No, this isn’t a view of the surface of Mars, although it may resemble some earlier visions of the red planet. The image shows the Highland Valley Copper mine, near Logan Lake, B.C. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

No, this isn’t a view of the surface of Mars, although it may resemble some earlier visions of the red planet. The image shows the Highland Valley Copper mine, near Logan Lake, B.C. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

COLUMN: Longing to return to a world that never was

What we know of Mars today is nothing like the depictions of the planet in earlier times

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by stories of Mars.

Over the past six decades, people have flown in rockets and set foot on the surface of the moon. Mars, which can be as close as 55 million kilometres from Earth, is the next step in humanity’s conquest of space.

For many years, the fourth planet from the sun has inspired stories of a world that never was.

The War of The Worlds, written by H.G. Wells in 1897, told of a Martian invasion of Earth.

From the 1910s to the 1940s, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the Barsoom series, depicting a civilization on Mars. These pulp-style stories influenced later writers.

In 1951, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury wrote about people settling on Mars.

READ ALSO: Okanagan scientist headed to ‘Mars’

READ ALSO: NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years

The human settlements he depicted had similarities to isolated uranium mining towns in northern Saskatchewan or oil drilling settlements in Venezuela’s Maracaibo Basin from the 1940s and ‘50s.

Other writers in the mid-20th century also told stories of human settlement on Mars. Some stories were brilliant, while others are best forgotten.

There was an optimism to these stories.

They looked forward to a time when humanity would make new discoveries and settle on an unknown world.

But the stories of Mars from the 1950s and before belong to an earlier era.

Since the mid-1960s, space exploration has taught us much about Mars.

There are no canals, cities or ruins on Mars, and there are no signs an earlier civilization had ever inhabited the planet.

Instead, we now know Mars is a cold, dry planet with a thin atmosphere and dusty winds.

Settling there would be extremely difficult.

With this knowledge, science fiction stories had to evolve.

Those who wanted to tell stories of interplanetary conflicts or contacts with alien races needed to set their sights far beyond Mars, to distant galaxies where the hopes of new life and new civilizations had not been shattered.

The Martian, a 2014 novel by Andy Weir, tells a gripping story about Mars based on what we know today. The science is accurate based on what is known today.But the old images still linger.

Recently, someone showed me a sub-genre of science fiction, telling stories of the earlier version of Mars.

These are stories by contemporary writers, working to recreate the science fiction of the 1950s and earlier.

I started to read a few of these stories, but quickly abandoned them.

Knowing what we know about Mars today, it is no longer possible to accept the premises of these newer stories.

What’s more, they lacked the hope and optimism of the earlier Mars stories. Instead, they seemed to have a yearning for a world which no longer exists.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: NASA says it has landed a spacecraft on Mars

I can still enjoy the stories from the 1950s and beyond for what they are, but new works based on disproved assumptions will ring hollow.

I’m wondering if there is a lesson to be learned from the contemporary Mars nostalgia stories and the yearning for a world that never was.

We are in the midst of a widespread and rapid change in our society and around the world. We will not be able to return to what we knew in 2019 and before.

The choice will be to accept and learn to live in the new world, or to sadly long for a world to which we can never again return.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

To report a typo, email:
news@summerlandreview.com
.



news@summerlandreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Aviation and spaceColumnistScience

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

11 more cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a cluster on Big White Mountain. Pictured above is TELUS park at Big White Ski Resort, Jan. 26. (Big White Ski Resort)
11 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

This brings the total case count to 225, according to health authorities in a Tuesday update

Okanagan Clinical Trials is looking at gut bacteria as a way of slowing down the development of Alzheimer’s. (Alzheimer Society of B.C. photo)
Okanagan study looking for volunteers of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

The study is looking at how gut bacteria may help slow the disease

Kevin Lee Barrett pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of his mother Eleanor Holmes on Tuesday, Jan. 26. (File)
West Kelowna man accused of trying to kill his mom pleads guilty to assault

Kevin Barrett entered a surprise guilty plea to the lesser charge of aggravated assault on Tuesday morning

A bus at downtown Kelowna’s Queensway Transit Exchange. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna transit system poised for recovery: transit manager

2021 numbers already show ridership levels at or higher than the projected recovery

Kelowna seen from the top of Knox Mountain. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News file)
Homeownership unattainable for many Kelowna residents

Single-person and single-parent households often have limited options when it comes to housing

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Vernon now has an approved 13 cannabis shops in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon, the ‘Pot capital of B.C.’ greenlights two new stores downtown

Two more shops, within 240 metres, approved, despite neighbouring businesses opposition

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

Oliver Elementary School
Former Oliver PAC treasurer charged with fraud returns to court

Belinda Yorke will be in court to fix a date for trial in February

Two fibreglass bees were stolen from Vernon’s Planet Bee Honey Farm Nov. 22, 2020. (Facebook)
Stolen bee returned to Vernon honey farm

Two months after thieves buzzed off with two bee sculptures, public tips led police one of them

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Alexandra “Annabelle” Lee and her grandpa Bryan Weightman enjoyed a shopping spree at the Sicamous Askew’s foods location after Weightman won a draw for a gift card. (Submitted)
Sicamous seven-year-old fills grandparents’ shopping cart after contest win

When her grandparents won an Askew’s Foods gift card, Alexandra Lee got to handle the shopping

Most Read