Planet of Peril Alien scientists invent a time machine and use it to trace their roots.

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Aug 4, 2018 No Comments ›› admin

By Lynn Woolley

Editor’s note: This tightly plotted little tale about the origin of civilization was originally presented in two parts – no doubt to spur orders for the next issue of the fanzine. Part I is from The Symbol #8, March 1967. Part II is from issue #9 dated May 1967. The first twist ending is predictable. See if you can guess the second one.


It is the year 3301 on a far distant planet called Zena. A small group of scientist has assembled to unveil a machine that took years in the making. It is called a “Space-Time Displacer.” With such a machine, one can travel anywhere, and arrive at any time he pleases in a matter of seconds.

As we move in closer, we can hear the scientists talking.

When I wrote this story in 1967 at age 17, I had never heard of a book by the same name. Planet of Peril (1st Ed) by Otis Adelbert Kline 1929

“Long have we wondered why the planet Xenon is barren, when our instruments and telescopes tell us it could sustain life. Now is our chance to travel back in space and time to learn the answer.”

Without further ado, several of the alien men entered the capsule, and mighty engines hummed and throbbed. Suddenly, the Displacer blurred red, and then slowly faded from sight. The controls were set for planet Xenon – in the year 1986. To their astonishment, the men of Zena discovered a vastly populated planet – almost 4 billion people; not the barren, lifeless mass they were accustomed to viewing through their telescopes. However, the planet was too lively.

Two of the major countries had declared war, and soon, the whole planet was riddled with explosions and death. The Zenan scientists watched as a major power prepared to drop an atom bomb. They knew that it must be this bomb that was destined to wipe out the population on Xenon. The alien men called out to warn the officials of the country what would happen if the bomb were dropped. But no one seemed to hear.

The Space-Time Displacer had a grave side effect. It rendered the user an invisible, helpless phantom.

Regretfully, the aliens watched as the country sent up the missile of destiny. The bomb was designed to wipe out only one country, but when it was dropped, it set off other bombs causing a deadly chain reaction, which soon reached a climax, destroying all life on Xenon.

The alien scientists, preparing to return home, turned to each other and said: “Now we know why this planet sustains no life in our time. The people destroyed themselves with atomic energy – the same force that could have done much good. Yes, what fools lived on the planet Xenon, or EARTH, as the natives called it.”


(Last issue, a small group of scientists from the sparsely populated planet of Zena has discovered how to make a “Space-Time Displacer” and they decided to travel back in time to learn why the planet Xenon was barren. They set the controls for planet Xenon and what would be the equivalent of 1986. When they arrived, the found that the Xenonites had waged an atomic war and destroyed themselves. Later, we found that Xenon was just another name for our Earth! Now let us rejoin the Zenan scientist as they prepare to embark homeward…)

As they prepare the controls of the Space-Time Displacer, the scientists began to talk among themselves.

“Jer-bel, lest we ever declare war on one another, let us remember what fools the Earthlings have been,” said one of the men.

“True,” said Jam-bon. “ What a pity the race has become completely extinct.

Part II of this story appeared in my fanzine, The Symbol, #9 (May 1967). Captain America and the Red Skull illustration by Gary Lancaster (c) Marvel Entertainment.

Another one of the scientist proposed that before they embarked homeward, they should try to solve another mystery. “We Zenans are so very few in number and we have no lengthy historical record. Why do we not try to find out from whence we have come?” This was immediately approved by the rest, and so they prepared to do so.

Now recorded history was common on Zena as far back as a certain era, but before that, no one knew what had occurred, or how the Zenan race had come to be. They set the controls for planet Zena, about ten years before their recorded history had been known to begin. Since a mystic side effect of the Displacer rendered the Zenans helpless phantoms, they could only observe without being seen.

Luck was with them as they materialized in the different age, because a spaceship was proceeding to land on the surface of Zena just as they arrived. The ship looked familiar but they couldn’t remember where they had seen it before.

The Zenans watched invisibly as the crew and passengers of the just-landed rocket ship filed out onto the planet’s surface. They kept asking each other questions such as, “Who am I” and “Where am I?” so that finally it was decided that they must have passed through some space cloud that erased their memories.

“These must be our very first ancestors,” commented Jam-bon. “I wonder where they are from.”
Jer-bel volunteered to enter the rocket to search for evidence to find out where the ancestors were from. When he returned, he had a funny look on his face.

“The year is still 1986,” he said. “These people — our ancestors – are Earthlings.”

“Then we, ourselves, are in truth, Earthlings, and we didn’t know it until now due to the fact that their memories were wiped out,” said another.

Jam-bon laughed and said, “Maybe those Earthlings weren’t such fools after all.”


© 2018 by Lynn Woolley. All rights reserved.

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