In discussing the context, or lens in which his work entitled The Martian Chronicles could be perceived through, Ray Bradbury so profoundly stated, “he is writing to prevent the future, by pointing out the failings of society,” as is noted in Morgan Harlow’s scholarly commentary, Martian Legacy: Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. The brilliance of this statement lies in how it unquestionably asserts and establishes the frameworks, or point of reference in which we can come to better understand any notions of Mars, Mars Literature, Science-Fiction, any attempts at the colonization or invasion of Mars, or space for that matter, or anything else that falls under this type of overarching umbrella. That is to say, that in considering what we could expect in terms of space exploration of this type, and especially in it’s direct relation to Mars, that it is through a type of historical contextual relationship of our own past, and similar such pedagogies that we can even begin to conceive, fathom or conceptualize as to what could possibly entail in an endeavor of this magnitude. While Bradbury writes to prevent the future, it is through the lens of our past, our very history, that we look up to the heavens, to that fourth planet from the sun, and project ourselves and attempt to insert ourselves out into the cosmos; putting forth across the ethers our hopes, dreams, aspirations, achievements, flaws, failures, shortcomings, and everything else that it means to be a human being from planet earth. Marlow brings this notion to attention in his article as he notes, “To imagine an encounter with Martians is to see ourselves anew, an experience to be both hoped for and feared as it brings the knowledge that we, too, are the other…The romantic notion of the power of the imagination to reinvent ourselves, to make the world over and to place ourselves in history, in time, in the cosmos.” This fact becomes painstakingly obvious through an in-depth examination of the literature of Mars, especially in the case of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Edgar Rice Burrough’s A Princess of Mar, and H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds in association with the many themes that they explore. As the reader navigates their way topics of war, death, and transformation, and through them their indications of technology, colonization or invasion, and the social changes intrinsic to each of these works of Mars literature, a vivid image emerges, making it more than evident as to how the basis for our ideas on Mars and space exploration in many ways parallels the past and history of the people of planet earth. An in-depth comprehensive analysis of the themes of war, death, and their correlation to technology, as well as colonization and invasion in terms of transformation and social changes as found in the literature of Mars, illustrates and sheds tremendous insights in how we have crafted such models of the exploration of Mars based upon the behaviors of our past.
Evidence of the theme of colonization in the literature of Mars of noted by Harlow in his commentary as he writes, “ The Martian Chronicles with the cool critical eye of the naturalistic novelist, providing the laboratory conditions Emile Zola, in Le roman experimental, has set forth as necessary in order to observe the forces which work upon humans. The colonization of Mars, like the colonization of the Americas by Europeans, is characterized by greed and ignorance, fear of the natives, exploitation of the new world, and acts of genocide,” and further still in Eric S. Rabkin in his article, Is Mars Heaven, as he states, “Thus the rest of the novel considers the attempts at an American frontier expansion without the American original sin of land theft and genocide. There are a few chapters that remind us of the West’s (that is, Mars) relation to the East (that is, Earth) as when retirees move to Mars.”While the idea of inhabiting Mars may be fairly new in the archive of human ideologies, the issues and questions surrounding it are as old as time itself. With its conditions that present an argument for its potential as the most capable of any other planet in the solar system to support life, on a surface level, Mars ostensibly offers a viable solution to our anxieties pertaining to the fate, or future of planet earth. Be that as is may, the impediments that we would have to overcome to get there greatly resemble the challenges that can be associated with colonization, or invasion, depending on what side of the coin one’s on. Thus, the project for inhabiting Mars could very well be entitled, Mars: Alien Terrain, Familiar Ideas. Throughout the ages, colonization has proved to be a practical solution to both socioeconomic and sociopolitical strife, oppression, overpopulation, religious and governmental upheaval or rebellion, and many other such occasions, as is exemplified in the Pilgrims colonization of America, and the Westward Expansion, just to name a few. So, as we move forward and cast out our blueprint of what it means to be human out onto Mars, or the universe for that matter, it makes sense that this behavioral pattern comes along with it. With no more territories left to discover here on earth, Mars, and space along with it become that Western, or final frontier. Bearing this in mind, when considering the implications of colonization, it is important to also weigh in its correlation with invasion, as there is a fine line that separates these two ideas.
Winston Churchill once commented that “History is written by the victors,” and it is through sentiments such as these that one can get a better perspective into the parallelisms between colonization and invasion. While the efforts made by the individuals in the original colonization of the Americas, or in the Western Expansion may have viewed themselves as pioneers of colonization, had the history of America been written by the natives who originally inhabited the lands, this narrative of colonization could have easily been rewritten as one of a hostile invasion. In regards to the literature of Mars, this theme is referenced on several occasions by Peter Goggin, Ph.D. in lectures, as can be demonstrated through such comments as, “In more historical contexts, War of the Worlds is often classified as invasion literature…Its a kind of fiction that construction of hypothetical invasion of one’s home and homeland that taps into peoples fear of loss of security, society, and of course their future, and is most often told from the perspective of the invaded.” In the case of Mars literature, Wells, Burroughs, and Bradbury thoroughly explore these themes in a variety of different ways.
Just as colonization has been a defining characteristic, so to is the case in notions of war and its association with technology, and it is a prevalent theme in the literature of Mars. Peter Goggin highlights these two overlapping themes as he states in lecture, “In the opening pages of the novel we are presented with the idea of Martians studying humans, quote, almost as narrowly a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water…The species that we are likely to encounter will be technologically superior to us…The technological advances of late nineteenth-century industrial revolution referenced throughout the novel, are no match for the superior technology of the Martians.” This notion of superior technology in an intelligent species that we are likely to encounter is riddled throughout the literature of Mars. In The World of the Worlds, it presents itself in the form of such passages as, “It’s bows and arrows against the lightning, anyhow,” said the artilleryman. “They ‘aven’t seen that fire-beam yet,” We men, with our bicycles and road-skates, our Lilienthal soaring-machines, our guns and sticks and so forth, are just in the beginning of the evolution that the Martians have worked out,” “This isn’t a war,” said the artilleryman. “It never was a war, any more than there’s a war between man and ants,” and “It is still a matter of wonder how the Martians are able to slay men so swiftly and so silently. Many think that in some way they are able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute non-conductivity. This intense heat they project in a parallel beam against any object they choose, by means of a polished parabolic mirror of unknown composition, much as the parabolic mirror of a lighthouse projects a beam of light. But no one has absolutely proved these details.” In each example, it becomes even more apparent how the Martians, with their heat-rays, and black smoke, are much more technologically advanced than us humans. For Bradbury, weapons of superiority are in most cases designed in ways that are hard to even begin to imagine. While the sentiment of advanced instruments are raised by Hinkston as he says, “We have superior weapons,’ the weapons of the aliens are, mind the cliche, out of this world. The first demonstration of this comes in the first expedition in the passage, “When it was quite late he murmured something, went to a closet, and drew forth Ann evil weapon, a long yellowish tube ending in a bellows and a trigger.” Or, even more wildly the notion of the capacity for telepathy, hypnosis, and other such non-tangible weaponry utilized in order to deceive the earthlings as is referenced in the third expedition, noted in the passage, “Well, what would be the best weapon that a Martian could use against earth men with atomic weapons? The answer was interesting. Telepathy, hypnosis, memory, and imagination.” However, just as in the case of history, sometimes it is not weapons of superiority that win the case, but something much simpler.
It is interesting in how when considering the concern of advanced weaponry of alien races and species, that there is an element of Darwinism that is present or survival of the fittest, and this is made clear when looking both at our own history and in the literature of mars. In the case of The War of the Worlds, it is not the human race with their own technology that wins the day, but the simplest of living organisms, as is indicated in the passage of Dead London that states, “For so it had come about…These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning of things – taken toll of our prehuman ancestors since life began here. But by the virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed resisting power…But there are no bacteria on Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly they drank and fed, your microscopic allies began to work their overthrow.” So too is this the case in Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles in the case of Chicken Pox.” Yes. I made tests. Chickenpox. It did things to Martians that it never did earth men. Their metabolism acted differently I suppose… No in the name of all things holy, it has to be chicken pox, a child’s disease, a disease that doesn’t even kill the children of the earth.” A notion that is further substantiated by Rabkin and Harlow as they write, “Her husband, disturbed to see her moved, takes a weapon that fires golden bees, meets the descending ship in the next valley and kills York. When the second expedition arrives…..In each of these chronicle entries, science is left behind, the imagination wins. Then, between the third and fourth expeditions, a childhood disease, supposedly carried unwittingly by Earthman, all but destroys the Martians,” and in “This parallel is clearly drawn in the Chronicles episode, “And the Moon be Still as Bright,” in which the Fourth Expedition to Mars arrives to discover that the Martian race has been killed off by a chicken pox virus brought to the red planet by a previous expedition, thus echoing the deadly smallpox epidemic which devastated Native-American populations after the Europeans arrived on the scene. Spender, a member of the Fourth Expedition, sympathizes with the spirit of it.” Similarly, it is of equal interest that in considering such notions, that we might, in fact, be the subject of our own demise, a subject that Rabkin notes in regards to The Martian Chronicles as he writes, “Ultimately Earth consumes itself in atomic war. Those few pioneers who do not return to fight for their countries now wander a depopulated mars. The penultimate chapter is There Will Come to Soft Rains, a critique not only of atomic weaponry but, like the pedestrian, which is not in this novel, a critique of turning our lives over to robots, to technology.” This of course referencing the horrifying scene in The Martian Chronicles found in the lines, “Earth changed in the black sky. It caught fire. Part of it seemed to come apart in a million pieces,” and the chapter There Will Come to Soft Rains, of course speaking to how the earth will continue to go on without the presence of humans.