The Crimson Courts and My Martian Dreams

by Dylan
(Illinois, Wisconsin)

Zendexor, I quite liked both of your pages on Stirling's books! I appreciated them not only for their excellent world building, but for the way they included modern astronomical findings in their storytelling. Mars, I think, can only be improved by adding that it features both the Solar System's longest canyon and its tallest volcano.

In regards to the sinister nature of the Martians, I can see what you're saying. For myself, I prefer Martians to be a bit sinister. Not evil, necessarily, but certainly hard and dispassionate, indifferent to or even resentful of humanity and its concerns. I'm likely influenced by Ray Bradbury and H.G. Wells in this, since those two together first took me to Old Mars. It also might have to do with Mars' size: being a small planet makes it appear less threatening, especially since it's usually depicted as being on its last legs, and so might be easy to underestimate. That seems to be the case, anyways, for many fictional Earthly explorers.

I'm a bit sad about the biological technology of the Martians in Stirling's book, although for purely personal reasons. You see, I began writing Wanderers of Mars quite a while ago, and decided to give them biological technology as a way of making them seem more alien. A short while later, I picked up Crimson Kings, and found there a brilliant depiction of such technology, well thought out and expertly exploited for story telling. In an effort to avoid the appearance of plagiarism, I tried to change my biotechnology to imitate life, instead of being truly alive. I feel it might not have worked as well in the end.

In an unrelated note, the "My Martian Dreams" part of the title of this page is quite literal. I've had two dreams about Mars, and they seem as though they could be connected, so as to form the beginnings of my own slumbering adventures on breathable-air Mars.

The first dream found me bounding among the red mesas and pillars of the Martian countryside. I used a jet-pack/grappling-hook combination for locomotion - I would fire the grapple into the rock, and the moment the hook bit, the cord gave a sharp tug. Simultaneously my jet-pack would fire, and the two together would propel me upwards swiftly. After that, I would float gently to my destination, thanks to the low gravity. It was a singularly invigorating way to travel.

The Martian air was clean and cool, and each breath left me feeling refreshed. The sky was light blue, the sun was bright, and the landscape around me was surprisingly yellow given my expectations. I bounced my way to the top of the tallest mesa and rested there, looking out over Mars. I remember being exceedingly happy, as content as I have ever been in my life. It came to me that I would like to find the Martians, although I knew I would need to hunt them diligently, as they were not fond of humans and avoided us as a rule.

To my left, nestled in a valley, was the green foliage and silver infrastructure of a human settlement. My family was there, I knew. Apparently we had all, extended relatives included, immigrated to Mars. I bounced my way back to the valley to inform them of my intentions. (It was at this point, upon reading over this page for me, that my girlfriend scolded me for not including her among the immigrants. It was unintentional my dear, I promise.)

I found that the human colony was really more of a camp, composed of prefabricated structures amidst earthly trees. My mother was sitting with some aunts and uncles of mine, and I told her about my plan to go hunting for Martians. With an uncharacteristic lack of concern, she wished me luck, and warned me that the Martians were known to be dangerous to unwelcome visitors.

Having informed my relatives of my whereabouts, I began to walk about of the camp again to begin my journey. On the way, I was accosted by another colonist, who angrily told me that if it was my intention to stay on Mars, I would need to work to earn my keep.

Waking, this seems like a perfectly reasonable request, but as I dreamed I found the proposition most undesirable. To have finally reached Mars, a world I have imagined for years, only to ruin it with the tedium of labor? Never!

There my first dream ended, with myself facing a sentence of boredom on a world I wanted only to explore.

Fortunately, it seems I succeeded both in avoiding tedium and finding the Martians, for at the start of my second dream I was among them, accepted as a guest if not an equal.

Sadly, I remember this dream less clearly, but I do recall that I had befriended an older Martian man, and that he had long black hair and eyes like silver coins. It was our intention to take a journey down a canal, although toward what goal I do not recall.

The boat we were to take was prepared for us by a crew of adolescents. Apparently, when on the cusp of adulthood, Martian children are exiled to life on a canal boat until they finish maturing. I got the impression from my companion that this was to save the adults the annoyance of dealing with the rowdy youths, and indeed, there did seem to be a fair amount of merriment on the ship we would take as it was brought to dock. When the boat was close enough, a giant squid-like creature used its tentacles to ease the boat into its place at the dock. Apparently, the beast was trained or grown for dock management, although I am unsure which.

The Martian teens vacated the boat, and my companion and I took command of it. We sailed together down the canal, which was a deep and narrow trench with black water on the bottom. It was dug this way to keep the water out of direct sunlight as long as possible. The effect was a shadowy journey where every slosh of the water was made louder by echoing magnification.

After that, I remember little until we came to the first danger we had encountered. We approached a split in the canal, a Y divided by a great stone wedge. The canal to the right was illuminated by sunlight, the canal to the left shrouded in darkness. The wedge itself was white rock, setting it apart from the red of the canal walls, and it was dotted which ancient windows now filled in with bricks. My companion told me it was called "The Cleave Between Life and Death" or "The Sword that Cleaves the World." It seems that to go down one of the canals while it was in darkness would be a life-threatening mistake. To my dismay, it seemed that was exactly where the current of the canal was taking us.

And then I woke, and went to work. Despite his potential demise, a part of me envies the dream version of me. He gets to have adventures on Mars, after all.

{comment from Zendexor: you prompt me to mention my own Martian dream or dreams. My memories lack the detail of yours but the emotion remains strongly with me. I think my dream-Mars may have been more Clarkian than yours - not a breathable atmosphere, but some vegetation. And the intense nostalgia it leaves me with - for during that dream I really believed that travel to Mars had been achieved and that I was part of it. The disappointment upon waking was huge.
Anyhow, all this emotional impact of a planet upon our thoughts and feelings is profoundly significant for human nature. It makes one wonder whether such dreams perhaps could represent some kind of contact with reality, such as alternate dimensions which leak their truths to us while our conscious barriers are down.
A further point: it is of course darned useful for a writer to be able to remember detailed dreams! So my advice is, keep a notepad handy by your bedside, if you don't already!
This girlfriend of yours, by the way, sounds sympathetic to Mars missions; perhaps she ought to contribute to our website! The more the merrier.}

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Sep 29, 2016
A Minor Addition
by: Dylan

I write this having woken from a nap with a new Martian dream fresh in my mind. Aside from my continued survival on Mars (phew) this one doesn't seem to connect much to the previous two. But the air was still breathable, and the sky still blue, so it doesn't contradict my previous dreams, either.

I was standing at the shore of "The Great Lake", which was in fact quite small as far as lakes go, and I could see the red hills across the water. From the bands on the orange-pink shore, it was evident that the lake had shrunk in the millenia since the glory days of Mars. The water itself was deep blue, oceanic in color, with waves lapping lightly and the smell of fish in the air.

Something stirred at the water's edge. A small creature was, with great difficulty, pulling itself onto the land. It was comet-shaped, like a tadpole, with dark gray skin and hooked feet under its round head. Another creature, this one a towering pink heron-like creature, approached me and began speaking. It informed me that the small creature was a "rock slug", that it was silicon based, and that it was highly valued in many Martian cultures. Then it leaned over and, in heron fashion, ate the little beast.

I remember thinking, while still believing myself on Mars, that "I must tell Zendexor about this for his silicon creatures page."

{Z: I guess the heron-like creature must have a powerful digestion! Maybe just as we have land-water amphibians, Mars could have "amphi-chemical" creatures, part-carbon and part-silicon based. Anyway, dream on and let us have more news from the other dimension to which you evidently have access now and then! When I dream of Mars - which very occasionally I do - it is more the Worn-Out Mars, whereas yours seems quite fertile.}

Jul 22, 2016
by: Dylan

Also, I forgot to mention that Isabella is indeed sympathetic to Martian Colonization, however her literary tastes fall more on the side of fantasy than scifi. Between the two of us, we cover genre fiction pretty well!

Sadly, I don't know anybody in real life who shares my love of OSS fiction. That's part of why this site has been a breath of fresh air for me!

{Ah well, there's room for rapprochement between fantasy and sf; despite Heinlein's comment that they are "as unlike as Karl Marx and Groucho Marx", they nevertheless are kindred infinities - and you could point out to Isabella that John Carter's method of travel to Mars has a distinct resemblance to the fantastic! - Z.}

Jul 22, 2016
Something About Mars
by: Dylan

If you remember anything else about your dream, I'd love to hear about it! I had the same feeling of nostalgia, and the same feeling of disappointment when I woke. As I dreamed, I kept saying "We did it! I'm walking around on Mars!"

I thought later of the many worlds theory. If there is, in fact, a universe for everything that could happen, then maybe there is a universe where I went to Mars, and it was just as I dreamed it. Perhaps another you is on your Clarkian Mars, too.

I can't remember having any dreams on any other planets, Solar or extrasolar. Mars just draws my thoughts, like it draws John Carter across the void. I suppose, though, that I'm not alone in this, as Mars stands tall in the public conciousness (I've found, with many of my coworkers, that it's the only planet they can name). I suspect that this might be a lasting effect of the canal craze, or the rovers, or a combination of both. Whatever the reason, Mars, more than any other planet, has forced itself into our thoughts.

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