Mars attacked!

Was there once a grand civilization on our neighboring planet that was annihilated by a nuclear attack? One researcher says yes. While it’s impossible to prove (for now), the sci-fi geek in me loves this story.

mars

Mars has gotten some, but not enough, attention in the world of sci-fi. H.G. Wells got the ball rolling with War of the Worlds, where we were attacked by Martians (I loved the Tom Cruise movie as well). There have been sporadic Martian-themed stories, including Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red/Blue/Green Mars trilogy. And there have also been one-off stories, like Doctor Who‘s The Waters of Mars episode.

mars and earth

But these are all fictional. What about the real Mars? The red planet is smaller than ours, colder, and less hospitable to human life (and any life, so far). It’s long been theorized that the Mars of the distant past was a very different planet, one capable of supporting life.

John Brandenburg, a plasma physicist, speculates that Mars once had a civilization as advanced as the ancient Egyptians. But this civilization caught the attention of some nasty aliens, who nuked these Martians, and rendered the planet uninhabitable. His evidence? The large number of nuclear isotopes detected on Mars.

Nuclear-Explosion-001

The takeaway, according to Brandenburg, is that we’d better get our butts (and not just rovers) to Mars ASAP, and figure out exactly what happen, lest it happen to us as well. See, we’re too noisy, blasting our radio signals out into the universe. Eventually, the Martian killers are bound to notice us.

He has a point. If there is a superior civilization out there, they may very well decide to rid themselves of any competition. And we’re pretty much defenseless. But what can I do about a high-tech alien force attacking? Not much of anything, so I’ll file that away in the “Things I cannot control, so therefore I won’t worry about it” drawer.

The idea that there were advanced civilizations on Mars that suffered a nuclear holocaust intrigues the sci-fi fan in me. Was Mars nuked? I don’t know nearly enough about the science to say no, though I think that Brandenburg is taking one too many leaps of logic. Nevertheless, the nuking of Mars makes great sci-fi fodder.

Why not Mars?

World building is an integral part of fiction. When it comes to sci-fi, Mars seems like the perfect world to build. It’s been long ignored. Now, it might get its chance chance.

Writers (myself included) are closet megalomaniacs. When you write, one of the more important, though hidden, tasks is you have to construct the fictional world your characters inhabit. This is true whether you write a true-to-life family drama or a space opera set in unexplored galaxies.

As a writer, I love that part of it. And I suspect most other writers do as well. Why? Because we get to create these worlds. We are in charge.

On that level, it’s all about the worlds. But what about literal worlds?

As a sci-fi fan, I could never figure out why Mars is always forgotten. It’s well represented in print (Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, for one example of many). But on film and TV, apart from a few crappy movies, Mars has been largely ignored.

Mars

And it’s right next door. You can see it, if you have a good telescope.

That may change. Spike TV, of all networks, plans to produce a TV show adapted from Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Blue Mars and M1_Red_MarsGreen Mars). I read these books years ago. I have some problems with the books, mostly involving pacing (slow…), but what he did brilliantly in his writing was build a world. Mars.

His books track the colonization and terraforming of Mars over centuries. He includes topics and themes such as genetic engineering and social unrest. His characters run the gamut of human nature. And he has a space elevator,which blew my young sci-fi mind when I first read about it years ago, but is now slowly turning from science fiction to science fact.

If this series comes to pass (which is always a huge question mark) and if it is done well (an even bigger question mark), it would finally give the Red Planet its due in the sci-fi world.

Let’s hope. Here’s to world building.