settled planets, and the scene of several of Kinnison's adventures. Smith's work is strongly identified with the beginnings of US pulp science fiction as a separate marketing genre, and did much to define its essential territory, galactic space, featuring many planets such as those orbiting Aldebaran. The Lensman series is considered far superior to Smith's Skylark series.
- The Starmen (1952), novel by Leigh Brackett. Llyrdis, the fourth planet of Aldebaran, is the home of the starfaring Vardda. The novel is a space opera in which the Vardda are the only race that is able to endure the rigors of interstellar travel. Boucher and McComas gave the novel a lukewarm review, describing it as "an able job of writing a completely routine and uncreative space opera." The book, a prime example of the midcentury shift in science fiction authors' attention away from planets in our own Solar System to worlds in orbit around other stars, pales in comparison to Brackett's best single work of the same period, The Long Tomorrow.
- The Stars My Destination (1956), classic science fiction novel (titled Tiger! Tiger! in the UK) written by Alfred Bester. After his apotheosis in the burning cathedral, the legendary Gully Foyle teleports stark naked to the vicinity of several stars, including Aldebaran: "Aldebaran in Taurus, a monstrous red star of a pair of stars whose sixteen planets wove high velocity ellipses around their gyrating parents." The interstellar "jaunting" sequence is typical of Bester's signature pyrotechnics, his quick successions of hard, bright images, and mingled images of decay and new life.
- "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" (1960), short story by Mack Reynolds, published in Amazing Stories. So, a couple of aliens walk into a bar... Conversation ensues. "I felt your mind probe back a few minutes ago ... Telepathy is a sense not trained by the humanoids. If they had it, your job—and mine—would be considerably more difficult. Let's face it, in spite of these human bodies we're disguised in, neither of us is humanoid. Where are you really from, Rupert?"/ "Aldebaran," I said. "How about you?"/ "Deneb," he told me, shaking. We had a laugh and ordered another beer. "What're you doing here on Earth?" I asked him./ "Researching for one of our meat trusts. We're protein eaters. Humanoid flesh is considered quite a delicacy. How about you?"/ "Scouting the place for thrill tourists. My job is to go around to these backward cultures and help stir up inter-tribal, or international, conflicts—all according to how advanced they are."
- The Lathe of Heaven (1971), novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. Protagonist George Orr, in an alternate-reality Oregon, is an effective dreamer: his dreams have the power to alter reality. Under the guidance of Svengali-like sleep researcher William Haber, he dreams into existence a series of increasingly intolerable alternate worlds: dreaming for "world peace," he creates an alien invasion of Earth's lunar colony Moondome (uniting humanity against the threat). The attackers are "natives of a methane-atmosphere planet of the star Aldebaran, [and] had to wear their outlandish turtle-like suits perpetually on Earth or the Moon, but they didn't seem to mind." In the 2008 Prentice paperback, the flying turtle-aliens and their Tauran homeworld are imagined in cover art by Timothy Goodman. Like all of Le Guin's work, Lathe is shaped around a recurrent motif—in this case the balance of the archetypal symbols of arrogance and submission.
- The Forever War (1974), novel written by Joe Haldeman. Protagonist William Mandella joins an elite task force assigned to counterattack the invading Taurans. The new soldiers depart for action, traveling via wormhole-like phenomena called "collapsars" that allow ships to cover thousands of light-years in a split second. In an expository section, Mandella explains the collapsar mechanism, as well as the derivation of the name adopted by humanity for the invaders: "This [initial unprovoked attack] happened near Aldebaran, in the constellation Taurus (see graphic), but since 'Aldebaranian' is a little hard to handle, they named the enemy 'Taurans'."
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979), novel by Douglas Adams. Aldebaran, which is noted for its fine wines and liqueurs, is a subject of the ditty: Aldebaran's great, okay, / Algol's pretty neat, / Betelgeuse's pretty girls / Will knock you off your feet. / They'll do anything you like / Real fast and then real slow, ...
- Narabedla Ltd. (1988), novel by Frederik Pohl. On a planet orbiting Aldebaran, Narabedla Ltd. (Narabedla being the retrogram of Aldebaran) is a corporation that is owned by aliens and run by their human agents. The protagonist, an accountant for various famous performers, discovers that many of his best clients are disappearing—after they sign mysterious contracts for prolonged, lucrative series of private engagements. It turns out that Narabedla is a corporate impresario for artists' tours that cater to alien venues on alien worlds. Curious, our accountant signs up...
- Aldébaran (1994–1998), series of comic books by Luiz Eduardo de Oliveira (as by Léo). The series is set mostly on the Earthlike and human-inhabited world Aldebaran IV, often referred to simply as Aldebaran.
- Blue Mars (1996), novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. Jackie Boone, the granddaughter of original Mars colonist John Boone, takes an interstellar vessel to "a star near Aldebaran, where a Mars-like planet rolled in an Earth-like orbit around a sun-like sun." Having terraformed most of the Solar System, humankind is now off to terraform the galaxy. Robinson writes that, at "several percent" of the speed of light, the trip to Aldebaran will take 20 years. Since Aldebaran is about 65 light years away, the voyage would actually need to be made at 95% of the speed of light in order for relativistic time dilation to reduce the subjective timespan to a single score of years.
- Fallen Dragon (2001), novel by Peter F. Hamilton. Not the pushovers they were imagined to be, the villagers of Artoon resist the soldiers of the rapacious Zantiu-Braun corporation with the use of hyperadvanced technology provided them by a dragon-like alien being. Protagonist Lawrence Newton, disillusioned with the life of the interstellar mercenary, deserts his unit and joins the villagers in hijacking a company starship to search out the red-giant home system of the dragons, saying, "I don't need a deal. I'm going to help you anyway." / "What do you mean?" [Denise] asked slowly. / "You want to take the dragon fragment to Aldebaran, right? The closest red giant, where all the real dragons are." Where they are indeed. When Denise and Lawrence arrive at the red star they quickly find millions of the kilometer scale dragons dwelling in deep space around Aldebaran.
- Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze (2010), novel by Keith Mansfield. In this second of the Johnny Mackintosh novels, Johnny's custom-built computer Kovac detects an extraterrestrial signal and he begins his adventures, leaving the Earth on a journey through time and space that takes him to a gas giant orbiting Aldebaran, where he falls through the deep atmosphere witnessing amazing creatures inspired by Carl Sagan’s TV series Cosmos.
Film and television
The items in this subsection all refer to works in the film, television, and print franchise originated by Gene Roddenberry.
- "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (1966), second pilot episode of Star Trek: The Original Series written by Samuel A. Peeples. In this episode, ship's psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, who came aboard the Enterprise in 2265 from the Aldebaran colony to study the long-term effects of space travel on the crew, is flirtatiously approached by the powerful—and dangerous—telepath Gary Mitchell. She rebuffs him only to overhear him call her a "walking freezer unit." (For a contrasting perspective on Mitchell's views about women see "nova.")
- "Amok Time" (1967), episode of Star Trek: The Original Series written by Theodore Sturgeon. Suffering through his first infliction of pon farr, the Vulcan biological mating urge, Spock must return to Vulcan to marry his betrothed or he will perish—and certain complications at the ceremony pitch him against Captain Kirk in a ritual "fight to the death." Spock's failure to disclose this potential disaster, and his general reticence about pon farr, lead Dr. McCoy to call him "as tight-lipped as an Aldebaran shellmouth," a reference with a clear enough meaning.
- "Hide and Q" (1987), episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation written by C J Holland and Gene Roddenberry. The Aldebaran serpent is a reptilian lifeform native to the Aldebaran system. It has three semi-transparent cobra-like heads extending from a brilliantly glowing sphere hovering above the ground, surrounded by lights. Q, a powerful but untrustworthy entity from a race of omnipotent, godlike beings also known as The Q, briefly assumes the form of an Aldebaran serpent when he introduces himself on a visit to the USS Enterprise-D in 2364.
- "Relics" (1992), episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation written by Ronald D. Moore. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, a Star Trek: TOS character who has been rescued in this TNG episode after 75 years of suspended animation on the surface of an immense Dyson Sphere, arrives in the Ten Forward lounge of the USS Enterprise-D and orders a drink of Scotch whisky. He is aghast when he tastes the drink, perceiving immediately that it is artificial, and not real Scotch. Data offers him a "real" alcoholic drink of Aldebaran whiskey from the personal supply of the mysterious bartender Guinan, which non-drinker Data cannot describe any better than by saying that "It is... it is... It is green." Scotty drinks most of the bottle.
- "Anomaly" (2003), episode of Star Trek: Enterprise written by Mike Sussman. Trip Tucker, chief engineer on the Enterprise, leads the pursuit of Osaarian pirates who have stolen weapons, food, and precious supplies from the ship. During the episode Tucker reports to sickbay with an injury, where he is offered a treatment that uses Aldebaran mud leeches. The regimen requires the placement of the creatures on the chest and abdomen, and that the patient sleep supine to avoid angering them. Tucker declines the treatment.
Other film and television
- "The Plot to Kill a City" (1979), episodes 106 and 107 in the television series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century written by Alan Brennert and directed by Dick Lowry. After capturing Raphael Argus, a notorious assassin, Buck learns that the killer is to attend a conclave of terrorists on the planet Aldebaran II. Buck assumes his identity, visits the Aldebaran system, discovers a plot to destroy New Chicago, is himself discovered, and manages to get back to Earth to foil the conspiracy.
- The Lathe of Heaven (1980), PBS television film based on the Ursula K. Le Guin novel The Lathe of Heaven (see Literature section above), film written by Diane English and Roger Swaybill and directed by David Loxton and Fred Barzyk. With Ed Emshwiller on board as its visual consultant, the movie made innovative use of existing reality (futuristic high-rises in Dallas, for instance) to produce a striking "future reality" on a budget of only $250,000. For a number of years it stood as the best science fiction television film ever made.
- Lathe of Heaven (2002), A&E television film based on the Ursula K. Le Guin novel The Lathe of Heaven (see Literature section above), film written by Alan Sharp and directed by Philip Haas. Unlike the 1980 PBS version, this remake discards a significant portion of the plot, some minor characters, and much of the philosophical underpinning of the original novel.
- Star Control (1990), the first of three computer games (Star Control, Star Control II, and Star Control 3) developed by Toys for Bob and published by Accolade. Alpha Tauri (another name for Aldebaran) is the homeworld of the Ilwrath, an arachnoid species that styles themselves as being supremely evil.
- Frontier: Elite II (1993) and Frontier: First Encounters (1995), computer games written by David Braben et al. Aldebaran is a distant, uninhabited system.
- FreeSpace 2 (1999), combat simulation computer game designed by Dave Baranec et al, and published by Volition, Inc.. The game continues on the story from Descent: FreeSpace – The Great War, once again thrusting the player into the role of a pilot fighting against the mysterious aliens, the Shivans. The earlier war of the Galactic Terran Alliance against the alien Parliamentary Vasudan Empire was interrupted by the appearance of the enigmatic and militant Shivans, who began slaughtering Terrans and Vasudans alike, causing them to form the Galactic Terran Vasudan Alliance in response. After the FreeSpace 2 defeat of the Shivans near the Gamma Draconis jump node in Capella, the Vasudan Government is moved from its crippled homeword to the Aldebaran star system.
- Escape Velocity Nova (2002), computer game developed and published by Ambrosia Software. The planet Merrol in the Aldebaran system is officially controlled by the Federation but it is constantly torn apart by open rebellion and rampant piracy.
For a list containing many stars and planetary systems that have a less extensive list of references, see Stars and planetary systems in fiction.
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