Saturday, July 8, 2023

“The Dandelions of Tau Ceti f” • by Marcas McClellan


Planetfall on Tau Ceti f.

The air smells different than Earth’s. More earthy, more planty. Is planty even a word? I don’t know; but what I do know is that to be able to breathe something other than the canned air of the starship is a welcome relief.

There’s a reason for the ‘planty’, of course, in the twelve-foot stalks that surround us for as far as the eye can see. The scientists already have a Latin name for them. Taraxacum gigantous. Taraxacum is the Earth genus name for the dandelion. Imagine that?

But we colonists just call them dandelions. That’s what they look like. Big yellow flowers that turn into silver-white fluffballs as big as those hot air balloons at the Albuquerque Festival when they mature.

Mature. Now that’s something different altogether from Earth’s dandelions. When TCf’s dandelion heads reach a certain point they explode like popcorn and the individual seeds produce hydrogen internally. This lifts the seeds and carries them for dozens, sometimes hundreds of miles when the winds are right.

Most of the seeds never make it that far. As they travel, they build up a static charge and ignite the hydrogen, which incinerates the whole seed and the ashes tumble back to the planet, to enrich the soils.

Those few seeds that, through a combination of the right weather and humidity, actually make it back to planet and don’t manage to fall onto rock or bodies of water quickly spring roots and start the cycle all over again.

The dandelion dies after releasing its seeds and the stalk turns into a woody fibrous log that the lumber men and construction workers among us are already excited about. They say it can be harvested and milled into construction grade lumber.

Summer nights here, when it becomes too stifling to sleep inside my pod, I take my bedroll outside and lie in the grasses and watch the meteor showers, which are one order of spectacular. The other order of spectacular is the dandelion flares.

As I watch them I consider mankind’s future. Tau Ceti f isn’t going to be the only planet we colonize. After we mine the mountains and make our metals once again, in time, perhaps generations from now. we will watch the flares at night.

Those won’t be just the falling stars or the dandelion flares.

They will be the flares of rocket trails leaving this world, for other worlds. And the starwinds shall blow us across the galaxy.

My heart swells at the thought.



Marcas McClellan has been a longtime contributor to Stupefying Stories under a variety of pseudonyms. Ten years ago he got the cover of the now out-of-print issue #12 with his awesome old-school alien world sci-fi pulp adventure, “For the Love of a Grenitschee.” Most recently he appeared in issue #21 with a terrific hard-SF generation ship story with a very dark edge, “With Possum You Get Free Were-Fi.” Fittingly enough, he lives on top of an active volcano in Hawaii and spends a lot of time pondering the fate of mankind… when he isn’t playing Guild Wars 2.

His Twitter handle is @Grenitschee.

On a personal note, I’m really pleased that I had to dig into the archives to find the original artwork for the Grenitschee. We put together a really strong line-up for issue #12.

  • INDIGENE, by Lawrence Buentello
  • COTTAGE INDUSTRY, by Evan Dicken
  • THE ROBOT AGENDA, by Samantha Boyette
  • THE WRONG DOG, by Kyle Aisteach
  • THE MUSIC TEACHER,by Mark Niemann-Ross
  • THE LAST UNIT, by Judith Field

When you subscribe to Stupefying Stories, this is the kind of writing you’re supporting. Why not subscribe today?  


Made in DNA said...

A bit of hopepunk, perhaps, but I suppose it could be read with irony. Salah.

Karin Terebessy said...

I just adore plant based science fiction. Lovely extended metaphor. Dandelions hold a peculiar place in our hearts - so often maligned when there are alternatives but so often the first flower to bloom and the last one standing. Always so hopeful.

GuyStewart said...

Thoughtful AND beautifully written. Thank you!

Guy Stewart

Mark Keigley said...

Thanks, guys! :)