Looking Back in Time at Mars

The “All Martian Spectacular” issue of Science Fiction Trails Magazine has just been released. The magazine features wonders for the imagination and ripping good stuff. Lyn McConchie, Joel Jenkins, Laura Givens, John Howard, Kit Volker, Sam Kepfield, Gary Fitzimons and Lou Antonelli share their tales of nineteenth century Martians.

Also included in this issue are my original story “Commodities of Nature” and my non-fiction article “Destination Mars”. The article discusses advances in nineteenth century astronomy and how those allowed people to imagine Mars as a real place that people could visit, and not just a point of light in the sky. People who have seen my “Victorian Astronomy” presentation at science fiction and Steampunk conventions will recognize some of the material I talk about, but I uncovered some new facts for this article and present sources of further information.

Unfortunately, the links that were supposed to appear in the article were deleted in typesetting. For those who would like to read The Planet Mars: A History of Observation and Discovery by William Sheehan, it’s available online at: http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/onlinebks/MARS/CONTENTS.HTM

I also mention an article about Nathaniel Green, including many of his maps and paintings published by the Journal of the British Astronomical Association. It is available online at: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/2004JBAA..114…13M

The story “Commodities of Nature” picks up where the article leaves off. In addition to astronomy, some early radio pioneers claimed to have received signals from Mars. One of those early pioneers was the famed—at least in Steampunk circles—Nikola Tesla. In the story, an engineer has a grand vision of delivering water to all of the parched Southwestern United States through a series of canals like those observed on Mars by Percival Lowell. The engineer receives a letter from none other than Mark Twain, who urges him to visit Tesla in his Colorado Springs laboratory. There, the engineer gets a rare look at the scientist’s famed Teslascope.

Admittedly Nikola Tesla has become so highly celebrated in Steampunk circles that using him in a story runs the risk of feeling clichéd. However, I feel he’s important to the story and I bring up a few items about him that I haven’t seen in other stories. What’s more, I feel like I’ve known about Tesla far longer than he’s been popular. A friend of mine and I spent many late nights in a lab at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in the late 80s working on a Tesla Coil, and even scaring some professors in the process!

I hope you’ll check out this special issue of Science Fiction Trails Magazine.


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