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I think this story is at least 40 or 50 years old as I mainly read classic SF when I was a teenager. All I can remember about it is some explorers or soldiers were exploring an enormous seemingly endless featureless plain that starts as a gentle slope and then gets steeper and steeper over the days. I can't remember anything about the characters, or how the story ends. I just remember the creepiness of the featureless slope getting steeper and steeper.

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  • I remember a story like this. Does it turn out to be a predator's trap or maw?
    – Mary
    Sep 13, 2020 at 22:03
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    It also reminds me of Inverted World, but the word "featureless" doesn't fit. Sep 14, 2020 at 9:17

3 Answers 3

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Mouth of Hell by David I. Masson

The explorers on the new planet find a deep hole in the planet's surface. It starts as a gentle slope but gets steeper and steeper. They only manage to get a couple of kilometres down before the atmospheric pressure becomes too much to stand.

A few years later a specially build aircraft tries to find the bottom, but cannot quite make it. Radar says the bottom is forty two kilometres below the planet's surface.

Thirty years later the bottom is reached, and ... but that would be a spoiler.

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    Feel free to use spoiler formatting to include spoilers, they will be hidden by default and only revealed if the user explicitly asks for it. Sep 14, 2020 at 8:45
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    While the use of spoiler formatting would help get a more complete answer, I find it's much better with a cliffhanger, because it made me instantly want to read the story! Sep 14, 2020 at 13:04
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    I was already a David I. Masson fan based on one story, but now I am so all the more and think he must be the master of nonlinear gradients. Sep 14, 2020 at 13:50
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    Text online here. Sep 14, 2020 at 15:16
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    @Valorum: I've just read it and now I know what you mean. I think this story exemplifies what they mean over on Writing when they tell you that worldbuilding alone doesn't make a story ;) Sep 15, 2020 at 20:30
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While it is a bit of a long shot, there are some overlapping features with "The Inverted World" by Christopher Priest.

Since you remember so little, perhaps, some of the details you remember are in fact a bit different. So:

I think this story is at least 40 or 50 years old as I mainly read classic SF when I was a teenager.

Published in 1974, and a SF classic.

some explorers or soldiers were exploring

The main protagonist is at some point an explorer, charting the terrain ahead and some time behind the moving city he is from.

an enormous seemingly endless featureless plain that starts as a gentle slope and then gets steeper and steeper over the days.

The terrain is not a featureless plain, however, as the explorer moves further away from the city, he experiences strange physical phenomena, among other things, the terrain is sloping steeper and steeper, until at some point he sees before him (as far as I remember) an endless vertical wall of terrain disappearing topside.

I just remember the creepiness of the featureless slope getting steeper and steeper.

I don't have quotes, but the descriptions deal a lot with the physical weirdness of the world.

I don't want to reveal spoilers, but the world in question appears to be

not a spheroid, but a tractricoid

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  • 1
    On the depicted tractricoid, where exactly do you have a slope that gets increasingly steep? Sep 15, 2020 at 20:19
  • @O.R.Mapper the plot section of the Wikipedia entry shows the idea of the world, I think better than I can describe it here.
    – Gnudiff
    Sep 15, 2020 at 21:16
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I sounds a bit like "Rendezvous with Rama" from Arthur C Clarke.

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    Welcome to SciFi.SE! Can you explain how it matches the description given in the question? It would help OP to judge whether this is the correct story or not.
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 14, 2020 at 14:34
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    The slope in Rama gets gradually shallower until it's entirely horizontal, and there are plenty of features (ladders, staircases, landings, etc.).
    – Mark
    Sep 14, 2020 at 22:25
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    Moreover, Rama was definitely not "on a planet" nor "seemingly endless".
    – JdeBP
    Sep 15, 2020 at 4:31

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