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Imagining Mars: A Literary History [Hardcover]

Robert Crossley

Price: CDN$ 40.00 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Jan. 3 2011 Early Classics of Science Fiction
For centuries, the planet Mars has captivated astronomers and inspired writers of all genres. Whether imagined as the symbol of the bloody god of war, the cradle of an alien species, or a possible new home for human civilization, our closest planetary neighbor has played a central role in how we think about ourselves in the universe. From Galileo to Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Crossley traces the history of our fascination with the red planet as it has evolved in literature both fictional and scientific. Crossley focuses specifically on the interplay between scientific discovery and literary invention, exploring how writers throughout the ages have tried to assimilate or resist new planetary knowledge. Covering texts from the 1600s to the present, from the obscure to the classic, Crossley shows how writing about Mars has reflected the desires and social controversies of each era. This astute and elegant study is perfect for science fiction fans and readers of popular science.

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"Robert Crossley's magnificent survey ‘Imagining Mars: A Literary History’ reminds us why the Red Planet has been the dominant orb, after Earth itself, in the science-fiction imagination."—Tom Shippey, The Wall Street Journal

"Robert Crossley examines the interplay between speculative fiction and scientific knowledge about Mars throughout history, from the age of the earliest telescopes to NASA's recent orbiters and rovers."—George M. Eberhart, College and Research Library News

"…this is the definitive literary history of a planet that has long been prospected by the human imagination, whatever the possibilities of actual settlement there."—Patrick Parinder, The British Society for Literature and Science Web Reviews

“Imagining Mars is nothing less than a magnum opus of literary criticism on the subject. It will resonate primarily with readers and scholars of sf and popular science, but it is written in accessible language and will appeal to anybody interested in the cultural history of the west. …Crossley clearly cares about this material on a personal and professional level, and it shows in the writing. Over ten years in the making, the book is a fitting climax to a long career of impeccable scholarship.”—D. Harlan Wilson, Extrapolation


“I know of no other book that attempts such a vast survey, holding together the literatures of science fiction and of the scientific study of Mars. Crossley’s focus allows him to analyze the relation of science fiction to the modern history of scientific understanding with a precision, authority, and textual detail that a more traditional history of the genre could never attain.” (John Huntington, professor of English, University of Illinois at Chicago)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Red Planet March 14 2011
By Don R. Lago - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The last few years have brought a rich addition to the literature about Mars--that is, Mars as an idea, as cultural history. Three new books have much to offer: Robert Crossley's Imagining Mars, Robert Markley's Dying Planet, and K. Maria Lane's Geographies of Mars. While there have been quite a few previous books that trace the human fascination with Mars, most were written by space exploration enthusiasts or science fiction enthusiasts, who didn't always have much depth as cultural historians. These three new books have been written by professors whose trade is cultural history and who can place ideas about Mars in larger perspectives. Each book has its own strengths. Robert Crossley offers us the best-ever literary history of Mars, focusing mostly on the fiction about Mars--though as he points out, much of this fiction was really about us back on Earth, our values and worldviews and fantasies, our hopes and fears. Crossley has done amazingly deep research into Martian fiction, finding many obscure but fascinating books that deserve to be remembered. Most of us probably imagine that Martian fiction began with H.G. Wells, but Crossley shows it was already going strong well before then. He offers entire chapters on Mars as utopia, Mars and the paranormal, Mars as a theater for male fantasies. Crossley shows how changing scientific ideas about Mars have continued shaping Martian fiction, most notably Percival Lowell's canals, then the Space Age revelation of a barren Mars. Martian fiction has made a strong influence on scientific ideas about Mars, not always for the best. Martian fiction has evolved from imagining Martian civilizations to today's imagining humans bringing civilization to Mars. Crossley's judgments about changing scientific ideas and historical trends and fictional themes seem accurate and insightful. Occasionally his praise of some books seems a bit too generous, but then I haven't read these books, and now I am planning to do so.

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