Zendexor has been very kind in offering me a space on this site to publish my musings about the Old Solar System and Old-Solar-System-related matters. I’ve got a few ideas on how to begin exploiting this opportunity: I might finally give Old Mars and Old Venus the story-by-story analysis the deserve, or I might discuss a modern work of fiction which displays prominent OSS influences, or perhaps I could talk about the Heinlein book I’ve just started reading, or- well, I might do a great many things!
But I think there is one thing I had better do first, and that is come up with the name that will appear on the sidebar to represent my little blog. By the time you’re reading this, I’ll have already come up with it, and I imagine it will appear in large print at the top of the page. However, at the moment I’m still in the dark, and I hope to sort it out by the time I’ve finished this entry.
Looking to my bookshelf for inspiration, and the first book to pop out at me is Northwest of Earth: The Complete Northwest Smith. I’ve always enjoyed the introduction to Shambleau, the first story in the collection.
Man has conquered space before. You may be sure of that. Somewhere beyond the Egyptians, in that dimness out of which come echoes of half-mythical names - Atlantis, Mu - somewhere back of history’s first beginnings there must have been an age when mankind, like us today, built cities of steel to house its star-roving ships and knew the names of the planets in their own native tongues - heard Venus’s people call their wet world “Sha-ardol” in that soft, sweet, slurring speech and mimicked Mars’s guttural “Lakkdiz” from the harsh tongues of Mars’s dryland dwellers. You may be sure of it.
And on it goes. That introduction never fails to put me in the mood for the ancient horrors which Catherine Moore routinely inflicted on her rogue hero, Northwest Smith. As far as blog names go, it’s not terribly helpful, however.
The next book is similar in tone to the first, and written by golden age science fiction’s other matriarch, Leigh Brackett. It’s called The Coming of the Terrans, and it too is a collection of short stories, set entirely on Mars. My mind is drawn again to an introduction, this time to the entire collection. It goes:
To some of us, Mars has always been the Ultima Thule, the golden Hesperides, the ever-beckoning land of compelling fascination. Voyagers, electronic and human, have begun the business of reducing these dreams to cold, hard, ruinous fact. But as we know, in the affairs of men and Martians, mere fact runs a poor second to Truth, which is mighty and shall prevail. Therefore, I offer you these legends of Old Mars as true tales, inviting all dreary realities to keep a respectful distance.
I can vouch for every one of these adventures. After all, I was there.
Bravo! Well said! While I’ve made it clear in the past I love both old and real Mars, I won’t deny that nothing can compare to the old, and I’m normally the more forward-looking type. I suppose I could call this venture of mine “Ultima Thule”, but that seems a bit too pompous, even for my unruly ego.
My favorite story from this collection is Mars Minus Bisha, a wonderful, melancholic tale wherein an Earthman learns that Mars is more complicated than he had assumed, and to his great sadness. I adore this Mars, the Mars that will have none of us know-it-all Earthers, but a quick reread of the story gives me little apart from a tear in my eye. I still don’t have a title.
The thought of Miss Brackett brings to mind her close friend and associate, the famous Ray Bradbury, with whom she penned Lorelei of the Red Mist. His The Martian Chronicles was the first OSS novel I ever read, and so it seems a decent place to search.
Many of the stories in this wonderful novel stick in my mind, but none like The Third Expedition. The first time I read it, it gave me the chills, and the last few pages are pure atmospheric genius. I would transcribe some of it here, but I fear spoiling anything. Go out and read it yourself, you’ll be glad you did!
I suppose I could call my blog The Fourth Expedition, to follow the third. It’s not quite right yet, but it’s getting there!
The thoughts of my Mars-obsessed youth (not much changed from today) bring me to the book that really got the infatuation going for me, before I had even read it. H. G. Well’s The War of the Worlds!
Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
The War of the Worlds! So many great quotes, so many opportunities for inspiration! Perhaps I could name my blog “Falling in with the Curate” or “At the Window” or “Blog Under the Martians”. Those are all fun, but I suspect that only one who has read the novel as frequently as I’m afraid to admit I have would get it.
However, I’ve noticed a theme with the most of these books: Mars, and sinister Mars at that. It’s not a surprise, given my tastes, but it makes me think of a NOSS book which embodies sinister Mars to a T, S.M. Stirling’s In the Courts of the Crimson Kings.
Since I keep bringing up introductions, this book’s got a great one, wherein the most famous of the golden age authors get together to watch the first footage from the surface of Mars. The rest of the book is also fantastic, breathing fresh life into OSS themes, helping them to live on past the space age. It’s a notion I approve of heart and soul, and Stirling’s Lords of Creation duology (of which “Kings” is a part) is one of my favorite books!
After a few minutes flipping through the novel, I noticed that the landship which the heroes use for locomotion is named “The Intrepid Traveler.” That seems to sum up the OSS rather nicely, as well as capture the likely nomadic nature of my thoughts as they wander through my brain and into this blog.
Perhaps a minor change, though. I think I’ll call this “The Intrepid Travelogue.” Yes, that has a nice ring to it.
2017 January 29th: Slaves of Venus
2017 February 5th: Allen M Steele's Enigmatic Mars
2017 February 19th: A Return to Bradbury's Mars: thoughts on
Matthew Hughes' "The Ugly Duckling"
2017 March 16th: Sailing the Seven Spaceways
2017 March 17th: A Coercive of Mars
2017 March 21st: Reconsidering a Unique Martian Tale:
"Shoals" by Mary Rosenblum
2017 June 9th: Still in orbit!