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by Chris Wayan, 2006


to Joan Vinge, for "Eyes of Amber", a tale set on a living Titan

down to map and regional tours - (don't click yet) peoples of Xanadu - (don't click yet) Xanadu's evolution - more worlds: Planetocopia

Orbital photo of Xanadu, a world model like a wetter Titan.


Xanadu's a memorial to a dead dream. Well, not dead--in cold storage. You see, for decades exobiologists have quietly hoped that life on cold worlds (large moons as well as planets) might use solvents other than water: ammonia, methane, ethane. Titan was the local test case--the most promising example in our solar system.

So Titan was the first time in history that many of us prayed our lander would fail on impact. We were hoping it'd drown! What a disappointment when Huygens landed firmly on that dark flat plain of... well, whatever it is. Not even tarry mud, it seems. Today, it looks like Titan has some ethane lakes, and intermittent rivers; but not extensive seas, or more than occasional rain. Those channels and beds may fill less often than the Los Angeles River.

And yet... Titan's dark riverbottoms and seabeds are so suggestive! The landscape's so heavily and obviously shaped by liquid. Could it be Huygens landed in a worldwide dry season? Or is this an Ice Age? Maybe we just need to wait fifteen years. Or a million...

But dry season or ice age or dead world, Titan's a disappointment. Though it's still quite possible there is profoundly alien life hidden in the cracks, it's clearly not a rich biosphere. It looks now like the poles are the rainiest zones, not the equator; the latest radar scans show dunes in those black seabeds.

With Mars, humanity had centuries to puzzle over its markings, to dream of life there. On Titan, we had barely a year between the first hazy images of surface markings to the clear delineation of riverbeds and apparent seas--to the dashing of our hopes. At least locally! But the Titanic issue--can life be based on solvents other than water?--hasn't died. One dry moon can't kill the dream. There are billions of cold worlds out there!

Xanadu is a model of such a world. Like Titan, but wetter, a little warmer, a little larger, with permanent rivers winding down to ethane seas. For purely sentimental reasons, I've kept the geography and regional names of Titan (Shangri-La, Xanadu, etc): the names (curiously enough) of lost Edens. Think of it as Titan as it should have been; the Titan of our dreams.

State of the Project

Xanadu's on hold while I finish three other half-done worlds. But now that the poles of Titan have been mapped, finishing Xanadu is at least possible. Patience!

Map of Xanadu, a model of an alternate, wetter Titan.
Welcome to Xanadu
Map of Xanadu, a model of an alternate, wetter Titan. Click a feature to go there.
TOURS: the following route snakes around Xanadu, covering all major features

UNDER CONSTRUCTION! Only boldfaced names work yet! Shangri-La Ocean -- Perkunas, Bacab and Hobal Valleys -- Lake Ontario -- Adiri and the Ching-Tu Sea -- Belet Ocean -- Senkyo Sea, Lake Aaru -- Tsegihi and Lake Mezzoramia -- the Fensal & Aztlan Seas -- Menrva Ring -- Xanadu Highland, Lake Eir and the Hotei Arcus -- Tui and Kalseru Valley --

Xanadu's homepage - (don't click yet) peoples of Xanadu - (don't click yet) Xanadu's evolution - (don't click yet) Gazetteer - More worlds: Planetocopia

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