Back Loren Eiseley, “The Fifth Planet”

Loren Eiseley (1907–1977)
From Loren Eiseley: Collected Essays on Evolution, Nature, and the Cosmos

A meteor during the peak of the 2009 Leonid Meteor Shower, November 17, 2009. (Ed Sweeney/Navicore, via Wikipedia)

When Loren Eiseley died in 1977, he and his assistant Caroline E. Werkley were working with a publisher to assemble the contents of a final collection, a “sampler” of poetry and prose, some of it unpublished or uncollected and some of it representing the best of his previous books. Copies of the materials were brought to his bedside, and other than deleting a section from one older, outdated essay, he remarked that they would make “a good ‘last’ book.”

After Eiseley’s death, while arranging his papers for the archives, Werkley discovered two previously unpublished short stories—“The Dance of the Frogs” and “The Fifth Planet”—and it was decided to add them to the collection, which appeared as The Star Thrower in June 1978.

“The Fifth Planet” was probably written in the late 1940s, and this short work of fiction concerns an amateur astronomer obsessed with a once-held theory that the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is the remnants of a “lost” planet. The selection—along with the other pieces from The Star Thrower—has been included in the new Library of America edition of Eiseley’s collected essays, but you can read it now at the Story of the Week website.

Read “The Fifth Planet” by Loren Eiseley

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