Mars in Popular Culture Story & Film The English Department
“We are all . . . children of this universe. Not just Earth, or Mars, or this System, but the whole grand fireworks. And if we are interested in Mars at all, it is only because we wonder over our past and worry terribly about our possible future.” — Ray Bradbury, 'Mars and the Mind of Man,' 1973
Can you suggest any books or films in which Mars is featured?
John Carter The War of the Worlds Mars Attacks Total Recall The Martian Chronicles Capricorn One Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars
In 1897, the writer H. G. Wells published the novel, War of the Worlds. It was the first book to explore the impact of an extraterrestrial invader. And the invasion came from Mars!
During those years, and as telescopes became more powerful and more available, astronomers did think that they could see ‘canals’ on the surface of Mars. Who built the canals?...
When War of the Worlds was turned into a radio drama and broadcast over the American airways in 1938 by Orson Welles, some of the public audience actually took to the streets thinking that Earth was being invaded - that they were listening to an actual news broadcast.
Mars has always had a special place in our culture. For over 100 years, Mars has fascinated writers, artists and film-makers. Why? • Is it because it is our nearest neighbour? • Is it because of its similarity in size? • Did it perhaps support life? Could it ever support life?
These questions can be explored in fiction. How mankind reacts to new and challenging situations is what novelists do!
So Why is Science Fiction Important? Many scientists today who are making or involved in scientific research enjoyed reading about/or watching film and TV shows that looked at how mankind – or other life-forms – lived in other parts of the solar system and the universe. Fictional ideas explored in such stories of films sometimes become reality...
In 1999, Minority Report (adapted from the book by S.F. writer, Philip K. Dick) featured Tom Cruise’s character interacting with a computer screen through only hand gestures. Ten years later, in 2010, Microsoft released the Kinnect.
If we return to H. G. Wells, when he published ‘The First Men in the Moon’ in 1901 people would have disbelieved that man not only reach but also walk on Earth’s only natural satellite. Only 68 years later, Neil Armstrong was making his “One Small Step” speech.
Science Fiction expands the theories being worked on now and explores what may be possible in the future. Today’s world is more fictional in many ways than any science fiction writer might have possibly imagined before 1950.
What would readers then have thought about the possibility of the Mars Curiosity Rover, which landed on Mars just days ago and is investigating whether millions of years ago it had water and supported life?