The Inorganic Character of RSS Mars

by Dylan Jeninga
(Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Despite the tracks, I still find the landscape remote and enticing

Despite the tracks, I still find the landscape remote and enticing

I'll preface this post by once again iterating my unconditional love of the fourth planet. I often think that, if I was given the chance, I would relocate in a heartbeat. It's my dream to be buried in red Martian soil one day (ideally after a long, profuctive Martian life!).

Mars is as close to my heart as an old friend. Whether its OSS Mars, NSS Mars or RSS (Real Solar System) Mars, I am more likely to think of it as an entity all its own than a dead hunk of rock.

To me, Mars has an irrevocable character. Zendexor, in his page about the Moon, describes how the moon might feel familiar and yet utterly mysterious. Mars could be said be more enigmatic still. Whereas humanity might have a sense of ownership over the moon because of its proximity, Mars is decidedly its own entity; it has its own "wants" and "whims", its own weather systems, its geographic processes, its own "life" so to speak. It's ancient and forbidding, full of secrets it guards closely under millenia's worth of windblown sand. Yet it calls to us, visible in our sky like a challenge, revealing only the barest possible details of itself, providing tantalizing hints at a past we can only begin to imagine. Even if we land there, it's possible we won't ever really understand the soul of Mars.

The Martians in "No Man Friday" come close to embodying my feelings about Mars. They possess their own reasons for being, independent of human values, and, despite the best efforts of the hero, understanding can never really be reached between species. The Martians are not hostile to humanity; indeed, they are helpful when they can be. They are simply other.

Like my beloved Mars.

{Z: This makes me feel better about the possibility of a 'lifeless' Mars. Really there can be no such thing as 'lifelessness' with regard to this mysterious world - mystery has its own life; that's what you're saying, isn't it, Dylan - and as you point out, it matches what I said about the Moon. So, the inorganic Mars, like the inorganic Moon, has its own 'soul', its own reason for being, its own place among the unique mysteries of the Universe. I'd like to go there too. But let's hope it never gets too crowded!

I reckon, as you do, that the Martians of "No Man Friday" are the tops, but, I would add, so are the Martians of "Red Planet" and "A Martian Odyssey" - all with that extra something.}

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Nov 28, 2016
by: Dylan Jeninga

In response to the diary entry dated November 28th, 2016, I say, huzzah!

In my heart of hearts, I am not really surprised. I always knew Mars had secrets it had not yet divulged.

What's more, no paleontological expeditions to Mars have ever been undertaken. The remains of more advanced organisms may be buried beneath the rusted sand, waiting through the eons for us to find them.

And if not - if even this latest evidence of microbial life proves false - then Mars retains its inorganic character and so passes unmolested.

That said, I relate to your feelings of disappointment, Zendexor. It seems an awful lot of wasted space, all those moons and worlds without their own life. One may be grateful only that the way might lie clear for the children of Earth to spread out without the fear of damaging or destroying native biomes on distant worlds. After all, if there were native Martin life, we could not settle the planet, only steal it. That thought makes me uneasy.

It comes back to humanity's place in the Solar System, both OSS and RSS. What right have we to spread the life of Earth over a globe which is not and was never ours, but is claimed already, even by microbes? After all, who knows what those microbes might become one day?

That is a theme which the OSS is undoubtedly better suited to explore than the RSS. Readers may have little sympathy for germs, but a living, breathing Martian might give them pause. One could also use some interstellar scene, but the Solar System had a urgency other stars lack. That feeling that comes with bottled-up Earthlings waiting to burst out onto worlds which might already have owners but are in the firing line because of their proximity.

{Z: One solution is to have the other world's life system so robust that Earthlings' intrusion cannot possibly damage it. That seems to be one merit of Robert Gibson's version of Uranus - see in particular the story "Greenery" in "Uranian Gleams", where it is explicitly stated that Ooranye is safe not only from Earthmen but from its own people. A strong environment, not a fragile one. So we can go horsing around in it without fear of damaging things... a nicely reassuring feeling, in a sense.

On the other hand I also like the way you look on the bright side, Dylan, whichever way it turns out. If the System apart from Earth turns out to be empty of life, there's nothing we can spoil, and also, it's a pristine slate for us to write on, as it were. Future "reality engineering" (see "Uranian Gleams" again) might make something of such an opportunity.

See also C S Lewis' enigmatic words about the "lifeless" outer planets - spoken by the eldila in "Perelandra" and addressed to organic life:

"You are not the voice that all things utter, nor is there eternal silence in the places where you cannot come. No feet have walked, nor shall, on the ice of Glund; no eye looked up from beneath on the Ring of Lurga, and Iron-plain in Neruval is chaste and empty. Yet it is not for nothing..."}

Nov 09, 2016
Lovecraft, Of Course
by: Dylan

The entities of the Lovecraftiverse are certainly lacking in common ground with humanity. I'm sure Mr. Greer will join me in wondering how I could forget about them!

{Z: And also I forgot Olaf Stapledon's terrific semi-gaseous Martians!! One of the best ever sf concepts! I must be slipping...}

Nov 09, 2016
Mysterious Life
by: Dylan

Precisely! You are more concise than I! I suspect that comes with experience.

Red Planet and Martian Odyssey both feature beautifully drawn, alien Martians, equals to those in No Man Friday. Of course, one can't expect all Martians to be portrayed that way, that would get stale, but it happens rarely enough that it's refreshing to read.

I wonder if such strange, remote intelligences are part of the character of Mars. I'm having a hard time thinking of other decent examples. I'd say you could add Wells' Martians to the list, but we know so little about them, that it's hard to say. From what I can tell, they do seem to have fairly relatable motivations, but are lacking emotion. I'm not necessarily thinking of emotionless beings, simply truly alien ones - no others come to mind.

{Z: I likewise am hard put to it to come up with other examples of Martians of whom the overwhelming impression is their difference from us. C S Lewis' three Martian races allow of such difference, but also large areas of emotional overlap with us, and the encounters described in "Out of the Silent Planet" are almost entirely in that area of overlap. As for Bradbury's Martians, they are revealed to us in such a uniquely stylized manner, that I for one feel I am looking at some kind of dramatic allegorical representation of them rather than at the real underlying truth of them. Which is as it should be, in that book - it succeeds absolutely in its own terms; it just doesn't aim to give us Martians-in-their-own-terms or, as we might call it, Martians-for-Martians'-sake.}

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