Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Fine-Tuning Mars Fiction

Recently, I divided science fiction about Mars into three periods:

Old or pre-Mariner;
New or post-Mariner;
retro -

- and stated that Poul Anderson's fictional versions of Mars were New. But the dates do not bear this out. However, I now think that Old Mars had two phases:

the earliest, ERBian, idea of a humanly habitable and inhabited Mars, usually the setting for sword fights although Ray Bradbury and CS Lewis changed that;

a later recognition that Mars is not humanly habitable combined with the idea that it may nevertheless be inhabited.

Anderson's Mars fiction is not New but Old, later phase. Post-Mariner versions of Mars are less likely to be inhabited although Larry Niven's Martians are concealed under the sand. James Blish's Welcome To Mars, published as Mariner IV approached Mars, correctly predicted craters and explained "canals" as impact marks radiating from the craters.

The two retro-Mars volumes that I know are In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings by SM Stirling and Old Mars edited by GRR Martin and Gardner Dozois although another possible candidate for retro status is Michael Moorcock's Mars trilogy which uses time travel to place its hero on an ERB-inspired Mars.

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