Mars in fiction was aired at Saturday’s Chester science fiction library book group meeting. As I walked up to the library I saw the group had grouped outside in the sunlit wide paving and thought a decision had been made to go al fresco. Then I saw a picket line outside the library doors. The local Conservative council had changed the weekend-work contracts for librarians, care-workers, staff in schools, care homes and residential establishments effectively cutting their income. Picture here is of the Chester main library. It used to be a factory making motor cars. If you can zoom in on the decorative top of the building it says Westminster Coach and Motor works. Didn’t they build factories grand in the 1920!
We supported them by not crossing them and instead walked to a local pub that has a large garden. Drinks, and outdoors – perfect for us, and support for a good cause. Ironic too, because there are two SF book groups in Chester and it is the ‘other’ rebel group that started off by meeting in the same pub garden. In practise everyone but a few are in both groups and enjoy the chance to discuss SFF books twice a month!
The ‘rebel’ group discusses agreed individual books while the library group probes themes and tropes within the science fiction and fantasy genres. This week it was the turn of Mars. In an earlier blog I gave my review of my chosen book on Mars – Philip K Dick’s Martian Time-slip, which was more a fictional study of Schizophrenia than about Mars. Similarly, most fiction seems to be about people – allegories on politics, philosophy and sociology (Ben Bova, Kim Stanley Robinson, Greg Bear) than Mars itself. Early works written before the 1960s, when they did use Mars, thought the canals were real and that Mars would be easily colonised, once the natives there were made friendly. We couldn’t find a book that addressed the terra-forming of Mars seriously – ie solved the problem of the solar wind stripping most of the atmosphere because of the lack of a magnetosphere on the planet as it is now. Some of the group regarded Mars as an uninspirational place for future fiction now it is thought to be sterile and arid. However, I and a few others feel there is scope for imaginative tales to make use of such apparent futility. Hidden life beneath the surface, for example. Us writers are always up to a challenge. For example John Rennie in our group suggested (tongue in cheek but he IS a scientist) dropping a mini black hole down to the core of Mars to generate sufficient heat to regenerate convection, and induce a magnetic field again. The stuff of fiction.
Our leader, Alex Greene, had read more widely than the rest and was able to quote episodes of Star Trek and many other books.