Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Robert A. Heinlein Missing from Library on Mars

When NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander touched down
on the Red Planet on May 25, 2008, so did The Planetary Society’s Visions of Mars library, a silica glass DVD that holds the works of about fifty Martian science fiction writers. Some of the authors are well known (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, Kim Stanley Robinson), others less so (Edwin L. Arnold, Howard Fast, Allen Steele). Notably absent from this Martian library, which was designed to survive for at least 500 years on the planet’s frozen surface, are the writings of Robert A. Heinlein.

One of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th century, Heinlein penned such notable Martian works as Red Planet (1949), Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), and Podkayne of Mars (1963), as well as numerous other novels and short stories. There’s a Heinlein Society, a Heinlein Prize, a Heinlein Foundation, and even a crater on Mars named after Robert A. Heinlein. Yet, The Planetary Society’s DVD does not contain a single work by this important and beloved author. Considering that the Visions of Mars library contains two stories written by Issac Asimov, two novels by Arthur C. Clarke, two works by Alexander Kazantsev, and two stories by Theodore Strugeon, the omission of Heinlein is disappointing.

We don’t know why the writings of Robert A. Heinlein are missing from the library on Mars. Perhaps it has something to do with copyright issues and the need to safeguard intellectual property and perpetual streams of revenue from any life form that might try to steal the DVD off the surface of Mars and reproduce the works without express written permission.


Emily Lakdawalla said...

Thanks for your link to Visions of Mars! We did want to include Heinlein, but the foundation that controls the rights to Heinlein's work wouldn't grant permission for their inclusion.

Paul said...

Thank you for the explanation! Paul