Sunday, October 4, 2009

The O2 proposal: A Christian view of three Mars novels from the 1990s

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a document entitled O2: A Novel Proposal” (PDF, 11 pages), by biochemist and author John B. Olson and scientist and author Randall Ingermanson. Presumably written around the year 2000, the document is a proposal for a near-future science fiction thriller that revolves around a woman named Valkerie Jansen, a Christian microbial ecologist on the first manned mission to Mars. In addition to providing a summary, “spiritual payload,” audience, market analysis, endorsements, synopsis, and character sketches, the proposal contains an interesting list of and commentary on seven “similar books,” including these three well-known novels published in the 1990s:

Mars (1992, Bantam Books), by Ben Bova
“A well-researched novel by a bestselling science fiction writer. The plot is a bit thin and the characters are mostly two dimensional, but Bova’s research carries this book. The story begins when the crew reaches Mars. Bova’s tale is laced with sexual content that will discomfit many Christian readers. His mission architecture is well out of date.”

Red Mars (1993, Bantam Books), by Kim Stanley Robinson
“Winner of the 1993 Nebula Award, Red Mars paints a dark, feverish picture of the future colonization of Mars by the first hundred colonists, an ambitious, promiscuous, near-psychotic band of frontiersmen (and women). Robinson’s staged debates between Christians and atheists will likely offend many Christians. This bleak but highly literary book leaves the reader depressed and exhausted.”

Mars Underground (1997, Tor), by William K. Hartmann
“Dr. Hartmann has participated in a number of Mars missions sponsored by NASA and the Russian Space Agency. This novel tells the story of the future discovery of an underground artifact hidden on Mars by some ancient alien species. Hartmann is a better scientist than novelist, and his scenes of casual sex seem designed to compensate for a lack of emotional intensity.”

The proposed novel, O2, was published under the title Oxygen in 2001 by Bethany House Publishers.


Republibot 3.0 said...

Forgive me for being dim - I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Is the book about a Christian scientist (As opposed to a Christian Scientist) on Mars, or some kind of proposal, or an essay on Mars-centric literature? I'm a bit befuddled.

Paul said...

My interpretation is that the proposal for the novel was accepted by Bethany House Publishers and the novel was published in 2001 under the title "Oxygen."

The proposal uses the term "Christian microbial ecologist." Given the content of the proposal and the publisher, I doubt the authors were referring to Christian Scientists.

With respect to Mars-centric literature, the authors seem to have done an anysis of "similar books" and concluded that there was a market for a Mars novel that would appeal to a Christian audience.

Paul said...

I changed the last line in my post in an attempt to clarify.

Republibot 3.0 said...

Ah, got it now. Thank you!