Friday, August 22, 2008

Marsbound: Joe Haldeman and Red Planet Blues

Joseph Bottum reviews Marsbound, Joe Haldeman’s new novel (2008), in his essay "One More Trip to the Red Planet: Mars in the Science-Fiction Imagination" at

With a flash of nostalgia, Bottum concludes “Marsbound is a book that declares from the beginning that it's going to follow the old conventions. Not enough of those conventions, alas. I want back my canals and my princesses and my golden eyes. I want back a reason for the Red Planet to remain central to the science-fiction canon. I don't exactly want to go Mars, but I want once again to imagine going there.”

Unexpectedly, Bottum devotes a vast amount of space to discussing how authors from H. G. Wells to Kim Stanley Robinson have treated water on the Red Planet, or lack thereof. One work notably absent is Isaac Asimov’s short story, The Martian Way. Originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine in November 1952, it is the tale of a ruthless Earth politician who threatens the pioneers on Mars by cutting off their water supply. To get things flowing again, a daring spaceman does things “The Martian Way,” by making a desperate journey to ice-ringed Saturn.

For recent real-science readings about water on Mars, see “How to Mine Martian Water,” by Jeremy Hsu at (via SF Signal), and “Martian Clays Tell Story of a Wet Past,” a press release from the SETI Institute detailing Dr. Janice Bishop’s research.

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