Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mapping Mars Through Science Fiction

A brilliant nonfiction work of scientific journalism, Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World (2002), by science writer Oliver Morton, “explores the peculiar and fascinating world of the new generation of explorers: geologists, scientists, astrophysicists and dreamers. Morton shows us the complex and beguiling role that mapping will play in our understanding of the red planet, and more deeply, what it means for humans to envision such heroic landscapes. Charting a path from the 19th century visionaries to the spy-satellite pioneers to the science fiction writers and the arctic explorers ... Morton unveils the central place that Mars has occupied in the human imagination, and what it will mean to realize these dreams.”

Specific science fiction works mentioned or discussed include:

Birth of Fire (1976), by Jerry Pournelle

Blue Mars (1996), by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Difficulties Involved in Photographing Nix Olympica" (1986), by Brain Aldiss

The Earth is Near (1973), children's book by Ludek Pesek

The Far Call (1978), by Gordon R. Dickson

First Landing (2001), by Robert Zubrin

The Fountains of Paradise (1979), by Arthur C. Clarke

Frontera (1984), by Lewis Shiner

Genesis: an Epic Poem (1988), by Frederick Turner

Green Mars (1994), by Kim Stanley Robinson

Man Plus (1976), by Frederik Pohl

The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959), by Theodore Sturgeon

Mars (2000), by Ben Bova

Mars Crossing (2000), by Geoffrey A. Landis

Mars Underground (1997), by William K. Hartmann

The Martian Chronicles (1950), by Ray Bradbury

The Martian Inca (1977), by Ian Watson

The Martian Race (1999), by Gregory Benford

Martian Time-Slip (1964), by Philip K. Dick

Mission to Mars (Film, 2000)

Moving Mars (1993), by Greg Bear

Rainbow Mars (1999). by Larry Niven

Red Mars (1992), by Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Planet (Film, 2000)

Red Planet (1949), by Robert A. Heinlein

The Sands of Mars (1951), by Arthur C. Clarke

The Secret of Life (2001), by Paul J. McAuley

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), by Robert A. Heinlein

Voyage (1996), by Stephen Baxter

Voyage to the Red Planet (1990), by Terry Bisson

Watchmen (1987), graphic novel written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons

White Mars, or, the Mind Set Free: a 21st-Century Utopia (1999), by Brian W. Aldiss and Roger Penrose

Reviews of Morton’s Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist are available at

Pictured above: “This map depicts Barsoom/Mars as we know it today. The seas have dried up, the oceans have receded, and the plains are ruled by the savage green hordes. This is the Barsoom of the John Carter Era (J.C.E.).”

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