Under the overall topic of alien encounters, Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" was a fascinating and inventive sci-fi tale that appeared in the old magazines that were chucked into the recycler during the war years. Since I love the old science fiction pulps, I knew this was something I would enjoy.
Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" takes place on the red planet, barely explored with telescopes and populated by Burroughs with four-armed green tharks and Dejah Thoris. We see the use of a classic mythology idea to craft a story about life on Mars, this time as a strange trip through strange lands with even stranger beasts.
This was an adventure yarn about a group of explorers who landed on Mars to explore the planet. They've been acclimatized to the thin atmosphere so they could breathe without masks. Each specialist goes off to find whatever wonders are hidden over the next horizon. One man, the overall narrator named Jarvis, crash-landed his scout ship in an area populated by odd creatures. Once we got to the silicon creatures that built pyramids out of their poop I realized I read this back in the 1970's. Each creature that Jarvis met became weirder than the last. The first creature, Tweel, looked like an ostrich and was fighting with a tentacled monster and losing. Jarvis notices that Tweel has a case around his neck, so he pulls his blaster and treats the tentacled turtle-bat like it was Greedo in the original version on Star Wars.
Tweel, rescued and appreciative, sets off with his savior towards Jarvis' main landing site. Along the way, Jarvis was able to glean information from Tweel the Ostrich. Using only six or so words of English, Tweel was able to convey complex ideas and concepts to his human companion. I did like how this "other" was shown to be far smarter than the other humans gave him credit. Jarvis, as he recounts the story to his shipmates, repeats how intelligent the ostrich was several times when his fellow astronauts poke fun at Tweel's antics.
The science is dated, based on long-disproven theories and guesses about the other planets. Mars does have a thin atmosphere in Odyssey and the story was focused more on the characters (and creatures) rather than any real scientific accuracy.
Overall, I enjoyed this goofy story. The first thing I'd tell the Martians would be, "We are vrrrends...OUCH!"
"A Martian Odyssey" originally appeared in Hugo Gernsback's Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1934.
Auduster says re A Martian Odyssey: This is one of the most important short stories in the entire history of Genre SF, it is the first "Pulps as literature" story and a line can be drawn from this to Heinleins critically important early period... You can't just call AMO "Goofy".
Rancid_Pickle sez: I agree, it has an important pedigree and I'd like to thank Auduster for pointing out what this story represents. I still think it's also a goofy story because "poop pyramids".