Forget Earth, there is great sci-fi reading on Mars

MARS was lots of fun until the Mariner probes went and spoiled it all.

It was a planet of ancient civilisations, mysterious canals, strange yet familiar aliens - a place of unbounded imagination and adventure.

Mariner and later probes showed us what Mars was really like, and writers largely stopped producing the sorts of stories inspired by dreams of the Red Planet and the epic Barsoom tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs (you might have seen one of those on film - John Carter in 2012).

But did science really spoil Mars for science fiction? No, because SF is really speculative fiction (specialising in "what if" scenarios) - and who cares whether the story being told is on some impossibly distant planet, or on a mythical version of our own neighbour? The story's the thing.

Old Mars, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Publisher: Titan Publishing Group/NewSouth Books. RRP: Paperback $18.99.
Old Mars, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Publisher: Titan Publishing Group/NewSouth Books. RRP: Paperback $18.99. PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED

This short story collection by George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) and Gardner Dozois carries on the tradition of the old Mars, where life is possible, amazing and dangerous.

From Phyllis Eisenstein's archeological adventure in The Sunstone, to the mysticism of Matthew Hughes's The Ugly Duckling and Mary Rosenblum's Shoals, it's hard to find a flat spot in this collection.

There's some wonderful steampunk piracy in The Wreck of the Mars Adventure (David D. Levine) and A Man Without Honor (James S.A. Corey), both set in a universe where sailing ships can ride the solar winds, and in the less ambitious Mariner (Chris Roberson).

Wild imagination flourishes in King of the Cheap Romance (Joe R. Lansdale), and In the Tombs of the Martian Kings, which reads as if a deadly Indiana Jones had been thrust into a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

SF master Michael Moorcock comes on board with The Lost Canal, pouring in a trilogy's worth of back story without tripping up the film noir action for a moment.

There are many highlights, but my favourite is another noir-style adventure, Swords of Zar-tu-Kan by S.M. Stirling, who slides exposition and back story in so sweetly the reader feels they have always known it.



Musical group director heads from big scrub to big city

premium_icon Musical group director heads from big scrub to big city

orthern Rivers arts group director returns from a trip to the US

How this Ballina mum juggles kids and a thriving business

premium_icon How this Ballina mum juggles kids and a thriving business

"Kids are amazing but... having a passion is fulfilling as well”

Fires are starting to hit home

Fires are starting to hit home

People’s lives have been hit: firebugs take advantage of conditions

Local Partners