I'm looking for what I think was a short story about astronauts visiting Mercury and discovering Spiderlike creatures that lived there. I think it was something I read as a young teen in the early 1990 when I would have been reading a lot of Asimov.

The aliens lived in the Terminator zone, between the too hot sunward side and too cold outwards facing side. I think in the story this was a permanent zone, suggesting the author thought the planet was tidally locked to the sun, which looks to have been the mainstream thinking pre-1965.

Prompted by comments, the aliens were not intelligent as far as I remember I do not recall any reference to tools or clothes and were dangerous rather than friendly.

Unfortunately I don't remember anything else concrete. I think the story was connected to a number of other stories set on other planets in the solar system, but that's more of a feeling than anything else.

  • 2
    Hmm. Any pre-1965 story would have a tidally locked Mercury, and most any sci-fi story would have native life, which would naturally inhabit the Twilight Zone. So the only detail to differentiate your story from all the other old Mercury stories is "spiderlike". That may be enough to narrow it down. Offhand I know of one story with astronauts on Mercury, in the Twilight Zone, dealing with "insectoidal" natives. Is insectoidal close enough, or were they definitely spiderlike? (Yeah, I know, spiders aren't insects.)
    – user14111
    Jun 22, 2019 at 22:25
  • 3
    I was thinking of Poul Anderson's "Life Cycle"; astronauts in the Twilight Zone of tide-locked Mercury, but the natives are insectoidal, not at all spiderlike: "The nearest guard hefted her spear and swiveled antennae in their direction...She stood six feet tall. Broad as a spacesuited man, her exoskeleton shimmering blue, her head featureless except for the glassy eyes. With four three-fingered arms, tightly curled ovipositor, and sliding joints of armor, she looked like a nightmare insect."
    – user14111
    Jun 23, 2019 at 0:53
  • Do you remember any particular reason the astronauts were visiting Mercury? You mentioned that the story may have been connected with other stories about other planets. If so, was there a common theme of why the astronauts were visiting the other planets in addition to Mercury? That kind of plot detail might help narrow things down.
    – beichst
    Jun 23, 2019 at 15:53
  • @beichst I am afraid not. It is a very sketchy memory in the first place.
    – Jontia
    Jun 23, 2019 at 18:02
  • was this a standalone or a part of a full length novel, I think there was a scene like this in a book i read recently, possibly one of the Xeelee novels
    – mgh42
    Jun 24, 2019 at 2:37

3 Answers 3


This could be Arthur C. Clarke's novel Islands in the Sky, published in 1952. The main plot concerns a boy's trip to the Inner Station, which he lawyers his way into when his prize for winning an aviation quiz is a trip to "any part of the Earth" as opposed to "any place on Earth".

The spiderlike Mercurians were described in a story within the story narrated by a character who had lost both of his legs to frostbite - an injury which he didn't consider to be a serious disabilty for someone living in zero gravity.

The Mercurians didn't live in the terminator zone - they lived on the night side - but the terminator zone was indeed the only place on Mercury where the explorers initially believed that life would be possible. They had eight legs, but only extended four of them at any time - the character narrating the story explains this trait as "When a Mercurian gets cold feet, it just starts using another set". The Mercurians became hostile when approached too closely and threw rocks at the explorers - one rock struck the leg of the narrator's spacesuit and damaged its heating system, thus causing the frostbite that cost the narrator both his legs.

  • 1
    You can read the whole book at the Internet Archive. The critter is definitely spiderlike.
    – user14111
    Jun 24, 2019 at 12:20
  • Described at p.144 in the link. Definitely a good candidate. Jun 24, 2019 at 17:02
  • I am pretty sure this is the one. The story in a story might be why I thought it was just a short story.
    – Jontia
    Jun 25, 2019 at 5:25

Bit of a stretch, but...

In Asimov's "Lucky Star and the Big Sun of Mercury" Lucky's sidekick Bigman is attacked by a Mercurian organism described as "a stony octopus composed of nothing but tentacles."

The creatures were indeed "creeping over rocks stalking the astronauts." The scene takes place in a mine.

Ironically for Mercury organisms, they seek heat!

Maybe you remembered the stone octopi as spiderlike?


  • Asimov
  • Mercury
  • Tide-locked Mercury
  • Nonintelligent hostile organisms
  • Multi-limbed
  • One book in a series taking place throughout the Solar System


  • A novel, not a short story
  • Described as octopi, not spiders
  • 1
    Definitely some good pros. I will check it out.
    – Jontia
    Jun 23, 2019 at 18:04
  • @Jontia If you get hold of a copy, it's in Chapter 9 "Dark and Light". Jun 23, 2019 at 18:07

Your description reminds me of a Steven Baxter story within a story,I think it was in Proxima by Steven Baxter

I don't have a copy on hand to check the actual text, but from one of the reviews on goodreads:

we're actually explorers making it to a nearby dwarf star, Proxima, and settling upon a tidally-locked planet with very interesting alien life, and just below the surface, there's some rather interesting things going on. You know, like stargates and stuff. And let's not forget what we found on Mercury!

  • Are there spiderlike natives on Mercury or the Proxima planet?
    – user14111
    Jun 24, 2019 at 3:42
  • I think it was on mercury, humans were there to mine the ice, and there was intelligent life of a sort living in the near absolute zero temps, one of the aliens was stalking towards the unaware human and ends up dying due to the body heat given off, but the human finds the aliens body and they stop the mining
    – mgh42
    Jun 24, 2019 at 3:45
  • There are lots of stories about life on Mercury, not to mention other tide-locked planets. As far as I can see, the only detail that might distinguish the story this question is asking about from all those other Mercury stories is the adjective spiderlike. So, were Baxter's Mercurians spiderlike? If they were, that's an important point which you should mention in your answer.
    – user14111
    Jun 24, 2019 at 4:02
  • I remember them as being described as spider-like, it's more the importance of the temperature that reminded me of the baxter story, will look up my copy when I get home tonight to confirm details
    – mgh42
    Jun 24, 2019 at 4:28
  • 1
    turns out it was the wrong Stephen Baxter book I was looking through, it was actually Vacuum Diagrams and the story was called The Sun People which was published as a short story in 1993
    – mgh42
    Jun 25, 2019 at 22:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.