Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Collection of Stories by Miles J. Breuer

The Man with the Strange Head: And Other Early Science Fiction Stories (2008), a new collection of stories and nonfiction written by Miles J. Breuer and edited by Michael R. Page, has at least two pieces of Martian science fiction from the 1930s.

The first story is “On Board the Martian Liner," originally published in Amazing Stories in March 1931. Here, according to a sci-fi reference book from the late 1990s,
“Star reporter Streak Burgess is assigned by his editor to pick up human interest stories on the Mars rocket run.”

The second story is “Mars Colonizes," originally published in Marvel Tales in Summer 1935. According to a recent issue of Publisher’s Weekly, this story “answers The War of the Worlds, suggesting the Martians might do better to just move to Earth and buy up real estate.”

A full description of the new Breuer collection, the table of contents, and an excerpt are available at the website of the publisher, Bison Books of the University of Nebraska Press.

The collection was reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Martian Chronicles: $700 Billion Dollars

While Washington squabbles over the $700 billion bailout, The Martian Chronicles, a science blog, presents some interesting numbers, for $700 billion is equal to:

5 Apollo Programs (at ~$135 billion inflation-adjusted dollars for entire program from conception to cancellation)

40 times NASA’s budget ($17.3 billion)

116 times budget of National Science Foundation (~$6 billion)

214 Cassini-Huygens missions (at ~$3.26 billion apiece)

538 space shuttle launches (averaging ~$1.3 billion per launch)

1,750 MER rovers (based on ~$800 million cost to build, launch, and operate both rovers for 90 days)

Interview with Tom Dell’Aringa, Creator of Sci-Fi Web Comic Marooned

Palace in the Sky Publishing has an interview with Tom Dell’Aringa, creator of the hilarious online sci-fi comic strip Marooned: A Space Opera in the Wrong Key.

Here’s a brief description of the strip, taken from the interview:
"Marooned concerns the ill-fated first manned mission to Mars sometime in the future. Pilot Captain John and his companion, a Robot AI named Asimov, safely land. However it seems there is not enough fuel to take off again (which quickly gets blamed on John’s piloting abilities). It isn’t long before a curious local named Ugo
finds them and offers some help."

Both the interview and Tom's comic strip are worth reading.

Pictured above: Ugo the Martian, Captain John, Asimov the robot. Artwork by Tom Dell'Aringa.

Recent Short Fiction: “The Eventful Career of Dr. Kevin Pearson, Astronomer” by Edward A. Laag

At first reading, Edward A. Laag’s “The Eventful Career of Dr. Kevin Pearson, Astronomer” (2008), which won the First Annual Student Science Fiction Short Story Contest at the 2008 J. Lloyd Eaton Science Fiction Conference, wobbles like an unleveled tripod. One leg of the story rests on Kevin Pearson as an ambitious astronomy student, who believes he has discovered a distant Earth-like planet but cannot confirm its existence. The story then shifts to Pearson as a top young scientist on a two-week mission to Mars, in which a colleague fabricates her discovery of Martian cyanobacteria. The third piece of the story leans backward and extends the reader to an astronomical outpost in the Andes Mountains, where Dr. Pearson re-discovers his “lonely planet.” However, after reading “The Eventful Career of Dr. Kevin Pearson, Astronomer” a few times, we conclude that Laag manages to steady his story and provide a clear and meaningful view.

Upon winning the contest, Laag said he enjoys science fiction because
“it shows that a devotion to the rational thought process of science is the key to creating the technologies that will fulfill our desire for adventures in space and on other planets.”

Edward A. Laag, who is from Riverside, California, expects to earn a Ph.D. in Earth Science in 2009.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Book Sale: Fenton Ash’s A Trip to Mars (1909)

As detailed below, a book seller at AbeBooks is peddling a neat first edition of A Trip to Mars (1909). Written by Francis Henry Atkins, Sr., under the pseudonym Fenton Ash, the novel follows two British juveniles on a voyage to Mars, where they encounter the planet’s winged inhabitants.
A Trip to Mars, by Fenton Ash (1909)

Publisher: London, Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers
Publication Date: 1909
Binding: Hardcover
Edition: 1st Edition

Description: Octavo, pp. 318 ... six inserted plates with color illustrations by W. H. C. Groome, original pictorial red cloth, stamped in blue, cream, black and gold, slate coated endpapers. First edition. ... Prize label affixed to verso of frontispiece. Faint staining along fore-edge of rear cover, touch of sunning to spine panel, a very good copy. A bright copy of this very attractive Edwardian juvenile interplanetary novel.

Price: $1,000
Interestingly, according to ERBzine, Edgar Rice Burroughs owned a copy of Fenton Ash’s A Trip to Mars.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Menace Under Marswood by Sterling Lanier (1983)

Menance Under Marswood, a novel by Sterling E. Lanier (1983)

At left: Paperback original (New York: Ballantine Books, 1983), a Del Rey book, $2.95. Cover art by Darrell K. Sweet. Set on a terraformed Mars in the 23rd century, here’s the blurb from the back cover of the book:

“For centuries the human outcasts of Mars have lived wild, independent lives in the Martian outback called the Ruck. But then the mysterious men of the “New Clan” came to preach total rebellion against the Mother Planet -- and that Earth's U.N. Command could not allow. So it sent a team of its best officers to learn the secrets of the “New Clan.” Unfortunately, to do the job right, the Terrans would have to cooperate with their worst enemies -- the Ruckers!”

A more detailed description of the novel is at Jakedog.org and reader reviews are at Amazon.com.

Interestingly, Menace Under Marswood was included on a syllabus for a recent course about imagination and the “Quest for Meaning” at Tusculum College in Tennessee.

A man of many accomplishments, Sterling E. Lanier is perhaps most well-known for his stint at Chilton Books in the early 1960s, where he championed the publication of Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965). Lanier’s death in July 2007 was widely reported and sci-fi guy John Clute wrote an obituary for The Independent, a London newspaper.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Update on Pixar's John Carter of Mars Film

SCI FI Wire has the latest news on the production of John Carter of Mars, a film by Pixar based on the swashbuckling character in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series of science fiction novels. Here are some quotes from the latest chapter in the saga of trying to bring John Carter to the big screen:

Andrew Stanton, writer and director at Pixar: "I'm going to do what I remember more than what they exactly do" in the Burroughs books.

Jim Morris, general manager at Pixar: "Everything that's been out there has been an attempt to kind of capture this Deco-esque Frazetta vision of John Carter, which I think feels old and stale ... And where Stanton is going ... is very different than that. And I think that the people who really love the essence of the books will really dig it, but so will audiences in general."

Jim Morris: “I'm sure I speak for all of the science fiction geeks, fans and aficionados when I say it's finally time to see that movie. And I, for one, am delighted that Andrew Stanton is the guy that's making the movie, because he's a story-driven guy."

Visit the John Carter of Mars Movie Unofficial Fan Website for more information about the film, which is scheduled to be released in 2012.

Pictured above: John Carter and Dejah Thoris, as depicted by artist Frank Frazetta. Old and stale?

Interviews with Author Ben Bova

Famed SF author Ben Bova continues to maintain a high profile in the afterglow of the release of his new novel, Mars Life (2008). The interesting thing about Dr. Bova is that he knows a lot about both science and science fiction, and he always has something intelligent to say. Here are two recent interviews:

Mars Life: An Interview with Ben Bova, at the blog Biology in Science Fiction

Slice of SciFi podcast #179, which includes an interview with Ben Bova. If we recall, the interview starts at about 30 minutes into the podcast. Thanks to SF Signal for bringing this to our attention.

We read Mars Life this past summer. It’s a great book, the third in Bova's Mars trilogy.

Mom’s Space Library in Scott Edelman’s “Mom, the Martians, and Me” (2002)

A clever short story in which the owner of a small-town newspaper tries to convince a police officer that his mother, who is obsessed with UFOs and believes her husband was abducted by aliens, was kidnapped by little green men, “Mom, the Martians, and Me” (2002), by Scott Edelman, has a cool passage describing how Mom turned her bedroom into an astronomical museum and space library:
With Dad gone, the bedroom that they had shared for years was transformed into a makeshift astronomical museum. Star maps covered every available inch of wall space, even hiding the bay window that had once cast light over their twin beds. A floor-to-ceiling mosaic of the surface of Mars as seen from space filled one wall of the room, looming like a giant unblinking eye. Mom had planted a silver pushpin where she was sure he was being kept.

Odd books were everywhere. She’d always been an avid reader, but only of nonfiction. She could not stand made-up lives. Science fiction distressed her most of all. It had nothing to do with real life, she said. Now, she might as well have been living in a science fiction novel, for the library she’d built to wall off the world was so fantastic as to make any fiction, however wild, seem mundane by comparison. Until Mom went strange and I lost her, I had not realized that there were so many first-person accounts by people who claimed to have been scooped up by spacecraft and later returned. On the bulging shelves next to these grew scrapbooks of clippings from supermarket gossip rags, stories telling of women who had been impregnated by Martians, teenagers who had been stolen as youths and returned middle-aged, and old men whose end-stage colon cancer had been cured by the touch of alien fingers.

Children’s small windup toys decorated her end table, rocket ships and alien robots that were sometimes left scattered on the floor where I would trip over them. The area around her bed became littered with badly printed newsletters which purported to tell the truth about a government conspiracy to hide from the public the secrets of crashed alien crafts and their inhabitants. ...
Mom, the Martians, and Me” was published in Mars Probes (2002), an anthology edited by Peter Crowther.

Scott Edelman maintains his own website at www.scottedelman.com.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Banned Books Week: Ray Bradbury’s “The Exiles

In recognition of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, which runs from September 27th to October 4th, 2008, we’ll be reading “The Exiles” (1950), a short story written by Ray Bradbury. The piece is “set on a Mars that has served as a refuge for the authors and characters of literature and myth to save themselves from the modern age (2120) on Earth, where their books have been banned and burned.”

According to The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, the story was originally published as “The Mad Wizards of Mars” in Maclean’s magazine in September 1949. With slight revisions by Bradbury
over the years, the story has been published as “The Exiles” in
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1950) and numerous collections and anthologies, including The Illustrated Man (1951),
R is for Rocket (1962), and Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales (2003).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

BBC Radio Broadcasts Space Force Series

BBC Radio’s 7th Dimension program is broadcasting the second series of Space Force, a science fiction serial written by Charles Chilton and originally broadcast in the 1980s. The second series, which involves a trip to Mars, consists of six episodes:

1. "The Return of the Sun God"
2. "The Red Planet"
3. "The Great Martian Pyramid"
4. "A Test of Endurance"
5. "Living with Death"
6. "Unto Death and Beyond"

The second episode, “The Red Planet,” was broadcast by BBC 7 on Wednesday, September 24, 2008. It is described as “Whilst researching asteroids in Egypt, the crew discover ancient aliens.”

The third episode, “The Great Martian Pyramid," will be broadcast on Thursday, September 25, 2008. It is described as “The crew reach the planet Mars where they are overpowered and imprisoned.”

The remaining three episodes are scheduled to be broadcast later this week and early next week.

Meanwhile, tune in to the first episode, “The Return of the Sun God,” for a limited time through BBC 7’s “Listen Again” feature. The remaining five episodes should also be available for a limited time starting on the day after they are broadcast.

Martian Poetry by Frank Herbert

Best known for his six-book Dune saga, Frank Herbert also wrote an obscure poem entitled
Carthage: Reflections of a Martian,” which was published first in the anthology Mars, We Love You: Tales of Mars, Men and Martians (1971) and later in Songs of Muad’Dib: The Poetry of Frank Herbert (1992).

Here are the first three stanza’s of Herbert's "Carthage: Reflections of a Martian,” which totals about 450 lines:

Thy expected alien
Am I.
Weird of shade
And doomfire face:
All thy senses
Cry to my
Mourning mysteries
Which yesterday
Were commonplace.

We sit at Sunday breakfast
And I smell the dust of Carthage.
It drowns the spang
Of our automatic toaster.

That strange woman across from me
Smiles, butters two slices.
Her smile arouses a multitude in me!
Her smile ...
Frightens us.


For the full text of "Carthage: Reflections of a Martian,” and the full text of the editor’s introduction to it from Mars, We Love You: Tales of Mars, Men and Martians, check out CaveOfBirds.com, a website devoted to Frank Herbert.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Otis A. Kline's Swordsmen of Mars (1933/1960)

Thanks to Free SF Reader, we just finished reading
Two Swordsmen of Mars!”, an awesome post over at Paizo Publishing’s blog about its forthcoming unabridged reprint of The Swordsman of Mars, by Otis Adelbert Kline, as it was originally published in serial format in Argosy Magazine in 1933, and how this work compares to the “viciously cut” Avalon hardcover and Ace paperback editions of 1960. Paizo's blog post is just the kind of bibliographic babble that we love!

We pre-ordered the Paizo reprint a couple of weeks ago and we’re looking forward to reading for the first time the adventures of Kline’s Swordsman of Mars.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Letting the Blind Touch the Stars

Astronomer Noreen Grice: “She was Determined to Let the Blind Touch the Stars”
The Boston Globe, September 22, 2008
By Billy Baker


BOSTON -- When she was an undergraduate astronomy major at Boston University in the mid-1980s, Noreen Grice got a work-study job taking tickets at the Hayden Planetarium in the Museum of Science. For a space geek who had grown up learning about the stars by looking up at that same dome, this was something of a dream job, a chance to see, night after night, what the city lights wouldn't allow -- the breathtaking visual beauty of the astronomical canvas.

A month into her job, as she was welcoming people to the theater one day, Grice was surprised to notice a group of blind people in the line. Astronomy is about seeing, and Grice worried they wouldn't get much from the show. ...

Grice had seen buses going down Commonwealth Avenue that had Watertown listed as a destination, and she had heard there was a school for the blind in Watertown, so she found her way to the Perkins School for the Blind. At the school library, she located a couple of Carl Sagan books transcribed into Braille, but they were missing the most important feature -- pictures. ...
.

Read the full article in The Boston Globe.

The Braille and Talking Book Library at Perkins School for the Blind has copies of Grice’s Touch the Stars II, as well as several science fiction books about Mars and Martians, including:

Moving Mars, by Greg Bear (Recording)

The Martian Race, by Gregory Benford (Recording)

Mars, by Ben Bova (Recording)

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury (Braille and Recording)

Under the Moons of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Recording)

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

Podkayne of Mars, by Robert A. Heinlein (Braille and Recording)

Mars Crossing, by Geoffrey A. Landis (Recording)

Rainbow Mars, by Larry Niven (Recording)

Green Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Recording)

The Braille and Talking Book Library at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA, provides over 66,000 book titles in Braille and on recorded disks and cassette tapes to patrons throughout the New England area. Volunteer opportunities at the library include Audio Reviewer and Narrator/Monitor.

Jerry Garcia and The Sirens of Titan

Dark Star. Space/Drums. The Sirens of Titan ...
Here’s a beautiful excerpt from a lengthy 1987 interview with the late Jerry Garcia, guitarist and vocalist for the band The Grateful Dead, in which he discussed his desire to turn one of his favorite books and a classic of Martian SF, Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan (1959), into a film:
Mary Eisenhart: Why that book of all the ones Vonnegut ever wrote?

Jerry Garcia: Well, it's very simple. For me, when I read it, it was a movie in my head. All the others are novels in my head. This one, when I read it -- every time I read it -- boom! -- it plays like a movie in my head. If it wasn't a movie I never would've taken it on.

For me, the ideas come the way they come. Sometimes I have ideas about plumbing, you know what I mean?

I mean, just because you're a musician doesn't mean all your ideas are about music. So every once in a while I get an idea about plumbing, I get an idea about city government, and they come the way they come.

In this case,
Sirens of Titan, when I read it, it's a movie. It plays like a movie, so it's a movie idea. If I didn't see it as a movie I'd have no faith in doing it. I feel it's a movie; I feel enough confidence in my own vision of the movie of Sirens of Titan that I feel I could direct it, no problem. I see it. It's that simple. If I didn't see it, I never would have taken it on. It plays in my head -- I see the blocking, I see the action, I see the camera moves. I see -- it just plays. And that's one of those things -- I didn't ask for that, that's just the way it hit me back when I first read it in '61 or something. It's been that way every time I've read it since then ...
While various online sources tell different versions of "Jerry Garcia and The Sirens of Titan," they all seem to agree that Garcia, an avid reader and student of cinematography, once owned the film rights to Kurt Vonnegut's novel.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Graphic Novel Review: The Martian Confederacy

Ron Richards at iFanboy.com reviews The Martian Confederacy (2008), the new graphic novel written by Jason McNamara and illustrated by Paige Braddock.

We're waiting for our local comic shop, The Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, to stock the book, so meanwhile, check out the original cover, which McNamara and Braddock shelved.

SF Music: Traveler's Guide to Mars

Scott Iwasaki, who writes a music column for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, recently reviewed the album A Traveler's Guide to Mars, by composer Ian Tecee.

As Iwasaki notes, “Some works such as "The Wooden Prince" ... and "Dust Red Sky" are vast and airy. Others, such as "Passport" and "Space Tourist Mars," lean to the contemporary jazz feel like that of Tangerine Dream's "Mars Polaris." ... the vocal delivery on "It's Time to Go Back, Part 2," brings to mind another spacey musical group called Pink Floyd. ... some of the music on this CD is the soundtrack to the planetarium production of the same name, which has been seen at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. The idea for the movie came from the book written by W. K. Hartmann, who first contacted Tecee about doing the music.”

Iwasaki is a self-proclaimed sci-fi nerd, his favorite book is Frank Herbert's Dune, and he digs music from Rush's 2112 album.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Amazing Stories: “Conversation on Mars” in 1,000 Words, by Robert Sheckley (2005)

Thanks to the survival of the global financial system, we were able to purchase Amazing Stories magazine, Issue #609 (March 2005), through the website of Paizo Publishing. What’s inside? “Conversation on Mars,” a 1,000-word piece of fiction by Robert Sheckley.

According to Jeff Spock at Tangent: Short Fiction Review, “I felt
as if I was reading a story written by Kelly Link in response to a challenge worded something like "write a Mars colonization story
with Russian characters and instruments of torture." ... The vignette is both squirm- and smile-provoking, in addition to which it brings
up an unsettlingly timeless question -- will the colonization of space resemble Manifest Destiny, or Botany Bay?”

Robert Sheckley, who once said in an interview with Delos SF that Edgar Rice Burroughs was one of his favorite writers, died in December 2005.

Science Friday: Phoenix Mars Mission Attracts NPR Spotlight as NASA Extends Life of Lander

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Mission was featured this afternoon on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday program, in which radio host Ira Flatow broadcast live from the University of Arizona’s Phoenix Science Operations Center in Tucson. More than 3 million listeners worldwide were expected to tune in to the broadcast.

One of the guests on the program was William K. Hartmann, scientist, space artist, and science fiction author. The website of Science Friday has a cool video of Hartmann’s paintings of Mars.

Here’s a description of the broadcast, compliments of Ira Flatow:

"In this segment, we'll get the big picture on science on the planet Mars. From orbiting observatories to roving rovers to the ditch-digging Phoenix -- what have planetary scientists learned about Mars, and what remains to be discovered?

The most recent visitor to the Red Planet is NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, which launched in August 2007 as the first mission in NASA's Scout Program. Phoenix is designed to study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian arctic's ice-rich soil. So far, the lander has identified water ice in soil samples, and has detected the chemical perchlorate in the soil, a sign of the presence of liquid water in the past.

The Phoenix Mars Lander joins the twin rovers of the Mars Exploration Rover project, Spirit and Opportunity, which have been in operation since 2004. Now running years past their planned lifetime on Mars, the rovers are still exploring the surface. Rover Opportunity recently exited the Victoria Crater after several months on the crater floor.

Several orbiting observatories, including Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are examining the different aspects of the planet from above. The orbiting platforms have studied the planet's atmosphere, mapped its surface, and are also supporting the ground-based exploration missions.

We're broadcasting this week from Tucson, Arizona, home base for NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, as guests of Arizona Public Media."


In related news, NASA announced it has extended the mission of the Phoenix Mars Lander until December 2008, allowing scientists more time to conduct experiments on the Red Planet.

Fem SF: Leslie F. Stone's Out of the Void (1967)

Originally published in a shorter version in the August and September 1929 issues of Amazing Stories magazine, Out of the Void (1967), a
hard-to-find novel by Leslie F. Stone about the first human voyage to Mars, has received little attention outside of feminist science fiction circles.

As Femspec 2.1 (2000) notes, this work “explores gender roles, androgynous aesthetics, homosexual relations and cross-dressing
... the main character, a woman, cross-dresses as a man in order and goes to outer space on an experimental voyage.”

Here’s a detailed description of the novel, taken from the jacket:

"Now it can be told that, nearly thirty years before the Russians startled the world with their first Sputnik, a rocket ship bearing two men set out for Mars. Nothing was heard of them thereafter. Professor Ezra Rollins, who, with his colleagues, and with the quiet assistance of the fabulously wealthy and world-famous Dana Gleason, had constructed the ship, considered himself a murderer. He had sent two men -- Dana Gleason, Jr., and Richard Dorr, who had joined Gleason at the last moment -- to their death.

Carl Wooten knew none of these things that week-end in 1930 when he slipped away to his small fishing lodge in south New Jersey. He had heard of Dana Gleason, and of the mystery surrounding the sportsman’s son, but after the death of his father, Dana Gleason, Jr., had dropped out of the public eye. Wooten had never heard of Ezra Rollins.

The mystery, for him, began when he arrived at the lodge to find that some old clothes he kept there were missing, and what looked like a strangely cut but immensely valuable ruby had apparently been left in their place. He remembered having seen a flash of light the evening before on his way to the lodge, and thinking that he had a new neighbor. But who would exchange a valuable ruby for old clothing?

The next day, he decided to call on his new neighbor to see if any explanation could be found there. He made his way through the underbrush beyond the forking in the path where he had seen the light. Finally, he came to an open glade -- and stopped short. There, in its center -- or, rather, almost filling the entire clearing from one side to the other -- lay a long cylindrical body with conical ends, fully two hundred and fifty feet long and perhaps thirty-five feet around!

Why Wooten was captured by men from another world under the command of a silver-skinned leader who could read minds, why they had taken Wooten’s clothes, why they wanted to find Professor Ezra Rollins, and the message they bore from Dana Gleason and Richard Dorr make for one of the strangest stories ever told. And their most startling revelation of all -- the reason Richard Dorr, who had been opposed to the Mars project, forced his way into the ship just before take-off -- also solved the mystery surrounding Dana Gleason, Jr. For the intended, solitary pilot of
The Wanderer, who would have been the first man in space, was a woman!

Originally published in a shorter version in 1929,
Out of the Void retains the impact it had upon readers at the time, for Leslie Francis Stone was the first to write about a female “spaceman”: here is a gripping tale of worlds unknown and unsuspected."

How hard-to-find is Stone's novel?

The Science Fiction Foundation Collection at the University of Liverpool Library does not even hold a copy. This is odd, considering Batya Weinbaum’s “Twentieth-Century American Women's Progress and the Lack Thereof in Leslie F. Stone's ‘Out of the Void’” was published last winter in Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, The Science Fiction Foundation’s journal.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Author Robert J. Sawyer Loves eReader, But ...

We were compiling a list of Mars/Martian short fiction by Robert J. Sawyer when we stumbled across “I love eReader, but ...,” a humorous
but timely post on Sawyer’s blog about eReader (which is owned by Fictionwise) and the frustrations of reading science fiction in an eWorld.

Speaking of eReader and Fictionwise, they offer these three Mars pieces by Sawyer, all at very reasonable prices:

• "The Blue Planet" (1999). “Earth's space probes sent to Mars keep disappearing--thanks to living, breathing Martians! A short, comic tale with a twist that made it into David Hartwell's Year's Best SF 5.”

• "Come All Ye Faithful" (2003). “Father Bailey is the one and only priest on Mars, with hardly any congregation to speak of. But his life suddenly gets interesting when the Vatican calls upon him to investigate an apparent miracle on the desolate plains of Cydonia. ..."

• "Identity Theft" (2005). “A hard-boiled detective novella set on Mars. Cassandra and Joshua Wilkins are fossil hunters who have both recently transferred their minds into artificial bodies -- and now Joshua has mysteriously disappeared. Cassandra hires Alex Lomax, the only private detective on the Red Planet, to locate Joshua before sinister forces get to him.” Nebula Award Nominee, Hugo Award Nominee.

Even if the credit crunch causes eCommerce to collapse, we can still read science fiction ye olde way.

At the Box Office: Devil Girl from Mars (1954)

Invasion from outer space! Sights too weird to imagine! Destruction too monstrous to escape! The fantastic night of terror that menaced the fate of the world! ... Devil Girl from Mars!

A 1954 British science fiction film directed by David MacDonald, Devil Girl from Mars opened in the United States in Los Angeles in April 1955. Starring the voluptous Patricia Laffan as Nyah the Martian, here’s how The Mars Movie Guide describes the film: “An uptight, leather-clad female alien, armed with a ray gun and accompanied by a menacing robot, comes to Earth to collect Earth's men as breeding stock.”

A detailed summary of the film's plot, list of characters, photos, sound clips, and video trailers are available at BadMovies.org, and a hilarious review is posted at 1000MisspentHours.com.

The film, which has become a cult classic and is available in DVD, inspired the writing career of science fiction author Octavia Butler. Here's an excerpt from “Devil Girl From Mars: Why I Write Science Fiction,” remarks Butler made at MIT in 1998 as the introduction to a discussion about science fiction and modern culture:
"It's impossible to begin to talk about myself and the media without going back to how I wound up writing science fiction and that is by watching a terrible movie. The movie was called, Devil Girl from Mars, and I saw it when I was about 12 years old, and it changed my life. It was one of those old 1950s movies in which the beautiful Martian woman arrives on earth to announce that all the Martian men have died off and there are a bunch of man-hungry women up there. And the earth-men don't want to go. As I was watching this film, I had a series of revelations. The first was that "Geez, I can write a better story than that." And then I thought, "Gee, anybody can write a better story than that." And my third thought was the clincher:
"Somebody got paid for writing that awful story." So I was off and writing, and a year later I was busy submitting terrible pieces of fiction to innocent magazines."
According to its Pinkdex, the MIT Science Fiction Society’s library does not hold a copy of the film Devil Girl from Mars.

The H.G. Wells Society Conference 2008

The H.G. Wells Society is holding its 2008 annual conference this Saturday, September 20, 2008, at Queen Mary University of London.

The theme of the conference is “H.G. Wells: Wells and War” and the programme includes a presentation titled “My Favorite Martian or Mars Attacks? Alien Confrontations in H.G. Wells and George Du Maurier” by Professor Genie Babb of the University of Alaska Anchorage:

Michael Walzer, in his classic work of political philosophy Just
and Unjust Wars (1977) notes common patterns in how enemy combatants view each other. ... What happens, however, when the enemy combatant is equally intelligent but totally alien in body and culture? ... How would alien minds and bodies compare to humans, would they be more or less advanced intellectually, morally, technologically; would they be humanoid or some other form? Most importantly--would "they" get along with "us"?

In this paper, I examine these questions through the contradictory figure of the Martian found in George Du Maurier's The Martian (1897) and H.G. Wells's The Crystal Egg (1897) and The War of the Worlds (1897-1898). These authors exemplify two widely divergent approaches to embodiment, despite the fact that both men were secular non-Christians, committed to Darwinism. ..."

Wonder if Professor Babb will play the song “Us And Them” from Pink Floyd’s album The Dark Side of the Moon in memory of late band member Richard Wright?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Character on TV is Reading The Martian General’s Daughter by Theodore Judson (2008)

Lou Anders, editor at science fiction imprint Pyr, reported on his blog last week that “For those who watched Stargate: Atlantis' episode "Whispers," about mid-way through the episode, you may have noticed the character of Dusty reading The Martian General's Daughter. The cover wasn't 100 % visible in the frame, but you'll be seeing a full, clear cover shot in a forthcoming episode. Theodore Judson's book is reportedly part of the Atlantis book club!”

Published earlier this year by Pyr, The Martian General’s Daughter, by Theodore Judson, is a novel that tells “the story of Peter Black, the last loyal general in an empire that is rapidly crumbling, as seen through the eyes of his illegitimate daughter.” A summary, sample chapters, and snippets from reviews are available at Pyr’s website.

The Martian General’s Daughter was reviewed by Paul Di Filippo at SCI FI Weekly and Stuart Carter at The SF Site.

Water for Mars” by Ross Rocklynne (1937)

Originally published in Astounding Stories magazine in April 1937, “Water for Mars,” a novella by Ross Rocklynne, is an adventurous and appropriate read as NASA tries to understand the role of water in the planet's past. Reprinted in Martianthology (2003), here’s how editor Ann Hardin describes Rocklynne's storyline:

“The dashing Will Kair has a great plan to bring water to Mars. It’s one the Empress of Mars uses all her powers to help implement, but can Will turn the wily plans of the exotic Bella Devlin to his own good? And what about Instar, the water-hater? Water on Mars will mean the end of his water-selling Empire. This story is replete with space battles, disintegration rays, force fields, and a polychromatic bridge. Could even the stellar Judy Garland have worked that into a song?”

Pictured above: Cover of Astounding Stories (April 1937), with artwork by Howard V. Brown depicting “Water for Mars."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Audio: Lester del Rey’s Badge of Infamy (1957)

SFFaudio steered us to a free unabridged reading of Badge of Infamy (1957), a short novel by Lester del Rey, at Podiobooks.com. Read by Steven H. Wilson and recorded in 2006, here’s a description of del Rey’s novel:

“Daniel Feldman was a doctor once. He made the mistake of saving a friend's life in violation of Medical Lobby rules. Now, he's a pariah, shunned by all, forbidden to touch another patient.

But things are more loose on Mars. There, Doc Feldman is welcomed by the colonists, even as he's hunted by the authorities. But, when he discovers a Martian plague may soon wipe out humanity on two planets, the authorities begin hunting him for a different reason altogether.”


You can also download Wilson’s reading of Badge of Infamy at LibriVox and download the novel as an eBook at ManyBooks.net or Project Gutenberg.

Not in Solitude by Kennth F. Gantz (1959)

Not in Solitude, by Kenneth F. Gantz (1959)

At left: Paperback edition (New York: Berkley Publishing, 1961), a Berkley Medallion book, #Y582, 192 p., 40¢.

A drama about the first human spacecraft to land on Mars, here’s the blurb from the back cover:

“It was a race against the clock and Dane had to make a fast decision. Colonel Cragg, the C.O. of the USAF spacecraft Far Venture, was ready to write off the party of scientists who had strayed from the ship and seemingly disappeared. The crew of civilian and military specialists were poised for the nuclear blast-off that should take this first Martain mission back to Earth.

But Dane had seen the curious spark fires that flashed across the sands from the mysterious lichen beds. Dane believed they were the signals of some alien form of life and the scientists were alive ...

He had to prove his theory, even if it meant clashing with the military brass and placing his own life in danger. For unless they understood the nature of what he believed to be a hostile, threatening force and took steps against it--none of them might ever see the planet Earth again ...”


Originally published as a hardcover book in 1959 by Doubleday, the 1961 paperback was “Specially revised by the author.”

Kenneth F. Gantz was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force and also wrote several nonfiction works about the military.

Monday, September 15, 2008

John Carter and the Giant of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs and John Coleman Burroughs

Thanks to a recent post by Free SF Reader and the copyright laws of Australia, we’re reading our way through “John Carter and the Giant of Mars,” a story written in the early 1940s by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) in collaboration with his youngest son, John Coleman Burroughs (1913-1979), at Project Gutenberg of Australia.

As both ERBList.com and Wikipedia point out, the story has a fascinating but confusing publishing history, and since we’re not sure whether the approximately 17,600-word piece at Project Gutenberg of Australia is the juvenile story that was first published as a Whitman Big Little Book (1940), or the later expansion that appeared in Amazing Stories magazine (1941), we’ll let you figure it out!

On a more serious note, Danton Burroughs (1944-2008), grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Chairman of the Board of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., died earlier this year at age 63.

Book Sale: Fredric Brown's Novel, Martians, Go Home (1955)

A book seller at AbeBooks.com has a neat first edition of Fredric Brown’s novel, Martians, Go Home (1955). As the description below indicates, this copy has a signed inscription by Brown to science fiction fan, author, and anthologist Forrest J Ackerman. Presumably, the two men were friends, dating back to their days together in the legendary Los Angeles Science Fiction League, an early science fiction fan club that met at Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles.
Martians, Go Home, by Fredric Brown (1955)

Publisher: E. P. Dutton & Company, New York
Publication Date: 1955
Binding: Boards
Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: First edition

Description: Presentation copy with signed inscription by Brown to Forrest J Ackerman on front free endpaper: "To Forrie / Fred Brown." A fine copy in fine dust jacket. Tiny plastic "A" affixed at head of dust jacket spine panel (Ackerman's method of identifying signed books in his collection). Copies of this book signed or inscribed by Brown are uncommon.

Price: $1,000
Brown's novel is just one of several Martian sci-fi books mentioned in "Onward to Mars," an interesting article that appeared in Time magazine back in July 1988.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Recent Short Fiction: “The Artificial Sunlight of Memory” by D. E. Wasden

Published in Electric Velocipede, Issue #14, “The Artificial Sunlight of Memory,” by D. E. Wasden, is a piece of short fiction about household Nandroids on Mars. We haven’t read the story, but here is a summary from SFRevu:

"D. E. Wasden's "The Artificial Sunlight of Memory" is told from the point of view of an artificial intelligence called a Nandroid. It is a nanny robot that takes care of a little girl called Maddie. It has been given the artistic talent and image of Salvador Dali and has watched while other Nandroids called Picasso & Goya & Van Gogh have been taken away. It is paired with a Matisse who doesn't think that will happen to it. Wasden is quite successful in bringing the Nandroids and the little girls who they take care of to life."

Marshall Payne at The Fix: Short Fiction Review has some insightful commentary, noting that "I couldn’t help thinking I was reading an updated version of Ray Bradbury’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” or various stories by Philip K. Dick. While I enjoyed “The Artificial Sunlight of Memory,” I was left wondering if our field has truly run out of new ideas, and all there is left to do is refurbish the old ones."

A brief excerpt from "The Artificial Sunlight of Memory" is available at the website of Electric Velocipede.

Marooned: a Weekly Sci-Fi Webcomic

Interested in a Space Opera in the wrong key? Check out Tom Dell’Aringa’s Marooned: a Weekly Sci-Fi Webcomic. Here’s a description of the strip, taken from Tom’s website:

“Marooned concerns an odd mixture of characters. Captain John, a man ultimately chosen to pilot a manned mission to Mars due to his failures, A.S.I.M.O.V., the first true Artificial Intelligence saddled in an old garbage-bot shell and Ugo, a Martian lookout who apparently knows a lot more than he ever lets on.

John and Asimov are stranded due to the fact that the Martian Lander was something of a one-way trip -- but nobody clued John in on that fact! While Ugo has befriended and guided them, it is becoming clear that the Martians have their own issues as well.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Steampunk: an Interview with the VanderMeers

Jason B. Jones at PopMatters.com has an excellent interview with Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, editors of Steampunk (2008), an anthology that was published recently by Tachyon.

The anthology includes Michael Chabon’s “The Martian Agent: a Planetary Romance,” but the interview has only a passing reference to it: “It was great to see the Chabon piece in there--to build that bridge out there to more mainstream literary uses of steampunk such as Pynchon’s, which might not be excerptable.”

As the interview mentions, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer will be appearing at Steam Powered: the California Steampunk Convention 2008, to be held October 31st through November 2nd, 2008, in Sunnyvale.

Lin Carter and the Man Who Read His Way to Mars

One of our favorite books is The Man Who Loved Mars (1973), by Lin Carter. It's the adventure of Earthmen Ivo Tengren, a former official in the Colonial Administration’s Office of Native Affairs, and Dr. Josip Keresny, an extraterrestrial archaeologist formerly of the Luna City Museum, and their search for the lost Martian city of Ilionis.

Littered with references to scraps of parchment, undecipherable glyphs, cryptic poems, weathered inscriptions, battered copies of books, and ancient ruins, reading Carter’s novel is like strolling through a Piranesi etching.

Yet, The Man Who Loved Mars also has a library and fine literature woven into the storyline, as shown by this lengthy excerpt in which Tengren, the main character, describes his voyage to the Red Planet:
But all spacecraft keep a library by Mandate law, if only to prevent people from going crazy during a long crossover. The Antoine d’Eauville had one that was quite decent, considering its quite natural preponderance of scholarly journals and texts (it was, after all, a museum boat). I got the impression that the craft was named after either the museum’s founder or one of its more generous patrons, but no one ever enlightened me on the subject, so I never learned which.

I found enough to read to occupy most of my time, although outside of the voluminous scientific literature the general run of reading material was limited to turn-of-the-century European novelists and playwrights, with an unexpected sprinkling of midcentury writers from the South American states, mostly new to me. I had read no Borges at all since school and happening upon his inimitable genius was most enthralling. But the poets were almost entirely new discoveries. I had read, or looked into, a few of the Argentines--Ascasubi, Lugones, Almafuerte--but the others--such as a now-forgotten poet, once enormously popular, named Carriego--were all unknowns. Among them was Vazquez, the Nobel-prize winner, who became the most exciting of my new finds.

With nothing else to do in the endless monotony, I read virtually all day long. From time to time I would have to switch the machine off for no other reason than it was overheating. Luckily, no one else aboard had my leisure, so I had the book tapes all to myself. The girl, I think, had a portable reader in her cabin; the Doctor was busy with a detailed redaction of the thought record; I don’t know what Bolgov did--perhaps just sprawled on his bunk all day, glaring at the ceiling and sweating greasily--and the ship, of course, navigated itself.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Interviews with authors Ben Bova, Gus Frederick and Joel Jenkins

Here are three recent interviews worth reading:

Author Dr. Ben Bova discusses his new novel Mars Life (2008) with Sci-Fi Talk (MP3, 45 minutes). [Thanks to SF Signal]

Gus Frederick, an instructional technologist, graphic artist, technical illustrator, filmmaker, and member of the Mars Society, discusses real-world Martian caves and lava tubes with Dr. David Livingston of The Space Show (MP3, 120 minutes). Frederick is also a reader and writer of science fiction and, we believe, the author of a short piece about the Librarians of Seerae/Mars.

Author Joel Jenkins discusses Dire Planet (2005), the first book in his sword and science series about Mars. Jenkins hopes to begin writing the fourth book in the series in 2009.

Classics: Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg (1880)

Across the Zodiac: the Story of a Wrecked Record. Deciphered, translated and edited by Percy Greg (1880).

Written nearly twenty years before H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1898), Percy Greg's Across the Zodiac is one of the earliest science fiction novels about human spaceflight to Mars and is considered a key book in the history of science fiction.

John Clute and Peter Nicholls point out in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1979) that Greg's novel is "perhaps most significant for its detailed depiction of the protagonist's journey to Mars through the use of apergy, an Antigravity force (the concept provided a model for many later novels) which he uses to propel his spaceship."

Robert Markley argues in Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination (2005) that Across the Zodiac “was the first novel to attempt a scientifically plausible view of travel to Mars; the first to explore the implications of contact with an older and more advanced civilization; and the first to use the red planet as a cautionary, didactic model for Earth.”

However, according to Destination Mars: In Art, Myth, and Science (1997), by Martin Caidin and Jay Barbree, “Some Martians were not quite so advanced, and they considered women to be property. The hero from Earth became embroiled in a Martian civil war on the side of the telepaths who fought against slavery. After losing both his friend and his wife in the final conflict (though his side won the war), he escaped back to his spacecraft and returned to earth.”

An excellent review of Across the Zodiac appeared in DePauw University’s Science Fiction Studies back in 1975.

Originally published in two volumes in 1880, Greg's novel was reprinted with an introduction by Samuel Moskowitz in 1974 by Hyperion Press. An abridged paperback edition with an afterword by Benjamin Appel was published by Popular Library in 1978.

Google Books Library Project has digitized Volume I and Volume II of the first edition of Across the Zodiac. The full text is available at Project Gutenberg and ManyBooks.net, and an excerpt is part of The Planetary Society’s Visions of Mars library aboard NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bradbury, Allies Win Long Beach Book War

The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports that the once-threatened Long Beach Main Public Library will remain open but with reduced hours, staff, and resources. The Main Library had been slated for closure on October 1, 2008, as part of the city’s strategy for addressing a $16.9 million budget deficit. City officials have said they still plan to close the Main Library building at some point in the future when they construct a new main branch.

Public outcry and a media blitz by community groups and library patron Ray Bradbury helped win the costly book war against entrenched, anti-intellectual government bureaucrats.

Martianthology, Compiled by Forrest J Ackerman

Compiled by Forrest J Ackerman and edited by Anne Hardin, Martianthology (2003) is a wonderful collection of fourteen Martian stories “dedicated to the beloved memory of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who transported us via the ether to the wonderful world of the 4th planet, Barsoom, in 1912.” Here's a description of Martianthology, taken from its back cover:

"Years ago, when these stories were composed, life on Barsoom resided solely in the imaginations of certain special inhabitants of Jasoom (E. R. Burroughs-speak for Mars and Earth). This anthology captures the spirit of that "exploration"--long before a rocket from Earth had actually visited the fourth planet.

These writers gave us heroes and villains, adventure and mis-adventure accompanied by the thrills of conquest and redemption.
Martianthology offers something for all readers of “scientifiction” (as it was called during the early years of pulp writing.) From Cecil B. White’s "Return of the Martians," first published in Amazing Stories, 1928, through the relatively recent Charles Tanner’s "A Chorus for Dejah Thoris" published in Fantastic, 1968, these writers maintain energy and imagination.

You’ll find a rousing "space opera" adventure (along with an excellent
"hero" and great villains) in Ross Rocklynne’s novella "Water for Mars." Prepare for chills with A. E. van Vogt’s "Enchanted Village," along with an eerie tale of terror from Martin Jordan (1955), "A Present from Mars." From John Russell Fearn we offer "Martian Miniature" (1942), the tale of an experiment which unexpectedly
"mis-fired" along with another high-flying adventure, "In Martian Depths," written by Hendrik Dahl Juve back in 1932. A moral tale is told by Stanton A. Coblentz in "Manna from Mars," (1934). A quietly contemplative story comes from Gene Hunter in "Martian Interlude," (1955). And from Ed Earl Repp, who debuted to a splendid success in the late 1920s, we have "Martian Terror"--everything you might want: plenty of white hats, black hats, and hidden royalty about to be "discovered" to save the day (and get the girl). Two "shorties" are included here by our anthologist, Mr. Sci-Fi, Forrest J Ackerman.

This volume is dedicated to the memory of Edgar Rice Burroughs and, although we have no works by ERB, we do include two highly enjoyable ERB parodies. Finally, our editor, Anne Hardin, has included an excellent novella which she read as a child, "The Magic Ball from Mars" by Carl L. Biemiller.

So, fasten your seatbelts and prepare to blast off! It’s going to be an exciting ride!"


Here’s the table of contents:

Introduction, by Anne Hardin

The Magic Ball from Mars,” by Carl L. Biemiller, Jack and Jill (1952)

Enchanted Village,” by A. E. van Vogt, Other Worlds (July 1950)

Martian Miniature,” by John Russell Fearn, Amazing Stories (May 1942)

Martian Interlude,” by Gene Hunter, Spaceway Science Fiction (April 1955)

The Return of the Martians,” by Cecil B. White, Amazing Stories (April 1928)

A Martian Oddity,” by Forest J Ackerman, Marvel Science Stories (November 1950)

Mars Falls Sunward,” by E. V. Knox, These Liberties (Methuen & Co., 1923)

Water for Mars,” by Ross Rocklynne, Astounding Stories (April 1937)

In Martian Depths,” by Hendrik Dahl Juve, Wonder Stories (September 1932)

Manna from Mars,” by Stanton A. Coblentz, Astounding Science Fiction (March 1934)

Mars is--Hell!” by Forrest J Ackerman, Planet Stories (November 1950)

A Present from Mars,” by Martin Jordan, Authentic Science Fiction Monthly (January 1955)

Martian Terror,” by Ed Earl Repp, Planet Stories (Spring 1940)

A Chorus for Dejah Thoris,” by Charles R. Tanner, Fantastic (August 1968)

Pictured above: Cover of Martianthology, based on a painting by Frank R. Paul and featuring the anthologist, Forrest J Ackerman, as the spaceman!

Wonder Woman and the Wasilla Public Library

With allegations that Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah “Diana Prince” Palin might have tried to ban some library books when she served as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, we thought it would be fun to search the catalog of the Wasilla Public Library for some Martian science fiction books.

Surprisingly, the Wasilla Public Library doesn’t have any of the John Carter books by Edgar Rice Burroughs or the Mars books by Kim Stanley Robinson, but here are some neat books that they do have:

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury (1950)
The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television (2004)
Olympos, by Dan Simmons (2005)
Mars Needs Moms!, by Berke Breathed (2007)
Mars Life, by Ben Bova (2008)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fredric Brown’s “Earthmen Bearing Gifts” (1960)

Thanks to a recent post from QuasarDragon, we just finished reading Fredric Brown’s ultra-short story, “Earthmen Bearing Gifts” (1960), which is available online through ManyBooks.net and Project Gutenberg.

Originally published in Galaxy magazine, Brown’s story, which is less than two pages, takes place on Mars and is about the first physical contact between Martians and Earthmen. Variety SF has a detailed summary and rates the story an “A.” Free SF Reader rates the story a 3 out of 5.

Fredric Brown also penned other works about Martians, including Martians, Go Home (1955).

Friends of Old-Time Radio to Re-create “Mars is Heaven” from X Minus One

Friends of Old-Time Radio, a fan group that celebrates the golden age of radio, will gather for its 33rd annual convention from October 23 to 26, 2008, at the Holiday Inn North near Newark Airport in New Jersey.

One highlight of the convention will be the re-creation of "Mars Is Heaven," an episode of the science-fiction radio series X Minus One, which was adapted from a Ray Bradbury short story and aired in 1955. Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball, is scheduled to participate in the re-creation.

Bradbury's "Mars is Heaven!" was among the stories selected in 1970 by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one the best science fiction short stories of all time.

Martian Dictionary Predates LSD

Last week the blog io9 had a cool post titled
Burroughs and Disney Drop Acid, Create Animated Martian Dictionary,” which mentioned a glossary Edgar Rice Burroughs compiled of the terms used in his Barsoom novels and a Walt Disney animated version of the glossary created for its Mars and Beyond television show in 1957.

This inspired us to hunt for other references in science fiction to Martian dictionaries, which we found in Roger Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” (1963), Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), and this passage from Two Planets (1897), by Kurd Lasswitz:
“Wait!” he exclaimed. “In the lining there is still a package. What do we have here?”

The clasp opened. A book the size of a notebook appeared. Curiously, he opened it, hesitated for a moment, then began to thumb through it and looked wide eyed at Grunthe.

“That is,” he said shaking his head the while, “that is--but how could it be?”

The little book contained a word list of the Martian language; the words had been transcribed by means of letters from the Latin alphabet; next to these there was a translation into German and next to that a symbol for the word as it was used in the shorthand of the Martians. Saltner discovered the purpose of the contents by means of those few words he knew.

“For heaven’s sake, tell me,” he continued, “my thinking fails me--how could there be a German-Martian dictionary--how could it get here?"
It seems unlikely that Kurd Lasswitz, who died in 1910, dropped acid, as LSD was first synthesized in November 1938. Interestingly, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Synthetic Men of Mars was first published as a serial in early 1939.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Plastic Logic's New E-Reading Device Echoes Look of the Real Newspaper

"New E-Newspaper Reader Echoes Look of the Paper”
The New York Times
September 7, 2008
By Eric A. Taub

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The electronic newspaper, a large portable screen that is constantly updated with the latest news, has been a prop in science fiction for ages. It also figures in the dreams of newspaper publishers struggling with rising production and delivery costs, lower circulation and decreased ad revenue from their paper product.

While the dream device remains on the drawing board, Plastic Logic will introduce publicly on Monday its version of an electronic newspaper reader: a lightweight plastic screen that mimics the look -- but not the feel -- of a printed newspaper. ...

Read the full article in The New York Times.

Magazine Cover Art: Cyril Judd’s "Gunner Cade"

Astounding Science Fiction magazine
No. 256, March 1952
Cover: “Gunner Cade,” artwork by Pawelka

Issue contains the first of three parts of “Gunner Cade,” by Cyril Judd (Judith Merril and C. M. Kornbluth), the story of a professional soldier of the Realm of Man, who is captured by rebel forces on Mars but escapes, only to find that he is being hunted by fellow gunners.

"Gunner Cade" was quickly republished as a novel later in 1952.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Book Sale: Donald A. Wollheim’s Copy of Mars Mountain, the First SF Specialty Press Book

A book dealer at AbeBooks.com is selling a rare copy of Eugene George Key’s Mars Mountain (1935), a collection of three science fiction short stories. Apparently, the book was once owned by writer, publisher, and editor Donald A. Wollheim.

As the description below indicates and author, editor, and book collector Robert Weinberg has stated, Key’s collection has significance as “the first science fiction specialty press book” and “the first small press science fiction hardcover.”
Mars Mountain, by Eugene George Key (1935)

Publisher: Everett, Penna.: Fantasy Pubs.
Publication Date: 1935
Binding: Hardcover
Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included
Edition: 1st Edition

Description: Small octavo. ... two inserted plates with illustrations by Irving E. G. Bjorkman ... dust jacket which reproduces one of the Bjorkman illustration on the front panel. First edition. The first SF specialty press book ... [William L.] Crawford printed 400 copies of Mars Mountain, but no more than 150 were bound; 100 hardbound in white boards and 50 paperbound ... This pioneer 152-page book collects three short stories Key was unable to place in the pulp market and is now notorious for being unreadable. ... Overall, a nice copy of this fragile little book. Formerly Donald A. Wollheim's copy with his name stamped in ink on the rear panel of the jacket.

Price: $500
Equally interesting is Bjorkman's “Original pen and ink drawing on paper for the cover art (and frontispiece) for the first edition of Mars Mountain by Eugene George Key,” which is listed on AbeBooks.com for $20,000.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Mars, the Dire Planet

Freelance writer and blogger Josh Reynolds has written a neat piece about the History of a Most Dire Planet, which recounts the history of science fiction writing about Mars.

We’re familiar with many of the authors and works that Reynolds mentions, but we learned a few new ones:

Doctor Omega (1906), by Arnould Galopin

The Vampires of Mars (1909), by Gustave Le Rouge

The Nyctalope on Mars (1911), by Jean de La Hire

The Martian Epic (1921, 1922), by Octave Joncquel & Théo Varlet

All of these books, originally written in French, have been adapted to English and published by Black Coat Press.

Josh Reynolds also mentions The Dire Planet Digital Book Tour, which is a promotional campaign for a trilogy of Mars books written by Joel Jenkins and published by PulpWork Press:

Dire Planet (2005), pictured above

Exiles of the Dire Planet (2006)

Into the Dire Planet (2007)

According to Russ Anderson, "If you like John Carter of Mars or Conan, chances are good you'll love Dire Planet. The world its heroes exist in is as rich and textured and politically complicated as anything you're going to find in a Robert E. Howard or an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel."

Hugo Gernsback and The Scientific Adventures of Baron Münchhausen

While Hugo Gernsback has often been called the
“father of science fiction” for founding Amazing Stories magazine in 1926 and was recognized for his important contributions to the field with the establishment of the Hugo Award in 1953, he is less well known for writing Baron Münchhausen’s New Scientific Adventures.

A series of thirteen pieces of short fiction, the Baron's scientific adventures were published first in Gernsback's The Electrical Experimenter from 1915 to 1917, later in his Amazing Stories from February to July 1928, and more recently in The Scientific Adventures of Baron Munchausen, edited by Robert Godwin (2006).

Here’s a description of the Baron's adventures: “An episodic story sequence that combines rather puerile humor, passages of popular astronomy, technological speculation, and fanciful extrapolations about conditions elsewhere in the solar system." And here are the nine episodes that pertain to Mars:

#5 “Münchhausen Departs for the Planet Mars

#6 “Muenchhausen Lands on Mars

#7 “Munchhausen is Taught Martian

#8 “Thought Transmission on Mars

#9 “The Cities of Mars

#10 “The Planets at Close Range

#11 “Martian Amusements

#12 “How the Martian Canals Are Built

#13 “Martian Atmospheric Plants

You can read descriptions of these episodes in Science-fiction, the Early Years: A Full Description of More Than 3,000 Science-fiction Stories from Earliest Times to the Appearance of the Genre Magazines in 1930, by Everett F. Bleiler and Richard Bleiler (1990).

Note the variant spellings of the Baron's last name.

Pictured above: The Electrical Experimenter, May 1915, depicting Baron Munchhausen on the Moon.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ray Bradbury to Speak in Long Beach Book War

Ray Bradbury will make a special guest appearance this Saturday, September 6, 2008, at the Long Beach Main Public Library in California to speak about the future of libraries and the importance of books.

You see, Bradbury is involved in a budget battle that could shutter the Long Beach Main Public Library as part of a bureaucratic proposal to close a $16.9 million city budget deficit. Bradbury voiced his strong opposition to the proposal in a recent Long Beach Press-Telegram letter to the editor, featured in our blog post of August 22.

To learn more about the Long Beach book war, please read “Ray Bradbury joins fight to save Long Beach Library,” a blog post at the Los Angeles Times, and “Ray Bradbury will speak in support of Long Beach Main Library Saturday,” an article in the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Also, we note that the library’s 1958 Doubleday edition of Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is currently checked out. It’s due back on September 23!

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: “An Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away,” a Novelette by John Barnes

Apparently, we’re among the last to learn that
An Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away” (2007), a recent novelette by John Barnes set on a terraformed Mars, appears in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection (2008), a new anthology edited by Gardner Dozois.

Here’s how Dozois describes Barnes’ plot: “A future Mars in the process of being terraformed, where a personal, professional, and philosophical rivalry may turn out to have deadly consequences.”

SF Signal noted that “the first half of this story was dreadfully slow” and gave it a rating of two stars out of five. Tangent: Short Fiction Review “found the story made for dry reading.” Not Free SF Reader called it an “Energetic documentary avalanche accident” and gave it a rating of three out of five. Nevertheless, Barnes’ novelette has been recommended for a Nebula Award.

The first half of “An Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away” is posted on Jim Baen’s Universe website, although we were able to read the entire novelette through Amazon.com's Online Reader. We agree with the other reviewers that Barnes' work is less than stellar.

John Barnes is also the author of two novels set on the Red Planet, The Sky So Big and Black (2002) and In the Hall of the Martian King (2003). He maintains a blog at Amazon.com.