Mars: A Tour of the Human Imagination

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What is Mars? From the ancients to the present, we have imagined Mars repeatedly and studied it longingly. As scientific knowledge of Mars has changed, so has the cultural imagination of this celestial neighbors. The earth-centered beginnings of astronomy 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 not 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 chronological tale of many threads, including mythology, astrology, astronomy, literary criticism, and cultural studies.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[T]his book contains a wealth of information… In particular, the sections on early ideas, theories and observers such as Copernicus, Kepler, Cassini, et al, are very informative, and this book is worth having as a reference on the Red Planet."


"[P]robes the ways in which Mars has influenced not only the field of astronomy but also mythology, astrology, cultural and literary studies, and more."


Library Journal

"[O]ften clever and even enlightening….Comprehensive collections."



"[A]n interersting, informative, and different perspective on the planet."



"Mars has fascinated us since the time we emerged from the ooze and looked skyward. Both H.G. Wells and Orson Welles found it a source of inspiration, and were it not for Mars the television series My Favorite Martian would have to be called My Favorite Californian. Rabkin offers about 60 short chapters on the reasons why the Red Planet hangs over our science, our speculative literature (both good and bad), and our fantasies. He includes period illustrations of those involved, including Mars itself, and a nifty shot of Martin the Martian, foe of Bugs Bunny."


Popular Astronomy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275987190
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/30/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

Red light in the black sky 1
Starry night 2
Ancient Egypt : Har Decher 3
The idealized solar system 6
What was a planet? 7
Mesopotamia : Nergal 9
Ancient Greece : Ares 12
Ancient Rome : Mars 14
The sunset of Mars 19
Changes in Venus 21
Metaphorical Mars 24
Ptolemy 26
The observation of the planets 28
Astrological symbols 30
Days of the week 33
Alchemy 36
The Mars symbol 39
Nicolaus Copernicus : reorganizing the universe 41
Johannes Kepler : putting Mars in its place 46
Galileo Galilei : questions of authority 51
Evangelista Torricelli : how space became empty 55
Christian Huygens : other earths? 58
Giovanni Cassini : very, very carefully 60
Isaac Newton : one big universe 62
Mars on their minds 65
Jonathan Swift : imaginary travels 67
William Herschel : stars and Mars 73
The solar system today 78
Asaph Hall : the sons of Mars 79
Giovanni Schiaparelli : gaining in translation 82
Camille Flammarion : astrophile extraordinaire 86
Percival Lowell : a glorious obsession 92
Percival Lowell : mapping Mars and Martians 96
H. G. Wells : The war of the worlds 104
H. G. Wells : another view from Mars 115
A world ready to believe 119
Mark Wicks : a Lowellian utopia 121
Edgar Rice Burroughs : Mars and America 125
Mars : the bar from Barsoom 132
Dead Mars? 133
Orson Welles : The war of the worlds broadcast 135
Marvin the Martian : playing with aliens 141
Ray Bradbury : an American fairyland 143
George Pal : The war of the worlds again 148
Spacecraft : us vs. them 150
Off to camp 154
Chemosphere 157
Robert A. Heinlein : the Martian savior 160
Enter NASA 162
My favorite Martian 164
The age of Aquarius 166
The face on Mars 168
Mars attacks! 172
Leaving Earth behind 173
Mars today 174
Phobos and Deimos today 176
Men are from Mars ... 177
The NASAfication of Mars 179
Mars : the eighth continent 184
Marscape 185
Terraforming Mars 188
Red rover 191
Water on Mars 193
Land of spirit and opportunity 195
August, 2003 198
The beagle hasn't landed 199
A-roving we will go 201
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