What is Mars? From the ancients to the present, we have imagined Mars repeatedly and studied it longingly. As scientific kwledge of Mars has changed, so has the cultural imagination of this celestial neighbors. The earth-centered beginnings of astromy connected the blood-red planet with the God of War. The Copernican Revolution and a later, simple mistranslation from Italian supported fantastic visions of distant Mars as the abode of life variously bizarre, ideal, or malignant. In the work of H. G. Wells and Orson Welles, in books, films, radio, and television, Mars reflected t only eternal hopes and fears but then-current political realities. In recent years, NASA-fication has brought Mars home, imagining the Red Planet almost as an eighth continent of Earth, a candidate for exploration and exploitation both in fiction and in fact. Rabkin weaves a chrological tale of many threads, including mythology, astrology, astromy, literary criticism, and cultural studies.
Eric S. Rabkin teaches in the Department of English at the University of Michigan. He is the author (and editor) of more than 30 books on science fiction and writing, including Science Fiction: A Historical Anthology and The Fantastic in Literature, and more than 100 articles in scholarly and mainstream media.