Predators and living balloons (gasbags ?)

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Predators and living balloons (gasbags ?)

Postby voralfred » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:48 am

I read this many years ago. It is rather short fiction, maybe a novelette rather than a "short story", but probably not a novella.
It takes place on a planet with two sentient species, one a wolf-like predator, the other a balloon-shaped creature, that mostly floats in the air, but apparently has to get close to the ground to feed. There are at least two landmasses, (two continents, or two islands, or one of each ?) the predators cannot swim from one to the other, but the balloons can fly.
There are also humans on this planet, either a scientific expedition, or maybe a kind of trade post, but I don't think there are colonists.
Normally the predators eat small, non sentient animals. But when a "balloon" dies and falls on the ground, predators, in particular pregnant females, eat the corpses.

Now at some point the "balloons" instead of dying where they lived, decide for some unknown reason (the humans call it "a new Tao" if I remember well - the word was so characteristic, I really think that was it, even many years after) to fly to the other landmass when they feel their life is ending.
And this angers the predators. They notice many of their cubs are stillborn, and accuse the balloons to carry away their cub's souls when they leave the landmass (or something like that). So in retaliation they start attacking live balloons whenever they have a chance.
This distresses the humans, who are very "humane". So they investigate the reason of the stillbirths, and realize the landmass is very poor in some mineral or other, but that the balloons still manage to concentrate this mineral in their bodies. As long as the corpses fell on the ground, eating them provided the pregnant female predators with enough of it for the cubs to survive. But with the "new Tao", they had to resort to attacking live balloons to get the needed supply.
Once this is understood, the humans prepare food supplements for the predators, and peace between the two species is restored, while the balloons can still follow their "new Tao"

RIngs a bell ?

I called them "balloons", but "gasbags" might be more appropriate.
In TV tropes there is a page for gasbags, but I did not find these ones on that page (though, for the satisfaction of all the admirers of our resident writer LMB, it does mention the vampire balloons of Sergyar)

Another possible help: this story somehow reminds me of Nick van Rijn and the Polesotechnic League, but I checked my copy of "Traders to the Stars" and it is not one of the three stories there. And I don't own any other book of this series (but I might have read one, long ago).
Human is as human does....Animals don't weep, Nine

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Re: Predators and living balloons (gasbags ?)

Postby clong » Sat Apr 07, 2018 8:00 am

Any of these sound like possibilities?:

Gregory Benford's The Sunborn has strange alien gasbags discovered on Pluto, which show signs of intelligence.

Interstellar Pig by William Sleator has a gas-filled flying octopus.

The Leeshore by Robert Reed takes place on a planet completely surrounded by biological gas bags so densely that sunlight almost never reaches the surface - the only sunlight is around the only settlement's decrepit Space Elevator, as its point defenses blast any approaching gas bags.

David Brin has used this more than once:

In the Uplift series, the Bahtwin were uplifted from a lighter-than-air gasbag species that floated in their homeworld's atmosphere.
Glory Season has the zoor, flying jellyfish-like creatures which range from twenty meters up. Sailors like to tie ribbons and messages to their tentacles, and the larger ones can lift a child.

The Gaea Trilogy has the Blimps, floating sapient creatures which live inside of the Living Planet Titan, and often serve as a means of transportation. The one known as Whistlestop gives our heroes a ride in the first book.

In The Red Tape War, one of the three beings named Millard Fillmore Pierce is a sapient floating gasbag who is checking out our universe with an eye towards invasion.

Arthur C. Clarke's had a couple of examples:

2010: The Year We Make Contact (the second book of The Space Odyssey Series), had the noncorporeal Bowman journeying down through the Jovian atmosphere, where he sees gigantic non-sentient living beings in various geometric shapes floating through the clouds and consuming similar smaller creatures.

The story "Meeting with Medusa" featured the discovery of a miles-long jellyfish-like creature floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter. (In biology, medusa is a term applied to certain forms of jellyfish.)

Medea: Harlan's World. One of the alien races created for Harlan Ellison's shared world project Medea was a gasbag filled with hydrogen that could float through the air.
Expedition by Wayne Barlowe, and the Speculative Documentary based on it, Alien Planet, feature the many alien species which float above the ground in Darwin IV. One example is the almost-sapient Eosapien.

In the Star Wars Expanded Universe Beldons native to Bespin floated in the gas giant's upper atmosphere and produced Tibanna gas.

Robert A. Heinlein's Starman Jones. The floating gasbag aliens (which the humans call "hobgoblin balloons") are used by the centaur aliens as spies. They are capable of moving on their own, not just drifting on the wind.

For once Warhammer 40,000 supplies an example that isn't Trying to Kill You. An offhand remark in Ciaphas Cain: Death or Glory mentions skywhales, which the accompanying footnote explains as a creature from Blease's World that lives on airborne pollen and produces hydrogen gas as a byproduct of its metabolism. The creatures are quite placid and the planet's human inhabitants have domesticated several subspecies to turn them into Zeppelins from Another World.

Several planets from the Humanx Commonwealth novels have animals like these.

The H'rulka in the Star Carrier series by Ian Douglas are a race of colony organisms (think Portuguese man o' war) that live in the upper atmospheres of hydrogen/helium gas giants. The colonies form floating organisms upwards of 200 meters long.

The Affront from The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks.

The Huxleys in Leviathan are floating jellyfish-creatures used for (slow) transport and scouting missions. So, who's up for being hoisted aloft by a living weather-balloon that vents its gas when frightened?

In Cryptozoologicon Volume 1, the mysterious "Flying Rods" sometimes seen in photos and videos (actually just badly exposed moths) are imagined as "workers" for a floating Hive Queen resembling a transparent living blimp who lives her entire life hidden in the clouds.

Shards of Honor opens with a survey of a newly-found planet among whose fauna are a particularly vivid (and gruesome) species of air-jellyfish. They land on herbivores and suck their blood, their transparent envelopes looking like wine-glasses as they fill up. Since they float using hydrogen, the protagonists are also able to use one as an improvised bomb.

Some of the monsters in The Horror Of The Heights by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, where a luckless aviator stumbles onto a whole high-atmosphere ecosystem of diaphanous floating organisms, are similar to giant jellies.

Ares magazine #2 article "An Exozoological Sampler". The Baloonalo is a 100 meter wide spherical alien creature that lives in the atmosphere of a gas giant planet. It creates, heats and stores hydrogen inside itself to provide buoyancy.

Larklight: Jupiter is home to a number of such beings, including floating pig-like creatures domesticated as essentially floating algae scrubbers to keep homes clean and gigantic air whales, which resemble hydrogen-filled, multi-eyed living blimps far more than they do actual cetaceans.
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Re: Predators and living balloons (gasbags ?)

Postby clong » Sat Apr 07, 2018 8:03 am

Also I found a suggestion that one of Jack Vances short Magnus Ridolph novels may have included such an alien, but I can't figure out which one...
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Re: Predators and living balloons (gasbags ?)

Postby voralfred » Mon Apr 09, 2018 1:25 am

Well, you just copied-and-pasted the page of TV tropes I had already perused.
There are also "regular" predators living on the ground of the planet, which is clearly not a Jovian-type one, eliminating a large fraction of these proposals.
Nothing in my memory looks at all like David Brin's Uplift series
Nor are the gasbags created by human technology: they are a puzzle for the humans who reached this planet. The puzzle was partially solved (they concentrate some rare substance in their body) but not fully (why did they recently choose to move to the other landmass before dying?) So any story where the humans use them cannot be it.
I did say they are not LMB's balloon vampires in Shards of Honor.

In fact I was hoping that someone would just remember this particular story, considering I did give a lot of details.
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Re: Predators and living balloons (gasbags ?)

Postby voralfred » Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:48 pm

I wonder if the floating creatures are not a false memory, influenced by LMB's "vampire balloons" in "Shards of Honor" and in "The Red Queen".
After all, they could just have been regular "heavier-than-air" flying creatures, bird-like, bat-like, dragon-like, whatever, who decided to fly away from the landmass they lived on when they were feeling the approach of death (thus depriving the predators of the vital rare elements they had accumulated in their bodies, which were previously recycled by eating the corpses of dead "flyers")
Does this amended version ring a bell ?
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