Dying Planet

Mars in Science and the Imagination

Dying Planet

Book Pages: 456 Illustrations: 4 b+w illustrations Published: September 2005

Author: Robert Markley

Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Science and Technology Studies

For more than a century, Mars has been at the center of debates about humanity’s place in the cosmos. Focusing on perceptions of the red planet in scientific works and science fiction, Dying Planet analyzes the ways Mars has served as a screen onto which humankind has projected both its hopes for the future and its fears of ecological devastation on Earth. Robert Markley draws on planetary astronomy, the history and cultural study of science, science fiction, literary and cultural criticism, ecology, and astrobiology to offer a cross-disciplinary investigation of the cultural and scientific dynamics that have kept Mars on front pages since the 1800s.

Markley interweaves chapters on science and science fiction, enabling him to illuminate each arena and to explore the ways their concerns overlap and influence one another. He tracks all the major scientific developments, from observations through primitive telescopes in the seventeenth century to data returned by the rovers that landed on Mars in 2004. Markley describes how major science fiction writers—H. G. Wells, Kim Stanley Robinson, Philip K. Dick, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Judith Merril—responded to new theories and new controversies. He also considers representations of Mars in film, on the radio, and in the popular press. In its comprehensive study of both science and science fiction, Dying Planet reveals how changing conceptions of Mars have had crucial consequences for understanding ecology on Earth.


Dying Planet is an excellent and detailed book. For anyone seeking to understand the fascinating intertwined histories of science and science fiction, and how a ball of rock, just six thousand seven hundred kilometres in diameter and several tens of millions of kilometres away, has exerted such an astonishing influence on our imaginations, it will be well worth reading.” — Charles S. Cockell, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews

Dying Planet is an impressive study of Mars in the cultural imagination, especially in science and science fiction. . . . Thoroughly captivating and meticulously researched, Dying Planet supplies readers with a generous bibliography of science fiction writing about Mars.” — Kent A. Ono, American Literature

Dying Planet paves important new ground and highlights the need for more nuanced attention to the history of Mars science and its cultural significance.” — K. Maria D. Lane, Isis

“[A]n exemplary study of science fictional imaginations of the planet Mars, in print, film and radio, and the scientific theories and discoveries that inspired or disappointed readers and writers since the nineteenth century.” — Stephen R. L. Clark, Metascience

“For those looking for a highly detailed, academic and above all, comprehensive discussion of the place of Mars in our culture, this book can come as nothing but highly recommended.” — War of the Worlds Invasion

“[S]cholarly and meticulous; a valuable resource.” — David A. Hardy, Popular Astronomy

“If you have ever stared up into the heavens or through a telescope at the planet mars, then you have undoubtedly let your imagination flow to all the possibilities. Robert Markley uses his imagination while at the same time never drifting too far from the facts that science has learned about the Red Planet over the last one hundred years. Dying Planet is a good read, imaginative and informative without losing itself in too much scientific jargon.” — Lesmond, SliceofSciFi.com

"Dying Planet is a must read for all Martians and Marsophiles." — Thomas J. Morrissey, SFRA Review

"[A] compact, well detailed synopsis of the science and a insightful critique of the literature to provide an in-depth resource for understand how Mars impinges on our human psyche." — Mark Mortimer, Universe Today

"[A] wonderfully nuanced reading of the red planet's cultural history. . . . [T]his is a masterly exploration of the 'interplanetary sublime.'" — P.D. Smith, The Guardian

"[E]xtraordinarily well argued and well researched. . . . Especially strong is Markley's cogent discussion of the culturally contingent nature of scientific knowledge; especially valuable to sci-fi literary study is his comprehensive coverage of 20th-century science fiction concerning Mars, from the work of H.G. Wells et al. to Kim Stanley Robinson's monumental Mars trilogy. This is a unique and invaluable work. Essential." — R. J. Cirasa, Choice

"Fascinating. . . ." — Tony Reichhardt, Air & Space

"Markley writes about Mars as a knowledgeable outsider, weaving in cultural history and science fiction. . . . [T]here are many historical, literary, political, and cultural nuggets. . . ." — David Grinspoon, Scientific American

Dying Planet is a work of meticulous scholarship documenting the scientific controversies and literary representations of Mars from the early Renaissance to the present. Its comprehensiveness will make it a valuable resource for literary scholars, cultural critics, and scientists interested in the cultural history of this fascinating world.” — N. Katherine Hayles, author of My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts

“This is both a complete literary history and an exemplary exercise in modern science studies, tracing how a particular science works over the generations to incorporate new technologies, create paradigm shifts, and understand the universe a little more accurately. By combining these in one study, Robert Markley clarifies a great deal about the poorly understood but very important relationships between science, literature, culture, and reality. He also gives us all the latest news from Mars, which keeps getting more interesting. It’s a fascinating story, and Markley is the first to tell it.” — Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars


Availability: In stock
Price: $30.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Robert Markley is Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of a number of books, including Fallen Languages: Crises of Representation in Newtonian England, 1660–1740. He is a coauthor of the DVD-ROM Red Planet: Scientific and Cultural Encounters with Mars and the editor of the book Virtual Realities and Their Discontents.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. "A Situation in Many Respects Similar to Our Own": Mars and the Limits of Analogy 31

2. Lowell and the Canal Controversy: Mars at the Limits of Vision 61

3. "Different Beyond the Most Bizarre Imaginings of Nightmare": Mars in Science Fiction, 1880–1912 115

4. Lichens on Mars: Planetary Science and the Limits of Knowledge 150

5. Mars at the Limits of Imagination: The Dying Planet from Burroughs to Dick 182

6. The Missions to Mars: Mariner, Viking, and the Reinvention of a World 230

7. Transforming Mars, Transforming "Man": Science Fiction in the Space Age 269

8. Mars at the Turn of a New Century 303

9. Falling into Theory: Terraformation and Eco-Economics in Kim Stanley Robinson's Martian Trilogy 355

Epilogue: 2005 385

Notes 389

Works Cited 405

Index 435
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3638-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3600-6
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