Thursday, October 6, 2011

Larry Niven talks about his vision of Mars at 2008 conference

I’m still reading bits and pieces of Visions of Mars: Essays on the Red Planet in Fiction and Science (McFarland 2011), a heavy academic volume examining the way Mars has been depicted in literature, film and popular culture that I purchased earlier this year for my Kindle e-reader.

As I mentioned in a recent post (Transsexuals and Frederik Pohl's 1976 novel Man Plus), one of the more interesting sections is Appendix 2, “The Extreme Edge of Mars Today,” which is a transcript of a panel discussion with editor David G. Hartwell and authors Geoffrey A. Landis, Larry Niven, and Mary A. Turzillo that was conducted at the 2008 J. Lloyd Eaton Science Fiction Conference, held in Riverside, California.

In this excerpt, award-winning and bestselling author Larry Niven discusses his vision of Mars and a few of his Martian SF&F works:
I started early. I started writing Mars stories in the '60s, when the results were just coming in from probes. Somebody was talking about sand dunes on Mars, so I wrote a short story involving that. And then pictures came back and the planet was covered with craters, just like the Moon. That was startling, and I joked to be the first to write a story called Mars with craters. More data kept flowing in and at that time the computers hadn't spread like a great plague or a great symbiot, for that matter. The computers hadn't spread, the Internet wasn't there, you had to fight to get information. I could be the first with every new discovery about Mars, for about six years. And then it kind of ran out and I started looking elsewhere.

That was then. The most recent thing I've done about Mars was Rainbow Mars, and you have to get this in perspective. Hanville Svetz is a time traveler, and time travel is fantasy and he doesn't know it. So the Mars he's finding contains everybody's Martians -- everybody's except Heinlein's, who were too powerful; I couldn't handle those. Why did I do fantasy? Because the real Mars is available to everybody; I can't be the first at anything. I've tried it with other things such as the frozen Earth and found I got beat into print. That is how Mars has affected me, accepting the fact that I can keep updating it as information flows in, and it's still part of known space, part of the solar system I've been writing about for forty years.
Presumably, the "stories in the '60s" that Niven refers to include “Eye of an Octopus” (1966), “How the Heroes Die” (1966), and “At the Bottom of a Hole” (1966).

No comments:

Post a Comment