Monday, 22 June 2015

More On Mars

Poul Anderson has an ambiguous relationship to Mars. On the one hand, he is not among the main known writers about Mars or Martians. In this connection, over a dozen names come to mind before Anderson's. On the other hand, as this blog showed earlier this month, Anderson created over half a dozen different versions of Martians. And he would almost certainly have contributed to GRR Martin's and Gardner Dozois' Old Mars if he had still been alive when this anthology of original stories was being compiled.

In his eloquent and evocative Introduction, "Red Planet Blues," Martin refers to an amalgam or consenus vision of Mars emerging from many authors' imaginations. This vision is strengthened by an anthology that presents fifteen new original versions. The opening story, "Martian Blood" by Allen M Steele, has a humanly habitable Mars with tall, dark-skinned, humanoid natives whose similarities to Terrestrials are to be explained either by parallel evolution or by panspermia.

 I gather from SM Stirling's story, "Swords of Zar-tu-Kan," that Phobos seen from Mars would be a third the size of the Moon seen from Earth (I thought smaller) and that Deimos would be seen to crawl past it (I thought that ERB had got it wrong about either moon moving visibly).

There was a time before scientific writing and science fiction about Mars had separated. The astronomer Lowell mapped canals and oases and wrote about civilization irrigating deserts with water from the poles - as, following Lowell, did Edgar Rice Burroughs. There have been three stages of Martian sf:

Old Mars;
New (Mariner) Mars;

Sf writers have realized that they were not obliged to confine their fiction to the astronomical universe. Poul Anderson wrote mainly about New Mars but would have embraced, and surpassed at, retro-Mars if this third trend had started sooner.

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