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Orbital photo of Lyr, an experimental world-model, over twice Earth's diameter, six times Earth's air pressure, and 15 times Earth's water. 95% of the surface is sea, 5% land. Orbital photo of Lyr, an experimental world-model, over twice Earth's diameter, six times Earth's air pressure, and 15 times Earth's water. 95% of the surface is sea, 5% land. LYR

by Chris Wayan, 2006

dedicated to Poul Anderson for his remarkable world-building
map - creatures - cultures - evolution - climate - geology - gazetteer - nomenclature - definitions - building Lyr - more worlds? Planetocopia!


Lyr's a world-model challenging exobiologists like Peter Ward Douglas ("Rare Earth"), who say complex life will only evolve on worlds almost exactly like Earth. Lyr is emphatically not Earth! Seven times as massive, in an eccentric orbit too far out from its dim little sun, with the wrong density, wrong tilt, wrong satellites, wrong geology, wrong water content... can you get wronger? Douglas says big wet worlds like Lyr will be (at best) world-seas, poor in minerals, with sparse unicellular life at most, and if it's multicellular than not intelligent, and if intelligent than not technological.

Tell that to the Lyrans.

Still, give Douglas credit for considering large planets at all. As I write, we've found about 200 planets; only 4 fall in the size range between Earth and Uranus (14 earth-masses). One, around 5 masses, is probably as cold as Pluto. Another, at 7 masses, is just two million miles from its sun: probably a lava ball. The other two, each a few Earth-masses, are mere cinders orbiting a pulsar (that is, their sun went nova). Not quite what we're after! And that's it, between gas giants and little rocks like ours. Quite a gap! Other midsized planets surely exist, but we can only guess what this group is like. And we don't do even that! Our solar system's mass-gap between gasbags and rocks has given us an imagination-gap. Even science fiction, usually quick to explore possibilities, has very few middleweight worlds: Silverberg's "Majipoor" series plus short stories like Tiptree's "With Delicate Mad Hands" or pulp tales like "We Guard the Black Planet" or "Heavy Planet". Scientifically, they range from sloppy and unconvincing to downright silly. Only Poul Anderson's "The Man Who Counts" (discussed in Lyr's Evolution) details a fairly plausible middleweight world--and even it has problems.

In short: such worlds are a blind spot in the human imagination--ignored as potential biospheres. So... let's put this common planetary type center stage...

Welcome to Lyr
High orbital photo of Lyr, a sculpted 30
Map of Lyr, a world-building experiment. Click a feature to go there.
Gazetteer: index of places, with descriptions. Or...

TOUR LYR! Climb volcanoes, swim seas, meet weird creatures. First: survival tips! Then, pick a region:
Ythri -- Polesotechnic Chain -- Troisleons -- Roland -- Oronesia -- Gaiila -- Flandry -- Diomedes -- Ak'hai'i -- Averorn

LISTS AND LINKS: more worlds? PLANETOCOPIA! - dreams of other worlds - ecology - climate change - evolution - populations and eco-crashes - anarchy - utopias - natural disasters - terraforming - orbital dreams - sculptures and 3D art -

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