Mission of Gravity – NaBloPoMo 2010

Hal Clement made, alongside Clarke and Asimov, the triumvirate of “hard science” science-fiction writers; all three wrote during sci-fi’s “golden age” between 1940 and 1960, they all had science backgrounds, and all delighted in writing sci-fi that no matter how “out there”, was grounded in science (sometimes science yet-to-be-discovered) and the laws of physics.


Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement


Clement, who was a H.S. physics chemistry (thanks LT! ) and astronomy teacher in his ‘regular’ life, particularly enjoyed creating worlds that were quite alien and quite plausible at once.  he took pains to visualize and describe the worlds and inhabitants; he was a masterful world-builder.

one of Clement‘s most memorable world is Mesklin, the planet where Mission of Gravity is set;  Mesklin is a planet of immense  and varying gravity, it requires extreme adaptations by its inhabitants.  one of these inhabitants, Barlennan, is the protagonist of Mission of GravityBarlennan is the captain of a trading expedition who comes across alien explorers and agrees to help them recuperate a scientific probe lost near one of Mesklin‘s poles.

Clement wrote “A Whirligig World”, an essay that explains the physics of Mesklin, and its inhabitants; it was first published in the magazine Astounding, and it was included in every subsequent edition of Mission of Gravity.  it is a fine read on its own and a good introduction to the mechanics of world-building.


7 thoughts on “Mission of Gravity – NaBloPoMo 2010

  1. Ahem. Hal was a chemistry major/teacher, though he certainly knew his physics as well.

    All his books are worth reading.

    He was also a very, very sweet, unassuming guy.

  2. I got to shake his hand at a sci-fi convention years ago in Chicago. He was one of the nicest writers I’ve ever met: he really seemed happy to meet and talk with his fans, unlike a lot of guys who nowadays charge you $5-10 for their autographs.

    Sadly, I lost my signed copy of Mission of Gravity. My husband took it to read on one of his ski trips to Colorado and left it “somewhere.” I almost divorced him when he told me.

    • I’m glad to read Clement was a nice in person as I always thought he’d be. how could he not be? the “about the author” bit in Mission of Gravity, proudly notes that Clement “…is an eleven gallon donor to the Red Cross”.
      sorry about your book being lost. I hope it was treasured by another hiker who came across it. or by Sasquatch.

  3. I always liked how the houses on Mesklin had roofs made of fabric. That was because the weight of anything else would be deadly if it failed.

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