07 August 2012

The Power of Extraterrestrial Oz

Yesterday author Mary Robinette Kowal blogged about Dorothy Gale and Mars:

I just sold a story to RIPOFFs, which is an audio anthology edited by Gardner Dozois for Audible. . . . The idea of the anthology is that each story starts with the first line of a classic novel.  It’s sort of a punchcard punk homage to Ray Bradbury and L. Frank Baum. Here’s how mine opens.

And I swear to God, I didn’t know where Curiousity was landing.
The Lady Astronaut of Mars

by Mary Robinette Kowal

Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife. She went on to say that she’d met me, when I was working next door to their farm under the shadow of the rocket gantry for the First Mars Expedition.
Where did the Curiosity rover land? Coincidentally, in Gale Crater.
Now Gale Crater is actually named after Walter Frederick Gale, who…thought Mars had canals full of water. He was observing in the 19th century, so can be cut some slack for inadequate instruments but those canals gave rise to a whole slew of science fiction. Wells, Burroughs, Bradbury… Without the idea that maybe, maybe there was once civilization on Mars how many of them would have written those stories? Hard to tell, but the space between what Mr. Gale discovered and what they wrote is where Science Fiction lives. It lives in the possibilities present in the best science of the day.
Back in 1904, when L. Frank Baum’s newspaper syndicate was promoting his comic page Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz, a publicity mailing spoke of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and other visitors approaching Earth from outer space. It’s unclear whether Baum had any role in or say over that publicity, and in his Oz books he never claims that Oz is extraterrestrial. Nonetheless, it shows how a century ago such possibilities were in the air (or above it).


Nathan said...

Has there ever been a robotic probe on Anuther Planet, though?

J. L. Bell said...

That planet sounds like a rather inhospitable environment for electrically-driven machines, as I recall it. But perhaps Tik-Tok could explore it.