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The Heechee are a fictional alien race from the science fiction works of Frederik Pohl. The Heechee are portrayed as an exceedingly advanced star-travelling race that explored Earth's solar system millennia ago and then disappeared without a trace before humankind began space exploration.

The Heechee first appeared in "The Merchants of Venus" (1972), a novella in the collection The Gold at the Starbow's End, sometimes called "The Merchants of Venus Underground". They also are referenced or appear in many of Pohl's novels and short stories published between 1977 and 2004.

Pohl's novels featuring the Heechee are:

Pohl has also released a collection of short stories in the series:

  • The Gateway Trip (1990)



"The Merchants of Venus"

The Heechee in fact originated as a plot device enabling Pohl to give a plausible reason for humans to make the effort of colonizing the inhospitable planet that space probes have proven Venus to be. In "The Merchants of Venus", the Heechee (a name given by humans since nobody knows what they called themselves) are nowhere to be found, and humans know of them only from their artifacts. The first evidence came with the discovery of tunnels constructed under Venusian surface, each tunnel distinguished by the mysterious cobalt blue metal covering the interior sections.

The tunnels facilitate colonization, since they can be adapted to human use at a fraction of what it would cost to dig them from scratch, and they and the other artifacts attract scientists who want to study them; then adventurers and prospectors who hope to make money by discovering more artifacts; and finally tourists rich enough to travel to Venus and see all this. By the next parts of the series, enough people have come to Venus to make it a sovereign state and a major power.

In the main part of the series, the frontier has moved away from Venus after explorers discovered an asteroid orbiting perpendicular to the ecliptic plane, filled with cobalt blue tunnels, and hundreds of small Heechee spaceships. Named Gateway by the discoverers, the powerful nations of the world occupy the asteroid and subsequently form the Gateway Corporation to administer the object.

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