Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Microfilm Machines on Mars

The weekend was a labor of love as we trekked all the way across Fourth Planet from the Sun: Tales of Mars from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (2005), an anthology edited by Gordon Van Gelder.

One of the tales is “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” (1963), by Roger Zelazny. A science fiction classic, this novelette concerns an expedition to Mars in which the main character, a poet and linguist named Mr. Gallinger, falls in love with a Martian after being invited into an ancient temple to study their sacred texts. Stacked with references to language, poetry, and biblical verse, Gallinger even uses a camera and microfilm machine to copy treasured Martian books:
The days were like Shelley’s leaves: yellow, red, brown, whipped in bright gusts by the west wind. They swirled past
me with the rattle of microfilm. Almost all the books were recorded now. It would take scholars years to get through them, to properly assess their value. Mars was locked in my desk

Ecclesiastes, abandoned and returned to a dozen times, was almost ready to speak in the High Tongue.

I whistled when I wasn’t in the Temple. I wrote reams of
poetry I would have been ashamed of before. Evenings I would walk with Braxa, across the dunes or up into the mountains. Sometimes she would dance for me; and I would read something long, and in dactylic hexameter. She still thought
I was Rilke, and I almost kidded myself into believing it.
Here I was, staying at the Castle Duino, writing his
The full text of “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” is available online thanks to someone at Michigan State University.

For some perspective on the story and its author, read the review at BestScienceFictionStories.com and Martian sci-fi author Mary A. Turzillo’s essay, “Roger Zelazny, Hero-Maker."

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