Pluto in Fiction

Pluto is everyone’s favorite dispossessed planet, but has it only been that way since the controversy? Hardly–given the amount of science fiction that’s chosen the mysteriously cold and distant solar system body as a setting. Here are some of the more famous examples of Pluto in science fiction. Feel free to mention your own in the comments!

Robert A Heinlein_Have Space Suit Will Travel_SCRIBNER_Ed Emshwiller 1

Have Space Suit, Will Travel

This young adult SF classic was written by Robert A. Heinlein in 1084. It was a Hugo nominee, and also won Sequoyah Children’s Book Award in 1961. It follows the misadventures of an aspiring young astronaut who takes seconds place in an advertising competition and wins a genuine, used spacesuit. Deciding to sell the suit to pay for college, he takes one last walk in it at night and is surprised to pick up a distress signal. Moments later he is whisked off into an adventure that takes him first to the moon and then, as a kidnapped prisoner, to Pluto, where the main action is set.

Pluto in this novel is portrayed as stunningly cold, and is being used as a base of operations for a malevolent alien race bent on destroying first Earth, and then the universe. Pluto makes a logical choice for this base as it is far enough removed from Earth to avoid observation but still located within the solar system, making quick raids possible without the need to travel between stars.

Doctor Who: The Sun Makers

The_Sun_Makers,_Doctor_Who,_1977The Sun Makers is a 1977 episode of Classic Doctor Who, first broadcasted in four parts. It features Tom Baker as the fourth doctor, with K9 and Leela as companions. It ranks #80 (Good Stories) on IO9’s list of all Doctor Who episodes and is generally popular with Whovian audiences both new and old.

The Doctor and Leela land on Pluto, surprised to discover it has become habitable. They discover this is through a system of false suns set up by a corporation known only as the Company. However, the Company has such high taxes that many of the citizens are driven to despair and suicide. Where there is a tyranny, however, there is also a resistance, and the Doctor soon gets drawn into their mechanization to overthrow the Company and make Pluto a free planet once more.

The World of Ptavvs

218463This 1966 SF classic was Larry Niven’s first published novel, and served to supply the worldbuilding for his “Known World” where the majority of his novels were later set. World of Ptavvs features a telepathic struggle between a human and the last surviving member of an alien race. What begins as a first contact story turns into a race to Neptune to recover the most dangerous weapon in the universe–a helmet that can mind-control all living things.

The race takes the characters to Neptune and then, eventually to Pluto where the conclusion of the story is set. The novel features a realistic depiction of Pluto, using its chemical make-up to trigger a planet-destroying explosion towards the end of the novel.

Katie Lynn Daniels is the author of Supervillain of the Day, and the mastermind behind Vaguely Circular. She blogs about science and things that are peripherally related to science. You can read all her posts here.



2 Responses to “Pluto in Fiction

  • The Martian Missile by David Grinnell (1959). Half of an Ace double novel. An Earthman gets involved in an interstellar war which reaches its conclusion on Pluto.

  • A short story by Larry Niven called “Wait It Out”. An astronaut is stranded on Pluto, decides to remove his helmet but doesn’t die. He becomes superconducting and continues to think only to “fall asleep” when warmed by the sun each rotation of the planet.

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