Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Caves of Mars

The recent drip of news articles about NASA Mars Odyssey’s discovery of the entrances to seven possible caves on the Red planet is a good opportunity to highlight some science fiction on the same subject, as John DeNardo’s blog, SciFi Scanner, has done.

P. Schuyler Miller’s novelette, “The Cave,” originally appeared in the January 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It was reprinted in several anthologies, including Jane Hipolito and Willis E. McNelly’s Mars, We Love You: Tales of Mars, Men, and Martians (1971), where the introduction notes: “Miller’s story is beautifully styled and tightly plotted. Moreover, it is one of the most daring Mars tales ever written, for instead of keeping a safe distance and painting the Red Planet in an impressionistic fog, “The Cave” boldly takes a microscopically close focus on Mars and the Martians.”

Perhaps more well know, as DeNardo's blog indicates, is The Caves of Mars, by Emil Petaja (1965), which is half of an Ace Double novel. Here’s a summary: “Ric Coltor had lost an arm in an interplanetary exploration. For a spaceman at any other time, that would have meant the end of his career. But not with the marvelous Martian Panacea in existence. Extracted from a fungus found only on the Red Planet, it promised mankind perfect health and longer life, for it grew back internal organs, conquered disease, and could even grow back arms. ... gave its users glowing good health, but it also gave them a fanatical devotion to the man who administered it, Dr. Morton Krill. A devotion that was so all-encompassing that any man who received it could easily become dictator of two planets if he were twisted enough to desire that. Dr. Krill was!”

Younger readers may find some interest in these two books: Caves of Mars, by NASA physicist Robert S. Wolff (1988), which is volume 1 in his Falcon Gold Space Adventures series; Kipton and the Caves of Mars, by Charles L. Fontenay (1998), which is volume 16 in his The Kipton Chronicles series and is geared towards elementary school students. Fontenay was an accomplished journalist and author, winning several science fiction writing awards. He died earlier this year.

On a different note, the Pink Floyd crowd might enjoy “Caves on Mars,” a non-musical sound track on the recording Sounds from Outer Space (Total Recordings of California, 1992/1995).

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