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Mars in fiction

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Mars in fiction

Fictional representations of Mars have been popular for over a century. Interest in Mars has been stimulated by the planet's dramatic red color, by early scientific speculations that its surface conditions might be capable of supporting life, and by the possibility that Mars could be colonized by humans in the future. Almost as popular as stories about Mars are stories about Martians engaging in activity (frequently invasions) away from their home planet.

Mars in fiction before Mariner

Before the Mariner 4 spacecraft arrived at Mars in July 1965 and dispelled some of the more exotic theories about the planet, the conventional image of Mars was shaped by the observations of the astronomers Giovanni Schiaparelli, Camille Flammarion and Percival Lowell. Flammarion assumed its red surface came from red-colored vegetation,[1] and Schiaparelli observed what he took to be linear features on the face of Mars, which he thought might be water channels. Because the Italian for channels is canali, English translations tended to render the word as "canals", implying artificial construction. Lowell's books on Mars expanded on this notion of Martian canals, and a standard model of Mars as a drying, cooling, dying world was established. It was frequently speculated that ancient Martian civilizations had constructed irrigation works that spanned the planet in an attempt at saving their dying world. This concept spawned a large number of science fiction scenarios.

The following works of fiction deal with the planet itself, with any assumed Martian civilization as part of its planetary landscape.

Novels and short stories

First ventures

Several early modern writers, including Emanuel Swedenborg, hypothesized contact with Mars. Early science fiction about Mars often involved the first voyages to the planet, sometimes as an invasion force, more often for the purposes of exploration.

Early works to 1910
  • Across the Zodiac (1880) by Percy Greg. The narrator flies his craft, the "Astronaut," to visit diminutive beings on Mars.
  • Uranie (1889, translated as Urania in 1890) by Camille Flammarion. A young astronomer and his fiancée are killed in a ballooning accident, and are reincarnated in new bodies on Mars.
  • Melbourne and Mars: My Mysterious Life on Two Planets (1889) by Joseph Fraser. A sick man named Jacobs starts having visions in his sleep, which turns out to be a telepathic link between him and a child called Charlie Frankston, his other self on Mars, who lives in a technological utopia.
  • Mr. Stranger's Sealed Packet (1889 ) by Hugh MacColl. People from Earth travel to Mars in a flying machine, and find peaceful Martians that are technologically inferior to humans with a few exceptions like voice-recording devices and electric lighting.
  • A Plunge into Space (1890) by Robert Cromie. Dedicated to Jules Verne, the character Henry Barnett learns how to control the ethereal force which combines electricity and gravity and "which permeates all material things, all immaterial space", and secretly builds a globular spaceship called the "Steel Globe". Barnett and some friends travel to Mars and find a society where there is no need for politicians, and Martians who travel in airships or flying through levitation.
  • Unveiling a Parallel (1893) by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant. The authors use a journey to Mars as the frame for a utopian feminist novel.
  • Journey to Mars (1894) by Gustavus W. Pope. An adventure story that may have influenced Edgar Rice Burroughs's later books.
  • A Prophetic Romance (1896) by John McCoy. Reversing the usual pattern, the book brings a Martian visitor to Earth for a utopian novel.
  • Auf zwei Planeten (1897) by Kurd Lasswitz. A Martian expedition to Earth takes Earthmen back to visit Mars; interplanetary war follows the initially peaceful contact. Lasswitz's Martians are human in appearance, but with much larger eyes.
  • The War of the Worlds (1898) by H. G. Wells. Features an attack on England by cephalopod like Martians and their advanced technology to employ fighting machines to decimate the world.
  • Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898) by Garrett P. Serviss. In this Edisonade, Earthmen respond to an attack from Mars with a successful genocide of the Martian race.
  • George Griffith. A young couple on a journey through the solar system are captured by hostile Martians.
  • Gullivar of Mars (1905) by Edwin Lester Arnold. An Edwardian fantasy in which Gullivar Jones travels to Mars on a magic carpet and interacts with the slothful but innocent Hithers and the brutish but honorable Thithers.
  • Doctor Omega (1906) by Arnould Galopin. A crew of explorers from Earth visit a Mars inhabited by reptilian mermen, savage dwarf-like beings with long, tentacled arms, bat-men and a race of civilized macrocephalic gnomes.
  • Le prisonnier de la planète Mars [Vampires of Mars] (1908) and its sequel La guerre des vampires [War of the Vampires] (1909) by Gustave Le Rouge. French engineer Robert Darvel is dispatched to Mars by the psychic powers of Hindu Brahmins. On the Red Planet, he runs afoul of hostile, bat-winged, blood-sucking natives, a once-powerful civilization now ruled by the Great Brain.
  • Red Star (1908) by Alexander Bogdanov. The narrator is taken to Mars, which is imagined as a socialist utopia.
1910s and 1920s
  • A Trip to Mars is a silent film created by Thomas Edison in 1910. Its plot follows a scientist who discovers reverse gravity in his lab. He then, accidentally, applies the dust to himself and flies up to Mars where he makes absurd discoveries before returning home.
  • Le Mystère des XV (1911) by Jean de La Hire. De la Hire's hero, the Nyctalope helps a group of fifteen Earth scientists establish a permanent settlement on Mars.
  • To Mars via the Moon (1911) by Mark Wicks. Telepathic Martians have developed advanced canal-building technology and live in an Utopian socialist society.[2]
  • A Princess of Mars and another 10 Mars stories (1912–1943) by Edgar Rice Burroughs. These stories feature Virginia gentleman John Carter mysteriously transported to a Mars (called Barsoom by the natives) distinguished by fierce warriors and maidens of several species, exotic animals, and mixtures of antique with advanced technology. Burroughs has had many imitators and inspired many nostalgic references.
A 1927 Soviet poster advertising the 1924 movie Aelita: Queen of Mars, based on the novel by Aleksey Tolstoy.
  • Aelita.
  • Les Navigateurs de l'Infini (1925) by J.-H. Rosny aîné. Humans travels to Mars in a spaceship named Stellarium, and meet two competing races on the planet.
  • Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon (1930) has the Second Men in a far future Earth invaded by the utterly alien Martians, who seek our water and air. Parts 8 and 9 detail this protracted and ultimately ruinous war.
  • The Swordsman of Mars and Outlaws of Mars (both 1933) by Otis Adelbert Kline. Voyages to Mars in the Burroughs style, but set on a Mars of the past. (In Kline's original work, his Mars and Venus stories were set in contemporary [1920s and 1930s] times. Only the reprints from the 1960s state the tales are set in the distant past.)
  • "A Martian Odyssey" (1934), a short story by Stanley G. Weinbaum. A Martian named Tweel (one of several species encountered) is depicted as a sympathetic, intelligent being who thinks as well as or better than a human, but in a convincingly alien manner (a rare feat at any time, but especially striking for pulp science fiction of that era). The story was included in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Weinbaum also wrote a sequel called "Valley of Dreams" (1934).
  • Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis (1938), was written as a conscious answer and antithesis to the works of H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon. The first book of Lewis's Space Trilogy, a rare example of theological science fiction, it features a philologist named Ransom who arrives by accident on Mars (called Malacandra by the natives). Ransom is at first fearful of being killed in a barbaric rite; but discovers three highly sympathetic, intelligent Martian species, completely different from each other but living in harmony. As in the other books, Lewis' Mars is a dying world; large parts of it are already dead, and various species - such as an intelligent winged species - have become extinct. At the end of the book, it is disclosed that the Martians' ancestors had possessed the technology to build spaceships and invade Earth, but renounced that possibility and stoically resigned themselves to dying out.
  • Marvin the Martian (1948) is one of Looney Tunes' most prominent characters, a soft-spoken villain, whose mission throughout his appearances is to destroy Earth because it "Obstructs his view of Venus". In one episode 'Instant Martians' appear, who resemble giant flightless birds, which in another episode are implied to be from Jupiter.
  • What Mad Universe (1949) by Fredric Brown depicts an alternate history where humans discovered anti-gravity in 1903 and launched a war to conquer Mars, which is inhabited by creatures with a culture equal to that of Earth, but militarily weaker. The Martians are decimated and finally accept human colonization. H.G. Wells writes a book denouncing the war and conquest of Mars as an act of unjustified aggression. Later, Martians are drawn into Earth's war with Arcturus.
  • The Martian Chronicles (1950) by Ray Bradbury. Features human-like Martians with copper-colored skin, human emotions, and telepathic abilities. They have an advanced culture, but the human explorers are greeted with incomprehension and eventually the Martian civilisation is destroyed by human disease. Bradbury wrote many other short stories set on Mars.
  • Marooned on Mars (1952) by Lester del Rey. A young adult novel in which a teenager stows away on the first ship to Mars, causing it to crash during landing. He discovers the underground remains of a native Martian civilization.
  • Star of Ill-Omen (1952) by Dennis Wheatley. Creatures from a dying Mars kidnap humans and take them to the planet so that the Martians can learn how to make nuclear weapons, which they plan to use to invade Earth.
  • Martians, Go Home (1955) by Fredric Brown. An ingenious satirical novel about a Martian "invasion" of Earth by proxy.[3] Martians are mischievous loud-mouthed tricksters who take all the fun out of life. They have a special relish for disclosing secrets of any kind, at any level. Therefore people stop gambling, voting, and buying newspapers. They can materialize anywhere, including in darkened bedroooms, and they see in the dark. If that is not enough to discourage mating couples they will comment profanely on the act as it proceeds.Therefore the population of Earth declines precipitously. And so on.
  • No Man Friday (1956) by Rex Gordon. A secret British Mars expedition crashes on Mars leaving one survivor who struggles to provide his basic needs from a hostile planet and is eventually discovered by intelligent natives. Inspired the 1964 movie Robinson Crusoe on Mars.
  • Phobos, the Robot Planet (aka Lost: A Moon) (1955) by Paul Capon. Four humans are abducted and brought to the moon Phobos by an A.I. to study human emotions. During the stay, a young couple ends up on Mars by accident, where they encounter the local fauna and ruins of buildings built by the long gone Martians.
  • A World's Revival (Hebrew: תבל בתחיתה Tevel Be-Thiatah) (1955) by Tzvi Livneh.[4] Takes place some 500 years in the future. This story describes an expedition from a Utopian Socialist Earth arriving at a Mars which is divided between two oppressive, warring empires. The Earth people eventually succeed in fomenting a Martian revolution and overthrowing both empires. The Earth expedition is headed by an Israeli scientist while a leading role among the revolutionaries is played by the "Yunodins", members of a dispersed and persecuted minority explicitly described as "The Jews of Mars". Livneh may have been influenced by Aelita; his story also involves interplanetary love.
  • The Outward Urge (1959) by John Wyndham. Describes a comparatively realistic Mars landing, without any Martians.

Living on Mars

By the 1930s, stories about reaching Mars had become somewhat trite, and the focus shifted to Mars as an alien landscape. In the following stories, human contact and basic exploration had taken place sometime in the past; Mars is a setting rather than a goal.

  • Dweller in the Gulf (1932), The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis (1932) and Vulthoom (1935) by Clark Ashton Smith. Weird tales of horror set on Mars.
  • The Northwest Smith stories (1933–1936) by C. L. Moore. Many of these stories take place on a Mars populated by intelligent, humanoid Martians - and other, more Lovecraftian things.
  • Legion of Space Series (1934–1982) by Jack Williamson. In this future history, humans conquer and colonise Mars in a long series of wars with its inhabitants. All that is long in the past of the series' 30th century plot, where Mars is an established human-settled planet, humans living mainly "in the fertile canal areas" while most of the planet is desert.
  • The Secret of Sinharat, People of the Talisman and another eleven stories published between 1940 and 1964 by Leigh Brackett. These planetary romances describe a desert Mars populated by barbarian warriors and citizens of decadent city-states, coming into explosive contact with Terran civilization. Brackett's The Sword of Rhiannon (1953) shows an oceanic Mars of the distant past, and comes close to pure fantasy.
  • In "Heredity" (1941), a short story by Isaac Asimov, twin brothers who have been raised separately on Earth and Ganymede must work together to operate a Martian fungus farm.
  • Robert A. Heinlein repeatedly used Mars as a setting for his novels and short stories, including:
    • The Green Hills of Earth (1947). The space poet Rhysling cries out against fellow-humans who had torn down "the slender, fairy-like towers" of the native Martians and replaced them with ugly factories which pollute the Martian canals.
    • Red Planet (1949). Young adult novel. Includes some very intelligent Martians similar to those mentioned in Stranger in a Strange Land, who help human colonists free themselves of tyrannical Earth authorities.
    • The Rolling Stones (1952). Mars has a major role in the carefree adventures of a space-roving family.
    • Podkayne of Mars (1962). A teenage girl named Podkayne "Poddy" Fries and her younger brother Clark leave their home on Mars to visit Earth, accompanied by their uncle.
  • Seetee Ship (1949) and Seetee Shock (1950) by Jack Williamson. Mars is colonized by European Fascists and Neo-Nazis, and its main holiday is "Hitler Day", celebration of which often entails bloody riots. The Fascist Mars is one of the main powers contending for control of the mineral wealth of the Asteroid Belt.
1950s and early 1960s
  • Genesis (story) (1951) by H. Beam Piper - The last survivors of the ancient humanoid culture on Mars flee their dying planet about at 100,000 B.C. Near Earth most of the ship's 1500 passengers are killed by meteors, and only two men and six women land in a lifeboat and become the ancestors of humanity. Later Piper "paratime" stories introduce timelines where more Martians survived, resulting in far more technologically advanced Earths by the 20th Century (see [1],[5]).
  • "Omnilingual" (1957) by H. Beam Piper. Short story in which archaeologists from Earth (returning to the Mars of their distant ancestors; see Genesis above, although the stories are not explicitly related save through the author's Paratime stories), excavating the remains of a humanoid Martian civilization find an entire library they at first cannot read, but then come upon a Rosetta Stone of sorts, giving the story its title.
  • The Sands of Mars (1951) by Arthur C. Clarke involves a reporter who makes the long voyage to a desert Mars to write about the human colonists and discovers native life on Mars.
  • David Starr, Space Ranger (1952) by Isaac Asimov writing as Paul French. A juvenile novel set in the distant future whose title character discovers an unsuspected Martian civilization deep beneath the Red Planet's surface.
  • The Martian Way (1952) by Isaac Asimov. Earth people are scornful of the Martian colonists, who survive by salvaging "space junk", yet their way of life suits the Martian colonists for further space exploration, reaching Saturn first and eventually (Asimov implies) leading the way to the stars.
  • In Jerome Bixby's 1954 story, "The Holes Around Mars" puzzle the first astronauts on the planet.
  • "One in Three Hundred" (1954) by J. T. McIntosh relates the discovery there will be a great increase in the Sun's solar output causing the Earth's oceans to boil away. There being no doubt, and the exact hour and minute of "Boil Away" being confirmed daily, the world's leaders decide to commit themselves to a massive building program for the creation of as many spaceships as possible, more or less suitable for rescuing a small percentage of Earth's population. If enough spaceships can be built in time, the human race might be able to make it to Mars and eke out a living there.
  • "The Badge of Infamy" (1957) by Lester Del Rey. This novelette describes a colonized Mars run by earth lobbies, including a military-industrial lobby and a health lobby similar to the American Medical Association. A humanitarian doctor seeks to cure a disease that afflicts humans whose metabolisms been chemically altered for Mars adaptation.
  • In The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (1959), previously uninhabited Mars is populated by brainwashed transplants from Earth, leading to the invasion of Earth by the newly created Martian army.
  • In the Perry Rhodan series (1961- ), Mars is the site of an ancient gateway to the "negative side" of the universe. Through this gateway, the planet becomes infested with death crystals whose life-destroying radiation threatens to spread to the Earth.
  • "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" (1963) by Roger Zelazny. One of the last stories of this type, describing an Earth poet's study of Martian language and literature. The story is deliberately written as an elegiac farewell to the old conception of Mars, complete with canals and an ancient, dying Martian race, as "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" (1965) was his farewell to the Venus of earlier science fiction.
  • In Philip K. Dick's fiction, Mars is an almost empty, dry land, with isolated communities and individuals, most of whom do not want to be there. (Martian Time Slip (1964), The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)). The characters in these stories could be in small communities in the Arizona desert, but placing them on Mars emphasises their isolation, both from one another and from Earth.
  • Destination Mars (1963), Hugh Walters' sixth book in the Chris Godfrey of UNEXA series. The first astronaut to explore the planet has been driven mad, and a crew is launched to investigate.
  • "Arm of the Law" (1958), by Harry Harrison. On Mars, in a backwater burg run by gangsters, the local police constabulary is sent the lastest in crime fighting gadgets, an incorruptible and unpredictable robot.

Radio, film and television

Mars in fiction after Mariner

Novels and short stories

Beginning in 1965, the Mariner and Viking space probes revealed that the canals were an illusion, and that the Martian environment is extremely hostile to life. By the 1970s, the ideas of canals and ancient civilizations had to be abandoned.

Authors soon began writing stories based on the new Mars (frequently treating it as a desert planet). Most of these works feature humans struggling to tame the planet, and some of them refer to terraforming (using technology to transform a planet's environment to be earthlike).

A common theme, particularly among American writers, is that of a Martian colony fighting for independence from Earth. It appeared already in Heinlein's Red Planet and is a major plot element in Greg Bear's Moving Mars and Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. It is also part of the plot of the movie Total Recall and the television series Babylon 5. Many video games also use this concept, such as the Red Faction and Zone of the Enders series. A historical rebellion of Mars against Earth is also mentioned in the Star Trek series of novels, which are not considered canon.

In the decades following Mariner and Apollo, the once-popular subgenre of realistic stories about a first expedition to Mars fell out of fashion, possibly due to the failure of the Apollo Program to continue on to Mars. The early 1990s saw a revival and re-envisioning of realistic novels about Mars expeditions. Early novels in this renaissance were Jack Williamson's novel Beachhead and Ben Bova's novel Mars (both 1992), which envisioned large-scale expeditions to Mars according to the thinking of the 1990s. These were followed by Gregory Benford's The Martian Race (1999), Geoffrey A. Landis's Mars Crossing (2000), and Robert Zubrin's First Landing (2002), which took as their starting points the smaller and more focussed expedition strategies evolved in the late 1990s, mostly building on the concepts of Mars Direct.

Late 1960s and the 1970s

  • In Larry Niven's harsh Known Space stories (1964- ) Mars is a backwater bypassed by humans in their rush to the mineral wealth of the Asteroid Belt. A single attempt to colonise Mars ended disastrously, due to the combination of violent conflict between the would-be colonists and a confrontation with the native Martians—a shadowy race spending most of their time swimming under the surface of the Martian dust, and to whom water is a deadly poison. They are neither able nor interested in going into space, and humans are not really interested in Mars, so there seems no reason for conflict. Still, in the book Protector (1973), the Martians are brutally exterminated by a large water asteroid deliberately hurled at the planet, raising the water content in the atmosphere to a degree deadly to them, by Jack Brennan, a human who had turned into a Pak Protector—a creature completely devoted to protecting its descendants, or sometimes his entire species, and is unreasonably xenophobic towards anybody else. This act of interplanetary genocide in effect ties Niven's Mars with the older Wells/Stapledon tradition. Some of these Martians are thought to have survived on the Ringworld, however. See Ringworld Engineers, Ringworld Throne, and Ringworld's Children. Various Protectors set up traps against Niven Martians.
  • In Die Erde is nah: die Marsexpedition (1970), by Ludek Pesek, published in English as The Earth is Near (1973), a crew of twenty men undertake the first manned mission to Mars, and after landing in the wrong area due to computer malfunction and/or human error, have to cope with vicious sand storms, and a long trek undertaken in vehicles to their original intended area of exploration. The story is told from the viewpoint of the expedition's psychologist, and tries to be (based on the knowledge then known about Mars when written) accurate and realistic as to the problems encountered due to the Martian environment, the technology they have, and the human emotional response to their situation.
  • In Police Your Planet (1975) by Lester Del Rey, a disgraced, embittered Earth cop is exiled to a Mars that has been thoroughly corrupted by domed city life - he who controls the air machinery, makes the rules. The local police and city government are utterly corrupt, Chicago style. At first he tries to fit in, then his contact with other downtrodden outsiders renews his old idealism.
  • Birth of Fire (1976) by Jerry Pournelle. The story of a troubled youth transported to Mars as a convict laborer who becomes involved with a rebellion by independent farmers and tradesmen who want to terraform Mars and break the stranglehold by the corporations and domed cities sponsored by Earth governments.
  • In cyborg capable of living on Mars.
  • The Far Call by Gordon R. Dickson describes a first international mission to Mars featuring a redundant architecture where two spacecraft are sent at once to Mars. It also provides illuminating insight to the culture at NASA.


  • "Ananke" (1982) by Stanisław Lem (a story in More Tales of Pirx the Pilot)
  • Watchmen (1985) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Several Martian landmarks appear in a section of the famous graphic novel, visited by the superhuman Dr. Manhattan and human Laurie Juspeczyk.
  • Greg Bear. The only surviving humans, numbering in the thousands, and the only surviving Earth life, are resettled on Mars, after the annihilation of Earth.
  • Desolation Road (1988) by Ian McDonald is a magic-realist science fiction novel set on a planet that's never explicitly named (though the name "Ares" makes frequent appearances in various contexts) but is clearly meant to be a terraformed Mars.
  • Draka series (1989-), a dystopian alternate history by S. M. Stirling. Mars is colonised by the harsh Draka who create a slave society. To control their slaves there, they breed a special kind of artificial horrendous beast, the ghouloon, out of baboons.
  • Lobster Man from Mars (1989) is a parody of 1950s science fiction films, and tells of a race of Martians who are dying due to a rapidly thinning atmosphere, and send an anthropomorphic lobster to investigate the possible colonisation of Earth.
  • Venus Prime (1989) The third book of the series: Hide & Seek is set on Mars.


  • In Hollywood producer so he can film a science fiction movie on location.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars, 1992–1996) is concerned with a centuries-long program of terraforming the planet. In Robinson's companion book The Martians, the escarpment is the scene of an epic multi-pitched rock climb. His Icehenge (1984) also features a Mars in process of terraforming. Olympus Mons features as the site of an annual festival. Mars is also one of the terraformed worlds visited during the course of Robinson's The Memory of Whiteness (1985).
  • Mars (1992), Return to Mars (1999) and Mars Life (2008) by Ben Bova, from the Grand Tour series.
  • Moving Mars (1993) by Greg Bear depicts a colonised Mars seeking independence from the control of Earth.
  • Red Dust (1993) by Paul J. McAuley takes place against a backdrop of a failing attempt at terraforming Mars by the Chinese.
  • Bright Messengers (1995) by Gentry Lee. A novel set in the Arthur C. Clarke's Rama universe. A faithful priestess and an engineer who share the same vision of sparkling particules on Earth meet on Mars as civilization faces total collapse. This affects the Mars colony and during the threat of a global sand storm, they found escape of the doomed outpost inside an alien pod, which carried the fugitive humans into a gigantic and espherical spaceship orbiting Mars.
  • Voyage (1996) by Stephen Baxter. An alternate history about the 20-year lead-up to a 3-person Mars expedition in 1986 using Apollo-derived technology.
  • Mars Underground (1997) by William K. Hartmann, a novel about a partially terraformed Mars by a noted astronomer.
  • Olympus Mons (1998) by Bud Sparhawk. the mountain is the setting for a 21st-century downhill race.
  • Beige Planet Mars (1998) by Lance Parkin and Mark Clapham, a novel in Virgin Publishing's New Adventures series is set on a terraformed Mars which has become a retirement home for Earth's wealthy elderly. The title is a deliberate play on the books of Robinson's Mars Trilogy.
  • Semper Mars (1998) by Ian Douglas depicts the Cydonia region of Mars as home to ancient alien ruins where mummified early humans are found in 2040.
  • "Mars is No Place for Children" (1999) by Mary A. Turzillo, a Nebula-award winning novella about a child growing up on Mars.
  • The Martian Race (1999) by Gregory Benford
  • Brian Aldiss and Roger Penrose wrote White Mars (1999) as a response to the terraforming science fiction of Kim Stanley Robinson and Paul J. MaCauley above. However, their work rejects terraforming and Mars has been designated as a "planet for science", analogously to Antarctica's current status as an ecologically preserved site for managed scientific experimentation.
  • Horsemen of Mars (1999, translated in 2014) by Codex Regius about the first expedition to Mars struck by an almost fatal catastrophe won an award in Germany and was proposed for the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis as the best German SF short story of the year 2001.


  • Mars Crossing (2000) by Geoffrey A. Landis, about a stranded expedition; which won the Locus Award for best first novel.
  • "The Great Wall of Mars" (2000) by Alastair Reynolds, in which the most technologically advanced faction of humans is based on Mars and embroiled in an interplanetary war; introduced some of the most important characters and groups in the Revelation Space universe. Several later Revelation Space novels add additional details of history of groups and characters on Mars.
  • First Landing (2002) by Robert Zubrin
  • Mars is the scene of the last of three recent space operas by John Barnes: In the Hall of the Martian King (2003). Barnes also sets one of the two Meme Wars novels on Mars: The Sky So Big and Black (2002).
  • "Falling Onto Mars, by Geoffrey A. Landis, a Hugo-award winning short story that envisions Mars as a prison planet,
  • Ilium/Olympus series (2003- ) by Dan Simmons. Olympus Mons has become the Mount Olympos of Greek myth, home of beings playing the roles of the various Greek gods.
  • Stories by Caitlín R. Kiernan:
    • "Bradbury Weather" (2005). Set entirely on a colonized Mars where a plague has made the planet uninhabitable by men, so that only women populate Mars, living alongside an ancient parasitic organism (perhaps also alien to Mars) referred to as "the Fenrir" and "the Wolf."
    • "Zero Summer" (2007). Includes a closing scene set on a station on Mars' satellite Phobos.
    • "Excerpt from Memoirs of a Martian Demirep" (2007).
  • An Old Fashioned Martian Girl (2004), by Mary A. Turzillo, a novel serialized in Analog magazine.
  • New Mobile Report Gundam Wing: Frozen Teardrop (2010-ongoing) by Katsuyuki Sumisawa is a novel continuation of the Gundam Wing anime series taking place primarily on the terraformed Mars.
  • The Quantum Thief (2010) by Hannu Rajaniemi is a novel set in the far future of Mars in the Oubliette, a city moving across the face of the planet.
  • "The Martian" is a novel by Andy Weir about an astronaut stranded on Mars trying to survive.

Nostalgic Mars fiction

Several post-Mariner works are homages to the older phase of Mars fiction, circumventing the scientific picture of a dry and lifeless Mars with an unbreathable atmosphere through such science fiction generic staples as positing its future terraforming, or creating alternate history versions of Mars, where Burroughs' Barsoom, Bradbury's Martian Chronicles or The War of the Worlds are literal truth.

  • Philip José Farmer's World of Tiers series (1965–1993) contains a nostalgic and ironic reminder of the Barsoom stories. Kickaha, the series' adventurer protagonist, asks his friend The Creator of Universes to create for him a Barsoom. The latter agrees only to make an empty world, since "It would go too far for me to create all these fabulous creatures only for you to amuse yourself by running your sword through them". Kickaha visits from time to time the empty Barsoom, complete with beautiful palaces in which nobody ever lived, but goes away frustrated.
  • Some Sword and planet series, such as Michael Moorcock's Kane of Old Mars trilogy (1965) and Lin Carter's Mysteries of Mars (1973–1984) are deliberately anachronistic homages to earlier visions of Mars, particularly Burroughs'.
  • In one of Robert A. Heinlein's last novels, The Number of the Beast (1980), the heroes flee Earth in a car capable of flight in six dimensions and find several alternate versions of Mars, one which had been colonised by the British and another which is an improbable combination of Burroughs' fabulous Barsoom with the home planet of the vicious Martians whose invasion of Earth was described by Wells.
  • A World Of Difference (1990) by Harry Turtledove. In this alternate history, the fourth planet of our solar system - named Minerva instead of Mars - is larger, nearer to Earth and has conditions congenial to the existence of life, including intelligent creatures with their well-defined biology and culture (and wars with each other). Until the 1970s this makes no substantial difference to human history, beyond some minor differences in myths. But when a Viking space probe sends back the picture of an alien creature swinging a stick, a joint US/USSR mission is sent in a hurry to explore the planet, and things develop fast from there.
  • S. M. Stirling's Lords of Creation series includes In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, in which Mars (as well as Venus) have been terraformed by unknown aliens over the course of hundreds of millions of years and seeded with all kinds of terrestrial life. Terran explorers arrive in the latter part of the 20th century to discover that Mars is home to a decaying but still highly advanced culture that was creating technological marvels back when Earthlings were still living in caves.
  • The title Larry Niven's Rainbow Mars (1999) alludes to Robinson's three-colored Mars trilogy, and the plot concerns a time machine that is used to visit ancient Mars. The only problem is that time travel is impossible, and the machine actually travels back to a fictitious/alternate-universe Mars. The protagonist meets a wide variety of different Martians, including most of those from the pre-Mariner novels listed above.
  • "Larklight" (2006), a story by Phillip Reeve is set in the 18th century, where Mars is inhabited by an elven race, which formerly commanded great space empires. Humans are thought to be their descendants. They are described as purple haired and russet skinned. Mars and most other planets have a breathable atmosphere for humanity in Larklight.
  • Gardner Dozois[6][7]

Nostalgia for the older Mars also frequently appears in comics and role-playing games, particularly of the steampunk genre:

  • The role-playing game Space: 1889 (1988) features an alternate history in which a heroic Mars, complete with natives, is being colonized by the European empires of the 19th century.
  • The wargame Sky Galleons of Mars (1988) is set in the same alternate history as Space:1889.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999-) takes place in a world where characters from various literary sources interact. A scene taking place on Mars features the Hithers from Gullivar of Mars, the Green Martians from Barsoom, and the Séroni from Out of the Silent Planet, with references to Kane of Old Mars. In the world of The League, the Martians from The War of the Worlds are not originally from Mars, but were invading aliens who moved on to try to conquer Earth.
  • In the graphic novel Scarlet Traces—The Great Game (2002), Olympus Mons is the main base of the British Mars Expeditionary Force. Scarlet Traces is intended as a sequel to H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and centres on a counter-invasion of Mars, beginning about 1908 and continuing over the next three decades.

Film and television

  • Twilight Zone (1961) - Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? has an attempted Martian colonisation of Earth. A Martian infiltrates a group of humans. He is humanoid with a third arm. However the colonisation is prevented by the Venusians having already set up a colony.
  • Total Recall (1990) – Loosely based upon a Philip K. Dick short story, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale." The protagonist (Arnold Schwarzenegger) must journey to Mars in order to uncover his past. Mars is shown as being previously inhabited by an ancient race of aliens who created a machine for producing a breathable atmosphere and later terraforming the planet.
  • RocketMan (1997) - A comedy film about a wacky computer programmer who is recruited by NASA to travel to Mars.
  • Mission to Mars (2000) – A science fiction thriller adventure about a rescue mission of the first manned mission to Mars, which encountered a catastrophic and mysterious disaster.
  • Red Planet (2000) – A group of astronauts try to make Mars suitable for human life. No relation to the Robert A. Heinlein novel of the same title.
  • Ghosts of Mars (2001) – Director John Carpenter uses the planet as a science fiction setting for a remake of his earlier Assault on Precinct 13.
  • An episode of Transformers: Armada (2003) – , entitled "Mars", features some of the Transformers visiting the planet in an effort to locate a Mini-Con.
  • Stranded: Náufragos (2004) - thriller adventure about the crew of the first manned mission to Mars getting stranded on the surface. Based on a script by the noted Spanish sci-fi writer Juan Miguel Aguilera.
  • Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets (2004) – A documentary style series about a scientific voyage by the crew of the interplanetary ship Pegasus. Mars was one of the first planets visited, and the crew stayed on the surface for some time, finding water and experiencing a huge dust storm.
  • Doom (2005) – Barely based on the third installment of the Doom computer game series, a group of Marines are sent to the red planet via an ancient Martian portal called the Ark to deal with an outbreak of a mutagenic virus.
  • Race to Mars (2007) – a miniseries produced in 2007 by Discovery Channel Canada.
  • Mars Needs Moms (2011) - an animated film produced by Robert Zemeckis.
  • Princess of Mars (2009) - A direct-to-video movie produced by the independent studio The Asylum, based on A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, starred by Antonio Sabato Jr. as John Carter and Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris.
  • John Carter (2012) – A Disney-produced reimagining of the John Carter stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
  • The Last Days on Mars (2013) - Science fiction-horror depicting a small research/exploration base in the 2040s that discovers a devastating parasitic-pathogen
  • The Great Martian War 1913 - 1917 (2013) – a mockumentary about a Martian invasion, inspired by the H. G. Wells classic and the Great War

Secondary references to Mars in film and television

In the following works of fiction, the Martian setting is of secondary importance to the work as a whole.

  • Doctor Who television series. Mars is the now uninhabitable homeworld of the Ice Warriors, a recurring adversary of the Second and Third Doctors from 1967 to 1974. In Pyramids of Mars (1975), the Fourth Doctor defeats Sutekh, last of the Osirians, who had been imprisoned for his crimes beneath a pyramid, with a signal to keep him paralyzed sent from a Martian pyramid. In "The Waters of Mars" (2009), an episode set on the planet itself, the Tenth Doctor implies that the Ice Warriors have become extinct. (This episode also introduces a viral, water-borne Martian named the Flood.)
  • Blue Comet SPT Layzner (1985–1986) anime series. Several episodes take place on Mars.
  • Exosquad (1993–1995) animated television series.
  • Babylon 5 (1993–1998 plus spin-offs) television series and fictional universe. Mars is a human colony seeking independence from the Earth Alliance, which it eventually achieves.
  • seaQuest DSV television series. The episode "Better Than Martians" (1994) deals with the first manned mission to Mars returning to Earth, but, encountering difficulty upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere and splashing into the ocean, leaving seaQuest to find the capsule before an unfriendly foreign confederation can.
  • Futurama (1999–2003, 2008–2013) animated television series. By the year 3000, Mars has been completely terraformed to make it habitable for humans - the native Martian aliens are forced to live in specially designated areas, in a parody of the treatment of Native Americans. Amy Wong's parents own half of the planet, and it features its own university.
  • Invader Zim (2001–2006) animated television series. In one episode, Zim finds that Mars is a giant spaceship and attempts to roll it over Earth in order to wipe out all human life.
  • The Star Trek television franchise contains many references to Mars:
    • In the film Star Trek Generations, Jean-Luc Picard mentions that several of his ancestors were among the first settlers of the Martian Colonies.
    • The original series episode "Court Martial" contains references to the "Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies", long considered an important legal precedent in the development of individual rights.
    • Some starships are assembled at the Utopia Planitia region on Mars, particularly the Galaxy class starships featured in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Utopia Planitia shipyard appears onscreen in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Relativity".
    • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episodes "Demons" and "Terra Prime" (both 2005) it is revealed that Mars is in the process of being terraformed by use of the Verteron array which redirects comets to crashland on the planet's surface; by 2155 the atmosphere had been sufficiently altered so that, in the lowlands, Humans could breathe the air unassisted, though temperatures were still cold enough to require thermal gear. The opening credits of this series feature real images of the Sojourner rover on Mars, being the first Star Trek production featuring real footage filmed on another world.
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "One Small Step", USS Voyager discovers the fate of Ares IV, one of the first manned expeditions to Mars in 2032.
  • Starhunter 2300 Canadian sci-TV series. Several episodes take place in the vicinity of Mars, known as "Mars Federation." It is a more populated and wealthier system than the Jupiter and Saturn Federations. One of the main characters, Callista Larkadia, is a bounty hunter who came from a wealthy family on Mars. She also used to be an officer for "Mars Special Ops."


  • In the Watchmen comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Dr. Manhattan character tours Mars and visits Olympus Mons, admiring its features. He takes his girlfriend there, soon after he leaves for another galaxy.
  • In the 2000 AD series The V.C.s Olympus Mons' crater is covered by a massive dome to retain an atmosphere as the main settlement on the planet.
  • Several stories of the DC Comics character Martian Manhunter take place on Mars, and the Manhunter is a Martian. Most of the Green Martians were wiped out by a plague, although the more ruthless White Martians still exist. Martians were among the most powerful races in the Universe, capable of telepathy, shapeshifting, and flight, though they have an aversion to fire.
  • The most recent issue of the webcomic Dr. McNinja features Dracula revealing that he discovered the cure for cancer and hid it on Mars.
  • In Wonder Woman Pre-Crisis comics, Mars was the base of the god Mars, (see Ares). Spirits of the dead from various planets were taken to Mars and given new bodies to work. The Duke of Deception is a major villain of that world, operating a Lie Factory and making several attempts to invade Earth.
  • In January–February 1950, Superman journeys to Mars to help actor-director Orson Welles smash a plot by the Martian dictator Martler to "blitzkrieg the solar system" and conquer the Earth (S No. 62/1: "Black Magic on Mars!").
  • In Tales to Astonish #2 (1959) "My Job: To Catch a Martian", a professor, who discovers an empty alien spacecraft, hires a private investigator to find the occupant when no one else will listen to him.
  • In Tales to Astonish #3 (1959) "I Discovered the Men From Mars", a man from the year 1990 discovers a Martian space-craft while patrolling the coast on the lookout for communist spies.
  • In the Manga and Anime Sailor Moon, released in 1992, in the silver millennium, Mars was inhabited by the warlike descendants of the Greek god Ares. The character of Rei Hino is a modern descendant of Ares and is Sailor Mars. All her attacks are based on fire. Like the other planets in the modern solar system, Mars is no longer inhabitable.
  • In the comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes: Weirdos From Another Planet! by Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes travel to Mars because the Earth is too polluted.
  • In Marvel Family #36 Mars is shown to be inhabited by a warlike treacherous race that resemble 1940s military dictators. They join the Invaders from Infinity (see List of Captain Marvel (DC Comics) enemies) in their attempt to destroy the Solar System after being defeated, but are beaten and sent back to Mars while the Invaders are imprisoned and destroyed.
  • The manga and anime series Aria by Kozue Amano depicts a fully terraformed Mars in the year 2301 A.D. now known as "Aqua". The planet is now covered by lush oceans. The manga and anime are mostly set in the city of Neo-Venezia, a reconstruction of the Earth city of Venice, Italy which was lost to rising sea levels.

Computer and video games

  • In the id Software game Commander Keen, Keen explores Mars in the first episode and keeps a Martian pet for the remainder of the series.
  • In the turned-based tactics game X-COM: UFO Defense the alien invaders use Mars as a base of operations in which to launch UFO attacks on Earth.
  • UFO: Afterlight, a game similar to the X-COM series, is set entirely on Mars and its moons. It involves a human colony struggling for survival against various hostile aliens and the harsh Martian environment. Strategic gameplay takes place on a 3-D rendered globe of Mars, which includes familiar landmarks such as Olympus Mons. The player has the option of altering the landscape through terraforming.
  • The first-person shooter Red Faction tells the story of a Martian mining colony that leads a revolt to throw off an oppressive corporation. Its successor, Red Faction: Guerilla, tells the story of another revolt half a century later, on a partially terraformed planet with a breathable atmosphere, against the corporate-funded Earth Defence Force, in the Tharsis region of Mars. Some of the locations are named after the characters of the first uprising.
  • The computer game Elite 2 starts on Mars in one scenario.
  • The video game series Zone of the Enders is based during a war between Earth's Government and Martian Colonists seeking independence.
  • In the 1993 video game Doom, game events took place on military bases on both of Mars' moons, Phobos and Deimos. The 2004 sequel Doom 3 is set on Mars itself.
  • Mars is the setting for Worlds of Ultima II: Martian Dreams RPG by Origin Systems released in 1991. The heroic Avatar travels first to the year 1887, then on to Mars to rescue many of Earth's scientists, celebrities, and politicians stranded there by accident. The Avatar will uncover the secrets of a lost Martian civilization.
  • In the video game Airforce Delta Strike, the EDAF establishes a base on Mars to use as a rally point to finish off the OCC's remaining forces.
  • Three levels of the computer game Descent are set in facilities on Mars. Level 8 is set in a processing station, while levels 9 and 10 are (appropriately) set in a military dig and military base. In the game's third installment, Descent³, the player's character is rescued and then assisted by a group of scientists whose base of operations is located on Mars, before the facility is destroyed at one particular game level by an invading Earth force. The next game level after that also takes place on Mars in an underground colony.
  • The survival horror Martian Gothic: Unification is set on a research base on the surface of Mars, and a volcanic vent of Olympus Mons is also explored.
  • Most of the 1986 Infocom game Leather Goddesses of Phobos occurs (despite the name) on Mars.
  • The video game Armored Core 2 takes place on Mars while it is undergoing terraforming and colonization. The game's final mission however takes place on Phobos.
  • In the shoot 'em up game Terra Diver (SoukyouGurentai in Japan), the player's rival company sets up their attack HQ on Mars where the player's final mission takes place.
  • In Darius II (arcade game), players travel to Mars to eliminate one of many underground enemy bases.
  • In the shoot 'em up Mars Matrix, Martian colonists revolt turning their colony upside down and the players are ordered to stop them.
  • In the Cave shoot em' up DoDonPachi, players control an Earth-bound pilot who is assigned to stop an attack on Earth initiated by an unknown race of highly skilled Martian pilots whereupon the second level in the game takes place on the Martian surface.
  • In Mass Effect, an expedition to Mars launched by the European Space Agency discovers an ancient cache of advanced technology leftover from an alien race known as the Protheans. This allows humanity to expand out of the solar system and become part of a larger galactic community. The capitol of Mars is called "Lowell City" - probably named after Percival Lowell, who fueled belief in the possibility of alien structures on Mars.
  • In the second mission of Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepard has to defend the aforementioned cache from a human supremacist terrorist organization known as Cerberus.
  • Destroy All Humans! mentions the Furons having a great war with Mars centuries, maybe millennia, before the events of the game. In the sequel survivors of the Martian war are revealed to be the main antagonists of the game in an attempt to colonize once more after Mars was turned into a desert wasteland from the Furons; instead of Martians they are referred to as Blisk.

Role-playing games

  • In Palladium Games' post-apocalyptic role-playing game Rifts, the Martian canals are mystical ley lines, magical tunnels of energy that create portals through space, time and dimension wherever they cross. In Palladium's After The Bomb Sourcebook 6: Mutants in Orbit, there is a section pertaining to Rifts that also says that there were several points where the ley lines create dimensional pockets (similar to the Bermuda Triangle) in which full-fledged jungles grow within the borders of three nearby Rifts.
  • In the GURPS role-playing game Transhuman Space, Mars is in the process of being terraformed, while several million people live in colonies. China, the first nation to land on Mars and the leader of the most extensive colonies, has built a space elevator on Mars to speed colonization. The Transhuman Space sourcebook In The Well places a University town, "Nix Olympia" and a ski resort "Zeus Tourist Resort" on Olympus Mons.
  • In the RPG Mutant Chronicles, Mars is the homeworld of Capitol Megacorporation.
  • Space: 1889 portrays an arid, aging Mars on the Lowellian model. Its native civilization is decadent and the various city-states and desert tribes squabble as the canal system slowly falls apart and Earthmen arrive to carve out colonial holdings.


  • In the tabletop wargame Adeptus Mechanicus, the Tech-Priests of Mars. They are the engineers and technicians of the Imperium, who create most of the Imperium's more advanced weaponry. The planet is almost as well defended as the Holy planet Terra itself and home to those who worship the 'Machine Spirit.' Mars is also suspected to be the lair of the Void Dragon, an ancient C'tan imprisoned there by the God-Emperor of Mankind at some point between 1300 AD and 1600 AD (how the Emperor accomplished this has never been described in detail). It is also mentioned that the planet was once terraformed, but the terraforming was undone due to rampant industrialism.
  • In the tabletop wargame and fictional universe of BattleTech, Mars is the location of a military academy. Mars was held by the Terran Hegemony and the Star League before its collapse. Afterward it was controlled by the interstellar communication order known as ComStar. After ComStar split into two factions Mars was claimed along with Terra by the Word of Blake during Operation Odysseus. During the Word of Blake's jihad against the rest of the Inner Sphere the mercenary command Wolf's Dragoons launched a failed assault on Mars which resulted in the nuclear scouring of their base planet of Outreach.


Martians in fiction

The Martian is a favorite character of classical science fiction; he was frequently found away from his home planet, often invading Earth, but sometimes simply a lonely character representing alienness from his surroundings. Martians, other than human beings transplanted to Mars, became rare in fiction after Mariner, except in exercises of deliberate nostalgia – more frequently in some genres, such as comics and animation, than in written literature.

See also


  1. ^ NASA - Mars Chronology: Renaissance to the Space Age
  2. ^ Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization - Science and Science Fiction
  3. ^ http://articles/Avatar_(2009_film)#Plot
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Not A Blog: Martians, Come Back". August 24, 2012. Retrieved September 26, 2014. 
  7. ^ DeNardo, John (February 14, 2013). Edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois"Old Mars"TOC: .  
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