When the New Horizons probe beamed back detailed pictures of Pluto, the NASA team decided to name one dark feature after Cthulhu. Will the International Astronomical Union approve this? Guidelines for place-names on Pluto mention underworld gods, but Cthulhu is more your unspeakable underwater abomination.... Also allowed by IAU naming guidelines are "Writers associated with Pluto", opening the door to Disney scriptwriters. Meanwhile, working maps of Pluto's companion Charon are dotted with names from Alien (Ripley Crater), Doctor Who (Tardis Chasma), Star Wars (Skywalker, Vader Craters), Star Trek (Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Uhura Craters) and other SF. For Lewis Carroll fans, there's Alice Crater.

While Pluto was in the news, the IAU also announced new fame for J.R.R. Tolkien on official maps of Saturn's moon Titan. Here mountains and hills are named for Middle-earth's mountains and characters: Mountains of Moria (Moria Montes), Gandalf Hills (Gandalf Colles). Straits or channels get the names of characters in Asimov's Foundation series. Well, why not?

Meanwhile I rushed to titivate the Pluto section of the SF Encyclopedia entry "Outer Planets". SF pulp master Stanley G Weinbaum was an early adopter, publishing a Pluto story just five years after its 1930 discovery: "The Red Peri", which is on safe ground when predicting the dwarf planet is airless and very very cold. If New Horizons goes on to detect mobile crystalline life, Weinbaum will instantly become a famous prophet. On the other hand, photos from Pluto of a gigantic Stonehenge-like structure built from ice will mean the glory goes to Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Icehenge (1984).

E.E. "Doc" Smith's First Lensman (1950) casually mentions that his frigid-blooded alien Palainians colonized Pluto well before Columbus reached America. Wilson Tucker decided that our base on Pluto would inevitably be named after its discover Clyde Tombaugh, and wrote To the Tombaugh Station (1960). Lots of authors since 1930 used Pluto as starting or finishing point of a grand tour of all the planets, a prospect even more gruelling than crossing the USA by Greyhound bus. Donald A. Wollheim invented some interesting Plutonian facts in The Secret of the Ninth Planet (1959):

"Originally it revolved around another sun, some star which was light-years away. How it tore loose from that star we'll probably never know – the star might have simply become too dim, their planet might have been on a shaky orbit, an experiment of theirs might have jarred it loose ..." ("Don't drop that lump of experimental antimatter, Glxpmf! Aargh, too late.")

On the NIMBY principle of conducting dangerous research as far as possible from politicians, Pluto struck some authors as a good place to put those pesky scientists. Thus in Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, cutting-edge science happens at "Starside R&D" on Pluto. In Roger McBride Allen's The Ring of Charon the scientists are dumped on Pluto while the Hugest Particle Accelerator Ever Built surrounds its companion Charon. What could possibly go wrong? An unfortunate side-effect is the sudden vanishing through a wormhole of some planet called Earth....

My favourite Pluto story is Clifford D Simak's "Construction Shack", where the mini-world turns out to be just that. It's made of metal, and it's hollow, and inside are the very blueprints used by the long-ago builders of the solar system. These reveal to awestruck human visitors that there was supposed to be another planet between Mars and Jupiter, but something went wrong (rising damp? insecure foundations? too much sand in the cement?) and it ended up as a mess of little asteroids. Construction industry practices haven't changed much in the last 4.6 billion years.

David Langford dimly remembers that in animated cartoons, Pluto was the implacable nemesis of Bopeye.