Planet MarsMars Art Gallery

Planetrolling: Moving Your Planet About Town

By David Angus
David Angus and one of his planets

This article was contributed by my friend David Angus. If you happen to be visiting Chicago's Adler Planetarium, keep an eye out for his large "Terraformed Mars" globe on display in one of the main halls. Dave is also producing terrain models for Space Model Systems, which is owned and operated by Rick Sternbach of Star Trek fame. You may also want to visit Dave's Worldbuilder's Website.

Planetrolling. This came about because I don't drive and the planet concerned was 29 inches in diameter. Too big for an ordinary car doorway. I lived in Reading a mile as the crow flies from the station and the object of the exercise was how to get it there?

I'm able bodied and had walked it many times. I could carry the globe but it's size was very unwieldy and tiring on the arms. I'd already tried carrying it there and had to find a better way. Well, as I've said the object of the exercise was how to get it there and a globe was a sphere, and a spherical object is a circular object, in essence like a child's' hoop, and circular objects such as hoops or wheels can be rolled and don't need to be carried. In theory my globe planet model should be capable of this. It was mostly downhill to the station.

How to protect the model? I reasoned that if enough bubble wrap could be wrapped round it there would hopefully be enough protection to and from the station although the dirtier exterior part could be shed at the convention. "But what would people think?" Throughout my life I have scorned status and the philosophy of "keeping up appearances" because I've felt that it's limiting in terms of creative thought, what one actually wants, what actually works in a given situation. Besides, the entertainment values good and eccentricity can endear one to people. As long as they talk to you afterwards.

So off I rolled. The hill was enjoyable. I could stroll beside my planet which was rolling slightly faster than walking place. A hand occasionally placed lightly on top was good for a brake. And the further I rolled my planet the more my situation reminded me of one of our comedians: Jasper Carrott. He did a sketch once whereby he claimed he'd found the secret of becoming invisible: To lurch around singing with a whisky bottle in hand. People treated him as though he wasn't there. I got through a major town like this and only on the Reading station approaches did a man ask me if I was a lunatic? Now and then you see one around because "community care" has tended to turf them out of the asylums. Although most of them are not rolling a planet along. Anyway I said I was which seemed to satisfy him. "Oh that's alright then". A policewoman near the station entrance said nothing but I could read her thoughts from her expression: "What on Earth is he doing and should I arrest him? Well he's not actually doing anything illegal. He seems harmless. I'm so confused."

I did this a few times with conventions in Liverpool because the hotel there was a stones throw from the station. Sure enough other fans were entertained. The most interesting journey was when British Rail in all its wisdom decided to halve the size of the train during one of the busiest times of the year, and when a battalion of squaddies trying to get home on leave were in Reading station. I was aiming to get my planet into the guards van and by sheer luck this stopped almost where I was so I was able to join the first wave, which was the only wave to get into the guards van. We had to stand all the way to Liverpool but our revenge came in Birmingham where an official was affronted that anyone should use the guards van for traveling in and ordered us all off. It was like watching an android go through a pre programmed response to a situation. When he'd done so he realized that he was out of his depth against 40 infantrymen and one planetbuilder. "Bugger off" said someone halfheartedly. He switched off and did so.

When I did the same with London where the underground - subway - was an interesting challenge during rush hour I found that rolling planets around was good for flouting officialdom by confusing them with something beyond their experience. "Hey you can't take that through there." exclaimed one negative character in a uniform. I just treated him as though he wasn't there and got my planet through many places like that.

2005 Jim Plaxco,