The Impossible Planet

You know that scene at the end of the 1968 Planet of the Apes (the first of the Charlton Heston ones) where he’s riding along the beach and suddenly yells “Damn them all to Hell”? Yeah, that bit – that’s what I thought about when I got to the end of this story. And then I felt really sad for the future of humanity, which isn’t something I ordinarily do when I read Philip Dick short stories. It just felt very poignant.

The plot is quite simple; Earth has been consigned to myth by virtually everyone. Only a three hundred and fifty year old lady who grew up on stories told by her grandfather, who was born there, believes it exists. And she wants to go there. In desperation – and to pocket the inordinate amount of money she is prepared to pay – two space pilots pick a planet of similar description (i.e. third rock from a star) and take her there, telling her it’s Earth.

This made me recall something I often wondered when I was younger; assuming that there is life out there, what do they call our Sun? Do they have another name for our planet? Is it possible that at some point in the future, humanity will have spread throughout the universe and Earth may be forgotten? Big ideas, but that’s what Philip K Dick was all about.

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