9

In Sci-Fi, there are quite a few 'planet eaters'; giant beings that consume/live off planets or similarly large celestial bodies. The ones I know of are:

  • Unicron from Transformers 1986
  • Galactus from Marvel Comics (Origin 1966)
  • The Blood Moons from Dead Space 3 (First in 2013)

And also possibly Ego the Living Planet (Marvel Comics) (Origin 1966).

I would like to know know what the first instance of a 'planet eater' is in the world of Sci-fi.

  • Something under here perhaps: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PlanetEater – DavidW May 1 at 22:03
  • Some of those really stretch the definition of "planet eating," confining it to stripping the planet of life, for instance. And they're not organized chronologically, so I put that out there for someone willing to wade through it. :) – DavidW May 1 at 22:10
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    Honorable Mention for the planet eater in the 1967 Star Trek: TOS episode "The Doomsday Machine". – Lexible May 2 at 6:48
18

1948: "Thang", a short short story (about one page) by Martin Gardner. According to Contento it was first published in the Fall 1948 issue of something called Comment.

The earth had completed another turn about the sun, whirling slowly and silently as it always whirled. The East had experienced a record breaking crop of yellow rice and yellow children, larger stockpiles of atomic weapons were accumulating in certain strategic centers, and the sages of the University of Chicago were uttering words of profound wisdom, when Thang reached down and picked up the Earth between his thumb and finger.

[. . . .]

He bit into it. It was soft and juicy, neither unpleasantly hot nor freezing to the tongue; and Thang, who always ate the entire planet, core and all, lay back contentedly, chewing slowly and permitting his thoughts to dwell idly on trivial matters, when he felt himself picked up suddenly by the back of the neck.

P.S. Douwe pointed out in a comment that the full text is available here.

  • This is the earliest example that popped into my mind as well. However, I remember that Gardner described the story as highly derivative in his introduction to it in The No-Sided Professor, so there may be earlier examples. – Buzz May 2 at 1:33
  • I will accept this answer in a few days unless some other answer pop up. Thank you! – James Douglas May 2 at 6:35
  • Far be it from me to disagree with racist descriptions from the 1940s, but there's no such crop as yellow rice nor anything that could easily be mistaken for it, certainly not before genetically engineered golden rice in 1982. – Adamant May 2 at 11:20
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    In its entirety here. – Douwe May 2 at 12:12
9

Can metaphors be science fiction?

I'm not sure when the earliest example of such imagery comes from, but many alchemical texts use the symbolism of a green lion eating the sun (and the sun seems to only look mildly concerned about it, if it even shows a reaction). Apparently, "[o]n a chemical level this is a metaphor for when a green, liquid sulfate called “vitriol” purifies matter, leaving behind the gold within the matter."

Here is an example from 1550:


From The Rosary of the Philosophers

It's also worth noting that mythology has even earlier examples:

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    I like this answer, but I don't think it counts as science fiction. Maybe fantasy though. – James Douglas May 2 at 6:35
  • I don't believe that answers based on religious or mythological texts are counted as sf or fantasy in this forum. – Klaus Æ. Mogensen May 2 at 9:11
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    @KlausÆ.Mogensen The green lion isn’t a religious thing. – Laurel May 2 at 9:32
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    I would say this doesn't fit because in most mythology there was no concept that the moon and the sun were bodies respectively the same scale as and vastly much larger than the Earth. Thus it was possible to visualize a serpent/dragon/whatever in the sky the same apparent scale as the sun. – DavidW May 2 at 14:09
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    @DavidW It’s hard to say actually for mythology. But even the uneducated could have realized that the sun and moon were much bigger than animals; birds fly upwards until they become invisible but never reach either body. As for the the green lion, much earlier than that the Greeks figured out that the sun was larger than the earth, although they still severely underestimated its size. – Laurel May 2 at 16:18

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