Monday, February 28, 2011

Only known image of early 20th-c Mars psychic Sara Weiss

Sara Weiss, frontispiece

Decimon Huydas: A Romance of Mars: A Story of Actual Experiences in Ento, Mars, Many Centuries Ago Given to the Psychic Sara Weiss and by Her Transcribed Automatically under the Editorial Direction of Spirit Carl de L'Ester (1906).

Courtesy Google and William B. Cairns Collection of American Women Writers 1650-1940, University Wisconsin-Madison.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

1950’s short story: "The Hitch Hikers" by Vernon McCain

Thanks to the industrious folks at Project Gutenberg, you can read online or download a free copy of "The Hitch Hikers," a short story penned by science fiction writer Vernon L. McCain (?-1958) and illustrated by Frank Kelly Freas, the "Dean of Science Fiction Artists." Originally published in the November 1954 issue of If: Worlds of Science Fiction magazine, the storyline revolves around the Rell, a great and ancient Martian race, faced with extinction when all moisture is swept from the Red Planet and their canals run dry. Here are the opening lines of the story:

THE dehydration of the planet had taken centuries in all. The Rell had still been a great race when the process started. Construction of the canals was a prodigious feat but not a truly remarkable one. But what use are even canals when there is nothing to fill them?

What cosmic influences might have caused the disaster baffled even the group-mind of the Rell. Through the eons the atmosphere had drifted into space; and with it went the life-giving moisture. Originally a liquid paradise, the planet was now a dry, hostile husk.

The large groups of Rell had been the first to suffer. But in time even the tiny villages containing mere quadrillions of the submicroscopic entities had found too little moisture left to satisfy their thirst and the journey ever southward toward the pole had commenced.

The new life was bitter and difficult and as their resources were depleted so also did their numbers diminish...

Thanks to Dave Tackett of QuasarDragon for the tip!

Cities of Martian Rails: Isher

Martian Rails (2009), the crayon board game manufactured by Mayfair Games about railroading on the Red Planet in which players build tracks and haul freight in sleek trains with names like Spirit, Tweel and Viking, has a long list of interesting cities that players can capitalize on to generate revenue for their rail companies. For example:

Isher – A small settlement in the badlands near the Southern Icecap (southeast sections). When the crystals that made possible the first rayguns were discovered, the mining and manufacturing center that grew nearby was named for the Earth administration that created the need for the rayguns. The rayguns that tamed the planet and later the Alpha Quadrant were made here.

Martian Rails is loaded with references to Martian SF!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

1970's SF novel: The Gods of Xuma or Barsoom Revisited by David J. Lake

The Gods of Xuma or Barsoom Revisited (1978), a novel by Indian-born Australian science fiction writer, poet, and literary critic David J. Lake.

Pictured below: Paperback original (New York: DAW Books, 1978), #UE1360, No. 279, 189 p., $1.50. Cover art by Don Maitz. Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

Barsoom revisisted?

If the universe is infinite, it follows that there may be somewhere real physical worlds that duplicate those of the imagination. And when Tom Carson caught sight of the third planet of 82 Eridani he recognized at once its resemblance to that imaginary Mars called “Barsoom” of the ancient novelist Burroughs.

Of course there were differences, but even so this planet was ruddy, crisscrossed with canals, and its inhabitants were redskinned, fought with swords, and had many things superficially in common with the fantasy Mars of the John Carter adventures.

But there were indeed vital variations that would eventually trip up the self-deceived-science-fiction-reading travellers from 24th Century Earth. Therein hangs a tale that will delight and surprise everyone who enjoys the thrill of exploring a new world, especially one that seems peculiarly familiar.

The Gods of Xuma was followed by a sequel, Warlords of Xuma (1983). According to Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction (1999), by Russell Blackford, Van Ikin, and Sean McMullen:

In the two Xuma books, Lake is able in one stroke to turn a potentially banal SF standby – the discovery of a civilization millions of years old – into a philosophical enabling device. […]

When the first book’s protagonist arrives on Xuma, his first significant act is to disintegrate 120 mounted warriors with his laser pistol. Thus, human technology performs spectacular feats, but also horrifyingly murderous ones, and the Xumans have deliberately renounced the path to such dangerous gadgets. The beauty of their way of life is that it is sustainable, adapted to last without depleting their planet over millions of years. It might be added that their non-technological learning – linguistics, philosophy – is sublime.

One of the intriguing elements in Lake’s books, is the complex attitude to violence that we have mentioned above. Planetary adventure is, of course, traditionally violent, but early in The Gods of Xuma the main character is told, “Evil too has its rights,” and this refrain echoes through the novel and its sequel. Nobody flinches at wars that have been going on for 1 million years, and it seems that Xuman society is presented sympathetically rather than otherwise when it is shown as incorporating highly regulated, indecisive warfare. […]

Violence is presented with repugnance only when it is not regularized by a larger context or when it can be carried out with the effect of mass destruction at a distance. Any concept of total war, such as destroyed human civilization (according to Lake’s essential premise), is rejected, and it is best to kill your enemy face to face so that you at least appreciate what you are doing.

In 2007, Australian SF mega-fan Blue Tyson rated The Gods of Xuma 3.5 stars out of 5.

If you're an ERB fan and are looking for something new (or old) to read that's in the same vein, then The Gods of Xuma and its sequel, Warlords of Xuma, are for you!

Yes, Virginia, women really did read SF in the 1930's: Letter # 9

Dear Editor:

I'm accepting your kind invitation to come over to "The Readers' Corner" and express my opinion of your magazine.

I like it immensely. I read all the Science Fiction I can, and your magazine heads my list. I think the serial "The Pirate Planet," is as interesting a story as any I've read. Astounding Stories improves with every issue.

Dorothea Cutler, P.O. Box 122, Mesa, Arizona

Friday, February 25, 2011

Free SF-Horror digital comic: D.O.G.S. of Mars #1

I just downloaded D.O.G.S. of Mars #1 (Feb 2011), a new free digital comic courtesy of Comixology, for my iPhone. Written by Tony Trov, Christian Weiser and Johnny Zito, illustrated by Paul Maybury, lettered by Gabriel Bautista with cover art by Rahzzah, here’s the promotional blurb:

Nocturnal monsters stalk astronauts marooned on Mars. Zoe is the swashbuckling captain of Earth's first off-world colony. Isolated on the farthest frontier of civilization, order breaks down when the unfamiliar hostile invades. Zoe faces mutiny, death and dishonor; she must sacrifice her humanity if she hopes to survive. It's Star Trek meets Lord of the Flies for horror fans.

You can also read D.O.G.S. of Mars #1 on your iPad or just read it online.

Visions of Mars: Forthcoming collection of essays and articles

Great news! Phil Nichols of the UK-based blog Ray Bradbury & Media reports that Visions of Mars: Essays on the Red Planet in Fiction and Science, an academic volume that examines the way Mars has been depicted in literature, film and popular culture, will be published by McFarland in May 2011.

Edited by Howard V. Hendrix, George Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin, this volume is a collection of essays and articles that are mostly derived from the 2008 J. Lloyd Eaton Science Fiction Conference, which was subtitled "Chronicling Mars" and was held at the University of California, Riverside.

The table of contents, which is posted on McFarland's website, includes the following:
  • "Savagery on Mars: Representations of the Primitive in Brackett and Burroughs" by Dianne Newell and Victoria Lamont
  • "Re-Presenting Mars: Bradbury’s Martian Stories in Media Adaptation" by Phil Nichols
  • "Robert A. Heinlein and the Red Planet" by David Clayton
  • "Business as Usual: Philip K. Dick’s Mars" by Jorge Martins Rosa
Thanks for the tip Phil! This looks like a fantastic work!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Oneness" – 1963 short story by James H. Schmitz about autocratic Earth and escape from penal Mars

Thanks to the industrious folks at Project Gutenberg, you can read or download "Oneness," a short story penned by American science fiction writer James H. Schmitz (1911-1981) and illustrated by artist Leo Summers (1925-1985). Originally published in the May 1963 issue of Analog Science Fact & Fiction magazine, the storyline revolves around an autocratic Earth, a penal Mars, and the escape, interrogation, and torture of a scientifically-trained specialist named Rainbolt. Here are the opening lines of the story:

MENESEE felt excitement surge like a living tide about him as he came with the other directors into the vast Tribunal Hall. Sixty years ago, inexcusable carelessness had deprived Earth of its first chance to obtain a true interstellar drive. Now, within a few hours, Earth, or more specifically, the upper echelons of that great political organization called the Machine which had controlled the affairs of Earth for the past century and a half, should learn enough of the secrets of the drive to insure that it would soon be in their possession.

Menesee entered his box between those of Directors Cornelius and Ojeda, immediately to the right of the Spokesman's Platform and with an excellent view of the prisoner. When Administrator Bradshaw and Spokesman Dorn had taken their places on the platform, Menesee seated himself, drawing the transcript of the day's proceedings towards him. However, instead of glancing over it at once, he spent some seconds in a study of the prisoner...

Thanks to Tinkoo Valia of the blog Variety SF for the tip and the summary!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Black Space: Imagining race in the film Mission to Mars (2000)

Earlier this month, I stumbled across Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film by Adilifu Nama (University of Texas Press, 2008), a "fresh, insightful work that fills an obvious and significant gap in the critical and theoretical discussion of the African American absence/presence (along with the broader issues of race and difference) in science fiction cinema." While Nama’s rich, deep analysis focuses on box office blockbuster such as the Star Wars and Matrix franchises, it also includes less financially successful films, such as Mission to Mars (2000), starring Gary Sinise as Jim McConnell, Connie Nielsen as Terri Fisher, Tim Robbins as Woodrow "Woody" Blake, and Don Cheadle as Luke Graham:

Wow! I'll never watch Mission to Mars in the same light again!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Planet Comics #1 (Jan 1940): "Flint Baker & and the One-Eyed Monster Men of Mars"

Thanks to some anonymous nutcase who treasures comic book piracy, here are some beautiful, readable jpegs of a comic titled "The Planetary Adventures of Flint Baker & and the One-Eyed Monster Men of Mars," which was the first story published in the first issue of Planet Comics (#1 January 1940, Fiction House). Scripted and illustrated by Dick Briefer, this 15-page comic chronicles the adventures of Fletcher "Flint" Baker as he journeys to the Red Planet with three murderous ex-convicts and the lovely Mimi Wilson of the New York Globe, where they battle Sarko and the One-Eyed Monster Men of Mars!

Flint Baker prepares for his voyage to Mars

He finds an old letter from 1933 on the surface of Mars

Martian Princess Viga and her father greet Flint Baker

The evil Sarko attacks from the Dark Side of Mars

Flint Baker helps defeat the One-Eyed Monster Men of Mars!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Book Cave podcast Episode 108: Mars, Here We Come!

Earlier this year, The Book Cave, a weekly podcast about books, comics, pulps, movie serials, and old time radio & tv series, devoted Episode 108 to a full two-hour trip to the different realms of Martian science fiction and fantasy. Join Art, Ric, Tom and Ginger as they discuss works penned by H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Olaf Stapledon, Edwin L. Arnold, Otis Adelbert Kline, Stanley G. Weinbaum, James Norman, C.S. Lewis, Edward P. Bradbury, Joel Jenkins, Lin Carter, Larry Niven, and S.M. Stirling, as well as comic book characters Martian Manhunter, Lars of Mars, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, John Carter of Mars, Gulliver of Mars, and more!

Interesting and energetic podcast, but I quit before the end because the quality is a bit rough and much of the discussion keeps circling back around to Edgar Rice Burroughs. Also, a few too many Tarzan tangents.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Artist Frank Frazetta packed more than tubes of acrylic paint

Frank Frazetta (1928-2010)

Events of Martian Rails: Bug-eyed Monster!

Martian Rails (2009), the crayon board game manufactured by Mayfair Games about railroading on the Red Planet in which players build tracks and haul freight in sleek trains with names like Spirit, Tweel and Viking, has a long list of events to which players can respond in order to generate revenue for their rail companies. For example:

Bug-eyed Monster! – In the vastness of the Martian wastelands, vicious creatures still roam. When they encounter human outposts, the clashes are often grim—for the Earthmen. The stories and, especially, the movies from Old Earth often used this generic name to describe these beasts.

Martian Rails is loaded with references to Martian SF!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Auction records: Original art by Bob Abbett for 1960's Ballantine reprint of Edgar Rice Burroughs's novel Synthetic Men of Mars

Robert Abbett (American b. 1926)
Synthetic Men of Mars, 1963
Acrylic on board
16 x 15.5 in.
Signed lower left

This illustration appeared on the cover of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel, The Synthetic Men of Mars, Ballentine Books, 1963.

"John Carter desperately needed the aid of Barsoom's greatest scientist. But Ras Thavas was the prisoner of a nightmare army of his own creation – half-humans who lived only for conquest. And in their hidden laboratory seethed a horror that could engulf all of Mars."

Sold for: $3,585 (includes BP)
Date sold: March 11, 2009

Second trailer for animated Disney film Mars Needs Moms

Here’s the second official trailer for Mars Needs Moms, an upcoming 3-D computer-animated science fiction family film by Walt Disney Pictures that is scheduled to land in U.S. theaters on March 11, 2011. Based on the 2007 children’s book by Berkeley Breathed, the film stars voice actor Seth Green as a kid named Milo and Joan Cusack as his mom, who is kidnapped by Martians and taken to the Red Planet to help raise alien children.

Looks like good clean family fun.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

1930’s story: "A Summons from Mars" by John Russell Fearn

Thanks to Doc Mars of the amazing French-language website Mars & la Science Fiction, you can download and read British science fiction writer John Russell Fearn’s short story  "A Summons from Mars" (pdf) as it was originally published in the June 1938 issue of Amazing Stories magazine. Set on the Red Planet, the plot revolves around the aftermath of the first Earthman’s trip to Mars, whose dead body unleashes bacteria that wipes out the entire Martian race, save for one young girl. Here are the opening lines:

THE ocher sand of the Martian desert spouted towards the blue-black sky under the impact of the falling space machine. The vessel slithered a little distance and became still in the long trough it had gouged for itself.

For a long time nothing disturbed the desert’s silence. A thin, icy breeze stirred mournfully across it; the small sun moved among the faint stars . . . until at last its pale light picked out a group of four radio driven robots moving methodically across the waste on smoothly jointed legs. Flawlessly made, rather hideous, quipped with various strange instruments, they finally gained the vessel, set to work with the pincer hands and tools upon the airlocks . . .

Merci beaucoup, Doc Mars!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CoryLeak: Read first page of Cory Doctorow’s forthcoming YA story "Martian Chronicles"

Thanks to some anonymous nutcase who treasures book piracy, you can read the first page of "Martian Chronicles" (2011), a forthcoming short story written by Canadian blogger, science fiction author, and copyright activist Cory "Boing Boing" Doctorow which appears in Life on Mars: Tales from the New Frontier, a new Young Adult science fiction anthology of stories edited by Australian anthologist Jonathan Strahan that is being published by Viking Juvenile and is scheduled to be released in mid-April 2011.

Check out the detail on the cover art by French artist Stephan Martiniere!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Comic book review round-up: Warlord of Mars #4 (2011)

Warlord of Mars, the new comic book series adaptation by Dynamite Entertainment of beloved pulp author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ fantastical science fiction novel A Princess of Mars (1917), continues to generate strong interest among both comic and ERB fans. Written by Arvid Nelson with interior artwork by Lui Antonio and four variant covers by artists Joe Jusko, Lucio Parillo, Patrick Berkenkotter and J. Scott Campbell, here are some snippets from various reviews of Warlord of Mars #4 (February 2011):

1) Christina "RogueNurse" Weber of "FINALLY! Finally the chick that has been on every single cover since this series started is introduced in this issue. It only takes half of the issue to get there, but at last she’s relieved in all her mostly nude voluptuousness."

2) Greg Burgas of Comic Book Resources: "Sure, there’s a story. But I was too distracted by Dejah’s ridiculous clothing to write about it!!!!"

3) MCR of JCOM Reader: "Of course the big addition here is Dejah herself and I'm sure some are asking how doe she look? Well let's say this: stunning. This issue the artwork is by Lui Antonio and he draws one of the most beautiful Dejahs I've seen--both in the body and the face."

4) DS Arsenault of Weekly Comic Book Review: "Conclusion: I loved this issue. If you liked John Carter or Tarzan as a kid, you’ve got to pick up this gem of a series. Grade: A."

5) Johnny Bacardi of "The adaptation of the venerable Burroughs story by one Arvid Nelson is done pretty well for the most part; haven’t read the original in years but what I do remember doesn’t seem all that out of sync with this. As an introduction to ERB’s character, I think it works pretty well and it it reaches an audience, then perhaps it will drum up some interest in the upcoming feature film, or vice versa. B."

6) Victor Kutsenok of A Comic Book Blog: "Still, this book’s speed, pace and action make it an amazing read month in and month out. A great retelling of a great classic."

Pictured: Cover art by Joe Jusko.

First edition dust jacket of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1951 collection The Green Hills of Earth

The Green Hills of Earth 
Collection by Robert A. Heinlein
(United States: Shasta Publishers, 1951) hardcover
Art by Hubert Rogers depicts Rhysling from short story "The Green Hills of Earth"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Audiobook review of Ben Bova’s 1992 novel Mars

Earlier this month, the blog AudioBook Heaven reviewed the unabridged 2008 Blackstone Audio audiobook of Mars (1992), the first novel in a hard science fiction Red Planet trilogy written by six-time Hugo Award-winning author Ben Bova. Featuring a geologist named Jamie Waterman, Mars is read by respected voice actor Stefan Rudnicki and clocks in at nearly 19 hours.

The final word of the review: “I first read Mars more than fifteen years ago and it has remained one of my very favorite science fiction novels. There’s something about the planet Mars that captivates me. In the years hence, Ben Bova has become my favorite science fiction author, largely due to his Grand Tour series.”

You can listen to a sample of Mars through Blackstone’s website.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Interview with Leonid Korogodski, author of 2010 SF novella Pink Noise: A Posthuman Tale

The website Fascinating Authors has a lengthy interview with Leonid Korogodski, a Ph.D. graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose hard science SF debut work Pink Noise: A Posthuman Tale was published by Silverberry Press in late 2010. The interview covers Korogodski’s research and writing process for Pink Noise, how he selected the novella’s title, and his next project, as well as books that have influenced him as a writer and details about his personal life.