Cover

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pp. c-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xiv

Of what value is the history of an error? That was the question that first prompted me to undertake the research that led to the writing of Imagining Mars. A century ago, Percival Lowell, convinced of the reality of the Martian ‘‘canals’’ that he thought he had seen from his observatory at Flagstaff, was keeping up a relentless campaign—in books, lectures, popular articles, and...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xx

A project like this one, extending over many years, incurs debts of gratitude that can never be repaid adequately. I begin my litany of thanks with deep appreciation to the National Endowment for the Humanities, which provided the gift of a fellowship in 2000 that enabled me to undertake the first stage of research and writing, and to the University of Massachusetts Boston, which...

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1 The Meaning of Mars

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pp. 1-19

Leaving my house in Boston late on August 28, 2003, the semi-cloudy night of the closest transit of Earth and Mars in sixty millennia, I drove to the Whitin Observatory to look at Mars through Wellesley College’s superb old Clark refracting telescope, the gold standard for late-Victorian viewing of the night sky. I was conscious of how antiquarian, how quixotic my little expedition must...

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2 Dreamworlds of the Telescope

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pp. 20-36

At the close of the nineteenth century, in his great compendium of the first three hundred years of telescopic observations of Mars, Camille Flammarion called attention to Galileo’s hesitant declaration of victory in his 1610 effort to get a clear view of the planet. Galileo had been busily fabricating telescopes, improving their magnification, and experimenting with what his instruments...

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3 Inventing a New Mars

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pp. 37-67

In 1877, the planet Mars drew closer to Earth than it had been for more than thirty years—and as close as it would be again until 1892. Opposition would occur on September 5, and that impending event drew the attention of journalists. In mid-August, the New York Times reprinted from England’s Cornhill Magazine a little article titled ‘‘Is Mars Inhabited?’’ It would be midsummer’s day in...

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4 Percival Lowell's Mars

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pp. 68-89

No figure is more central to the cultural and literary history of Mars in the twentieth century than Percival Lowell. Born in 1855 into a Massachusetts family with a famous intellectual pedigree, Lowell emerged with stunning suddenness as a major player in the excitement and controversies about Mars when he was nearly forty years old. He completed a bachelor’s degree at...

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5 Mars and Utopia

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pp. 90-109

By the later nineteenth century, cartographers had little room left on their maps of Earth for the hidden valleys, lost kingdoms, and uncharted islands that were the favored locations for Utopia. With the coming of the airplane at the beginning of the twentieth century, Utopia became an even more endangered destination; that peculiar American Utopia of Oz, in L. Frank Baum’s...

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6 H. G. Wells and the Great Disillusionment

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pp. 110-128

The genre of the celestial voyage is an old form of storytelling, going back at least to Lucian of Samosata’s second-century True History in which a hurricane lifts up a ship and carries it to the Moon. Until the Schiaparelli era, the most favored destination for extraterrestrial travel remained the Moon, followed more distantly by the Sun. Almost always, it was a terrestrial voyager who...

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7 Mars and the Paranormal

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pp. 129-148

One of the most peculiar instances of symbiosis in the cultural history of Mars is the one that developed in the late nineteenth century between astronomy and parapsychology. As the fervor for Mars grew in the final two decades of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, there was a parallel explosion of interest in telepathy, reincarnation, and theosophy that was...

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8 Masculinist Fantasies

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pp. 149-167

Nobody was shrewder than C. S. Lewis in analyzing how readers’ (and writers’) desires are gratified by the locale of stories. Other worlds, he liked to say, are treasured locales because they o√er satisfactions di≈cult to achieve in the familiar and quotidian settings of realistic narrative. When Lewis wrote stories of his own set on other worlds—including his Mars novel—the possibilities...

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9 Quite in the Best Tradition

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pp. 168-194

By 1920, Percival Lowell and the scientific controversies that he inspired were dead. H. G. Wells had largely abandoned the pioneering science fiction that had made him famous in the 1890s. The fashion for idealism and utopianism that had led to such disparate early Martian fictions as Unveiling a Parallel, Red Star, and The Man from Mars, or Service for Service’s Sake had passed, the victim...

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10 On the Threshold of the Space Age

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pp. 195-221

For the first half of the decade, the old god of blood and war, not the romanticized and utopian planet, presided over the 1940s. Perhaps it should not be surprising that the first significant new work of fiction about Mars to appear after the Second World War ended should have borne the title The Angry Planet. Written for adolescents, much of John Keir Cross’s popular adventure...

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11 Retrograde Visions

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pp. 222-242

From the 1880s on, there always had been writers whose visions of Mars were oblivious to scientific advances in the study of the planet, and even resolutely counterfactual. But perhaps the most conflicted chapter in the literary history of Mars occupies the years between the early space launches of the 1950s and the first automated landing on Mars in 1976. For more than fifteen...

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12 Mars Remade

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pp. 243-262

Mariner 9 and the two Viking missions of 1976 cleared the air of many misconceptions and obsolete fantasies about Mars. The possibilities of low-level, perhaps underground, micro-organisms or at least relics of earlier and now-extinct simple life forms continued to engage scientific curiosity and speculation, but the experiments on dirt samples carried out by the two Viking...

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13 Being There

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pp. 263-283

In a preface o√ered for Jack Williamson’s Beachhead (1992), Arthur C. Clarke, writing forty years after the publication of his then-revolutionary anti-romantic The Sands of Mars, pointed to the renewed taste for Martian narrative. ‘‘The first flight to the Moon was a major theme in science fiction right up to the 1960s. Now the first expedition to Mars is the topic for the closing decade of this...

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14 Becoming Martian

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pp. 284-306

By the early 1990s, terraforming was no longer a novelty in the literature of Mars. As scientists and scientific popularizers gave increasingly visible practical attention to the challenges of mounting a twenty-first-century expedition to Mars and of establishing a settlement on the planet, the techniques by which Mars might be metamorphosed into a more temperate locale with a...

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AFTERWORD: Mars under Construction

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pp. 307-310

Literary histories rarely are good at predicting the literary future. Could anyone in January 1897, surveying the output of Martian fiction since 1880, have imagined what Wells would produce in The War of the Worlds? Does anything in the history of Martian narratives in the first half of the twentieth century really lead logically and inevitably to the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950?...

Notes

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pp. 311-340

Index

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pp. 341-357