Mars in fiction


This image shows an artist's conception of the Mars Excursion Module (MEM) proposed in a NASA study in 1963, a human mission to Mars concept that failed to pan out.

Fictional representations of Mars have been popular for over a century. Interest in Mars has been stimulated by the planet's dramatic red color, by early scientific speculations that its surface conditions might be capable of supporting life, and by the possibility that Mars could be colonized by humans in the future. Almost as popular as stories about Mars are stories about Martians engaging in activity (frequently invasions) away from their home planet.

In the 20th century, actual spaceflights to the planet Mars, including seminal events such as the first artificial object to impact the surface of Mars in 1971, and then later the first landing of "the first mechanized device to successfully operate on Mars" in 1976 (in the Viking program by the United States), inspired a great deal of interest in Mars-related fiction. Exploration of the planet has continued in the 21st century on to the present day.

Mars in fiction before Mariner

The following works of fiction deal with the planet itself, with any assumed Martian civilization as part of its planetary landscape. Mars has been seen as the perfect distance away from Earth to create the idea of a different life, as this allowed for early works to fuel the minds of what Mars could hold. The ideas of Mars as science fiction would first start with Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877.[1] The ideas of Mars will grow and change with new information changing the way Mars would be seen in the science fiction world.

Novels and short stories

First ventures

Several early modern writers, including Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680) and Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), hypothesized contact with Mars. Early science fiction about Mars often involved the first voyages to the planet, sometimes as an invasion force, more often for the purposes of exploration.

Early works to 1910
An army of Martian fighting machines destroying England from a 1906 edition of War of the Worlds
  • Across the Zodiac (1880) by Percy Greg. The narrator flies his craft, the Astronaut, to visit diminutive beings on Mars.
  • Uranie (1889, translated as Urania in 1890) by Camille Flammarion. A young astronomer and his fiancée are killed in a ballooning accident, and are reincarnated in new bodies on Mars.
  • Melbourne and Mars: My Mysterious Life on Two Planets (1889) by Joseph Fraser. A sick man named Jacobs starts having visions in his sleep, which turns out to be a telepathic link between him and a child called Charlie Frankston, his other self on Mars, who lives in a technological utopia.
  • Mr. Stranger's Sealed Packet (1889) by Hugh MacColl. People from Earth travel to Mars in a flying machine and find peaceful Martians that are technologically inferior to humans with a few exceptions like voice-recording devices and electric lighting.
  • A Plunge into Space (1890) by Robert Cromie. Dedicated to Jules Verne, the character Henry Barnett learns how to control the ethereal force which combines electricity and gravity and "which permeates all material things, all immaterial space", and secretly builds a globular spaceship called the Steel Globe. Barnett and some friends travel to Mars and find a society where there is no need for politicians and Martians who travel in airships or fly through levitation.
  • Unveiling a Parallel (1893) by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant. The authors use a journey to Mars as the frame for a utopian feminist novel.
  • Journey to Mars (1894) by Gustavus W. Pope. An adventure story that may have influenced Edgar Rice Burroughs's later Barsoom books.
  • A Prophetic Romance (1896) by John McCoy. Reversing the usual pattern, the book brings a Martian visitor to Earth for a utopian novel.
  • Auf zwei Planeten (1897) by Kurd Lasswitz. A Martian expedition to Earth takes Earthmen back to visit Mars; interplanetary war follows the initially peaceful contact. Lasswitz's Martians are human in appearance, but with much larger eyes.
  • The War of the Worlds (1898) by H. G. Wells. Features an attack on England by cephalopod-like Martians and their advanced technology to employ fighting machines to decimate the world.
  • Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898) by Garrett P. Serviss. In this Edisonade, Earthmen respond to an attack from Mars with a successful genocide of the Martian race.
  • A Honeymoon in Space (1900), by George Griffith. A young couple on a journey through the solar system are captured by hostile Martians.
  • Gullivar of Mars (1905) by Edwin Lester Arnold. An Edwardian fantasy in which Gullivar Jones travels to Mars on a magic carpet and interacts with the slothful but innocent Hithers and the brutish but honorable Thithers.
  • Doctor Omega (1906) by Arnould Galopin. A crew of explorers from Earth visit a Mars inhabited by reptilian mermen, savage dwarf-like beings with long, tentacled arms, bat-men and a race of civilized macrocephalic gnomes.
  • Le prisonnier de la planète Mars [Vampires of Mars] (1908) and its sequel La guerre des vampires [War of the Vampires] (1909) by Gustave Le Rouge. French engineer Robert Darvel is dispatched to Mars by the psychic powers of Hindu Brahmins. On the Red Planet, he runs afoul of hostile, bat-winged, blood-sucking natives, a once-powerful civilization now ruled by the Great Brain.
  • Red Star (1908) by Alexander Bogdanov. The narrator is taken to Mars, which is imagined as a Socialist utopia.
1910s and 1920s
Cover to 1927's Princess of Mars
  • Le Mystère des XV (1911) by Jean de La Hire. De la Hire's hero, the Nyctalope, helps a group of 15 Earth scientists establish a permanent settlement on Mars.
  • To Mars via the Moon (1911) by Mark Wicks. Telepathic Martians have developed advanced canal-building technology and live in an Utopian socialist society.[2]
  • A Princess of Mars and another 10 Mars stories (1912–1943) by Edgar Rice Burroughs. These stories feature Virginia gentleman John Carter mysteriously transported to a Mars (called Barsoom by the natives) distinguished by fierce warriors and maidens of several species, exotic animals and mixtures of antique with advanced technology. Burroughs has had many imitators and inspired many nostalgic references.
  • Aelita (1922) by A.N. Tolstoy, among the first Soviet science fiction novels. Describes a Soviet expedition to Mars headed by the engineer Los, who falls in love with the beautiful Aelita, daughter of the Martian Supreme Ruler. Los' companion tries to organize a Communist revolution to bring happiness and progress to the ancient, stagnating civilization. The 1924 movie (Aelita) followed.
  • Les Navigateurs de l'Infini (1925) by J.-H. Rosny aîné. Humans travel to Mars in a spaceship named Stellarium and meet two competing races on the planet.
  • Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon (1930) has the Second Men in a far future Earth invaded by the utterly alien Martians, who seek our water and air. Parts 8 and 9 detail this protracted and ultimately ruinous war.
  • A Conquest of Two Worlds by Edmond Hamilton (1932), published in Wonder Stories, reverses the usual kind of contact between the two worlds with Earth launching a bloody colonial war against the primitive Martians for the planet's resources. Later in the story, they do the same on Jupiter. Martians and Jovians are never depicted as individuals, but several Earth military officers, including one who switches sides to fight for the Jovians, are.
  • Cat Country (1932), by Lao She. A satirical novel about early Communist China set in a fictional country of cat-like people on Mars.[3]
  • The Swordsman of Mars and Outlaws of Mars (both 1933) by Otis Adelbert Kline. Voyages to Mars in the Burroughs style, but set on a Mars of the past (in Kline's original work, his Mars and Venus stories were set in contemporary [1920s and 1930s] times; only the reprints from the 1960s state the tales are set in the distant past).
  • "A Martian Odyssey" (1934), a short story by Stanley G. Weinbaum. A Martian named Tweel (one of several species encountered) is depicted as a sympathetic, intelligent being who thinks as well as or better than a human, but in a convincingly alien manner (a rare feat at any time, but especially striking for pulp science fiction of that era). The story was included in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Weinbaum also wrote a sequel called "Valley of Dreams" (1934).
  • Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis (1938), was written as a conscious answer and antithesis to the works of H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon. The first book of Lewis's Space Trilogy, a rare example of theological science fiction, it features a philologist named Ransom who arrives by accident on Mars (called Malacandra by the natives). Ransom is at first fearful of being killed in a barbaric rite; but discovers three highly sympathetic, intelligent Martian species, completely different from each other but living in harmony. As in the other books, Lewis' Mars is a dying world; large parts of it are already dead and various species – such as an intelligent winged species – have become extinct. At the end of the book, it is disclosed that the Martians' ancestors had possessed the technology to build spaceships and invade Earth, but renounced that possibility and stoically resigned themselves to dying out.
  • What Mad Universe (1949) by Fredric Brown depicts an alternate history where humans discovered anti-gravity in 1903 and launched a war to conquer Mars, which is inhabited by creatures with a culture equal to that of Earth, but militarily weaker. The Martians are decimated and finally accept human colonization. H.G. Wells writes a book denouncing the war and conquest of Mars as an act of unjustified aggression. Later, Martians are drawn into Earth's war with Arcturus.
  • Project Mars: A Technical Tale (written 1949, published 2006) by Wernher von Braun is a novel about the first human mission to Mars and their encounter with Martians on the planet; it includes a technical specification for the expedition to Mars.
  • The Martian Chronicles (1950) by Ray Bradbury. Features human-like Martians with copper-colored skin, human emotions and telepathic abilities. They have an advanced culture, but the human explorers are greeted with incomprehension. Bradbury wrote many other short stories set on Mars.
  • Marooned on Mars (1952) by Lester del Rey. A young adult novel in which a teenager stows away on the first ship to Mars, causing it to crash during landing. He discovers the underground remains of a native Martian civilization.
  • Star of Ill-Omen (1952) by Dennis Wheatley. Creatures from a dying Mars kidnap humans and take them to the planet so that the Martians can learn how to make nuclear weapons, which they plan to use to invade Earth.
  • Martians, Go Home (1955) by Fredric Brown. An satirical novel about a Martian "invasion" of Earth by proxy.[4] Martians are mischievous loud-mouthed tricksters who take all the fun out of life. They have a special relish for disclosing secrets of any kind at any level. Therefore, people stop gambling, voting and buying newspapers. They can materialize anywhere, including in darkened bedrooms, and they see in the dark; offering malicious comments on mating couples to depopulate the planet.
  • No Man Friday (1956) by Rex Gordon. A secret British Mars expedition crashes on Mars, leaving one survivor who struggles to provide his basic needs from a hostile planet and is eventually discovered by intelligent natives. Inspired the 1964 movie Robinson Crusoe on Mars.
  • Phobos, the Robot Planet (a.k.a. Lost: A Moon) (1955) by Paul Capon. Four humans are abducted and brought to the Martian moon Phobos by an A.I. to study human emotions. During the stay, a young couple ends up on Mars by accident, where they encounter the local fauna and ruins of buildings built by the long gone Martians.
  • A World's Revival (Hebrew: תבל בתחיתה Tevel Be-Thiatah) (1955) by Tzvi Livneh.[5] Takes place some 500 years in the future. This story describes an expedition from a Utopian Socialist Earth arriving at a Mars which is divided between two oppressive, warring empires. The Earth people eventually succeed in fomenting a Martian revolution and overthrowing both empires. The Earth expedition is headed by an Israeli scientist, while a leading role among the revolutionaries is played by the "Yunodins", members of a dispersed and persecuted minority explicitly described as "the Jews of Mars". Livneh may have been influenced by Aelita; his story also involves interplanetary love.
  • The Outward Urge (1959) by John Wyndham. Describes a comparatively realistic Mars landing, without any Martians.

Living on Mars

By the 1930s, stories about reaching Mars had become somewhat trite and the focus shifted to Mars as an alien landscape. In the following stories, human contact and basic exploration had taken place sometime in the past; Mars is a setting rather than a goal.

  • Dweller in the Gulf (1932), The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis (1932) and Vulthoom (1935) by Clark Ashton Smith. Weird tales of horror set on Mars.
  • The Northwest Smith stories (1933–1936) by C. L. Moore. Many of these stories take place on a Mars populated by intelligent, humanoid Martians – and other, more Lovecraftian things.
  • Legion of Space Series (1934–1982) by Jack Williamson. In this future history, humans conquer and colonise Mars in a long series of wars with its inhabitants. All that is long in the past of the series' 30th century plot, where Mars is an established human-settled planet, humans living mainly "in the fertile canal areas" while most of the planet is desert.
  • The Secret of Sinharat, People of the Talisman and another 11 stories published between 1940 and 1964 by Leigh Brackett. These planetary romances describe a desert Mars populated by barbarian warriors and citizens of decadent city-states, coming into explosive contact with Terran civilization. Brackett's The Sword of Rhiannon (1953) shows an oceanic Mars of the distant past and comes close to pure fantasy.
  • In "Heredity" (1941), a short story by Isaac Asimov, twin brothers who have been raised separately on Earth and Ganymede must work together to operate a Martian fungus farm.
  • Robert A. Heinlein repeatedly used Mars as a setting for his novels and short stories, including:
    • The Green Hills of Earth (1947). The space poet Rhysling cries out against fellow humans who had torn down "the slender, fairy-like towers" of the native Martians and replaced them with ugly factories which pollute the Martian canals.
    • Red Planet (1949). Young adult novel. Includes some very intelligent Martians similar to those mentioned in Stranger in a Strange Land, who help human colonists free themselves of tyrannical Earth authorities.
    • The Rolling Stones (1952). Mars has a major role in the carefree adventures of a space-roving family.
    • Podkayne of Mars (1962). A teenage girl named Podkayne "Poddy" Fries and her younger brother Clark leave their home on Mars to visit Earth, accompanied by their uncle.
  • Seetee Ship (1949) and Seetee Shock (1950) by Jack Williamson. Mars is colonized by European Fascists and Neo-Nazis, and its main holiday is "Hitler Day", the celebration of which often entails bloody riots. The Fascist Mars is one of the main powers contending for control of the mineral wealth of the Asteroid Belt.
1950s and early 1960s
  • Genesis (1951) by H. Beam Piper – The last survivors of the ancient humanoid culture on Mars flee their dying planet about at 100,000 B.C. Near Earth, most of the ship's 1,500 passengers are killed by meteors and only two men and six women land in a lifeboat and become the ancestors of humanity. Later Piper "paratime" stories introduce timelines where more Martians survived, resulting in far more technologically advanced Earths by the 20th century (see [1],[6]).
  • Omnilingual (1957) by H. Beam Piper. Short story in which archaeologists from Earth (returning to the Mars of their distant ancestors; see Genesis above, although the stories are not explicitly related save through the author's "paratime" stories), excavating the remains of a humanoid Martian civilization, find an entire library they at first cannot read, but then come upon a Rosetta Stone of sorts, giving the story its title.
  • The Sands of Mars (1951) by Arthur C. Clarke involves a reporter who makes the long voyage to a desert Mars to write about the human colonists and discovers native life on Mars.
  • David Starr, Space Ranger (1952) by Isaac Asimov writing as Paul French. A juvenile novel set in the distant future whose title character discovers an unsuspected Martian civilization deep beneath the Red Planet's surface.
  • The Martian Way (1952) by Isaac Asimov. Earth people are scornful of the Martian colonists, who survive by salvaging "space junk", yet their way of life suits the Martian colonists for further space exploration, reaching Saturn first and eventually (Asimov implies) leading the way to the stars.
  • The Old Martians (March 1952) by Rog Phillips. Short story in which Mars is habitable and the ruined cities of the Old Martians have been opened to tourism. The Old Martians still exist in some form and are inimical to the human inhabitants, influencing weak-minded people to dig up their old and sometimes dangerous artifacts.
  • In Jerome Bixby's 1954 story, The Holes Around Mars, the titular holes puzzle the first astronauts on the planet.
  • One in Three Hundred (1954) by J. T. McIntosh relates the discovery there will be a great increase in the Sun's solar output, causing Earth's oceans to boil away. There being no doubt, and the exact hour and minute of "Boil Away" being confirmed daily, the world's leaders decide to commit themselves to a massive building program for the creation of as many spaceships as possible, more or less suitable for rescuing a small percentage of Earth's population. If enough spaceships can be built in time, the human race might be able to make it to Mars and eke out a living there.
  • In November 1955, the Martian Manhunter of DC Comics first appears in Detective Comics #225.
  • The Badge of Infamy (1957) by Lester Del Rey. This novelette describes a colonized Mars run by Earth lobbies, including a military-industrial lobby and a health lobby similar to the American Medical Association. A humanitarian doctor seeks to cure a disease that afflicts humans whose metabolisms been chemically altered for Mars adaptation.
  • In The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (1959), the previously uninhabited Mars is populated by brainwashed transplants from Earth, leading to the invasion of Earth by the newly created Martian army.
  • In the Perry Rhodan series (1961– ), Mars is the site of an ancient gateway to the "negative side" of the universe. Through this gateway, the planet becomes infested with death crystals whose life-destroying radiation threatens to spread to Earth.
  • "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" (1963) by Roger Zelazny. One of the last stories of this type, describing an Earth poet's study of Martian language and literature. The story is deliberately written as an elegiac farewell to the old conception of Mars, complete with canals and an ancient, dying Martian race, as "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" (1965) was his farewell to the Venus of earlier science fiction.
  • In Philip K. Dick's fiction, Mars is an almost empty, dry land, with isolated communities and individuals, most of whom do not want to be there. (Martian Time Slip (1964), The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)). The characters in these stories could be in small communities in the Arizona desert, but placing them on Mars emphasises their isolation, both from one another and from Earth. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) humans leave the radioactive Earth for Mars with Androids illegally escaping from Mars in return, with one Android saying, "We came back [from Mars] because nobody should have to live there. It wasn't conceived for habitation, at least not within the last billion years. It's so old. You feel it in the stones, the terrible old age". Furthermore, "pre-colonial fiction" is smuggled to Mars by amateur rockets – "To read about cities and huge industrial enterprises, and really successful colonization. You can imagine what it might have been like. What Mars ought to be like".
  • Destination Mars (1963), Hugh Walters' sixth book in the Chris Godfrey of UNEXA series. The first astronaut to explore the planet has been driven mad and a crew is launched to investigate.
  • Arm of the Law (1958), by Harry Harrison. On Mars, in a backwater burg run by gangsters, the local police constabulary is sent the latest in crimefighting gadgets, an incorruptible and unpredictable robot.

Radio, film and television

  • A Trip to Mars is a silent film created by Thomas Edison in 1910. Its plot follows a scientist who discovers reverse gravity in his lab. He then, accidentally, applies the dust to himself and flies up to Mars, where he makes absurd discoveries before returning home.
  • Marvin the Martian (1948) is one of Looney Tunes' most prominent characters, a soft-spoken villain, whose mission throughout his appearances is to destroy Earth because it "obstructs his view of Venus". In one episode 'Instant Martians' appear who resemble giant flightless birds, which in another cartoon are implied to be from Jupiter.
  • The second series of the British radio science fiction program Journey into Space (1954–1955) deals with a trip to Mars and what the astronauts find there.
  • The Angry Red Planet (1959) – a low-budget horror/science fiction film.
  • The serial Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars shows Mars being inhabited by intelligent life. Queen Azura rules Mars and turns those who oppose her into Clay Men. At the end of the serial, the Clay Men are restored.
  • Several episodes of Space Patrol, a 1962 puppet television series, dealt with Mars.
  • Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) – A pastiche of the classic Daniel Defoe novel.
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) – Known as one of the worst movies ever made, as such it was made fun of on the TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • Thunderbirds Are GO (1966) – followed the first human mission to Mars aboard the Zero-X. This is a notable depiction, which displays a pre-exploration idea of how Mars would look – rocky and desert-like. The crew encounter "rock snakes" which can live without water.
  • In Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, a global security agency, Spectrum, fights the Mysterons, a formerly Mars-based alien species who evacuated the planet several millennia ago and has the ability to 'retro-metabolise' destroyed organic matter.
  • The Twilight Zone featured several episodes that focused on Mars and/or Martians, including "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up", "People Are Alike All Over" and "Mr. Dingle the Strong".

Mars in fiction after Mariner

Novels and short stories

Mariner 4 in July 1965 found that Mars—contrary to expectations—is heavily cratered, with a very thin atmosphere. No canals were found; while scientists did not believe that Mars was a moist planet, the lack of surface water surprised them.[7] Science fiction had so influenced real explorations of the planet, however—Carl Sagan was among the many fans who became scientists—that after Mariner 9 in 1971–1972, craters were named after Wells, Burroughs, and other authors.[8] The Mariner and Viking space probes confirmed that the Martian environment is extremely hostile to life. By the 1970s, the ideas of canals and ancient civilizations had to be abandoned.

Authors soon began writing stories based on the new Mars (frequently treating it as a desert planet). Most of these works feature humans struggling to tame the planet, and some of them refer to terraforming (using technology to transform a planet's environment to be Earthlike).

A common theme, particularly among American writers, is that of a Martian colony fighting for independence from Earth. It appeared already in Heinlein's Red Planet and is a major plot element in Greg Bear's Moving Mars and Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. It is also part of the plot of the movie Total Recall and the television series Babylon 5. Many video games also use this concept, such as the Red Faction and Zone of the Enders series, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. A historical rebellion of Mars against Earth is also mentioned in the Star Trek series of novels, which are not considered canon.

In the decades following Mariner and Apollo, the once-popular subgenre of realistic stories about a first expedition to Mars fell out of fashion, possibly due to the failure of the Apollo Program to continue on to Mars. The early 1990s saw a revival and re-envisioning of realistic novels about Mars expeditions. Early novels in this renaissance were Jack Williamson's novel Beachhead and Ben Bova's novel Mars (both 1992), which envisioned large-scale expeditions to Mars according to the thinking of the 1990s. These were followed by Gregory Benford's The Martian Race (1999), Geoffrey A. Landis's Mars Crossing (2000), and Robert Zubrin's First Landing (2002), which took as their starting points the smaller and more focused expedition strategies evolved in the late 1990s, mostly building on the concepts of Mars Direct.

Late 1960s and the 1970s

  • In Larry Niven's harsh Known Space stories (1964– ) Mars is a backwater bypassed by humans in their rush to the mineral wealth of the Asteroid Belt. A single attempt to colonise Mars ended disastrously, due to the combination of violent conflict between the would-be colonists and a confrontation with the native Martians—a shadowy race spending most of their time swimming under the surface of the Martian dust, and to whom water is a deadly poison. They are neither able nor interested in going into space, and humans are not really interested in Mars, so there seems no reason for conflict. Still, in the book Protector (1973), the Martians are brutally exterminated by a large water asteroid deliberately hurled at the planet, raising the water content in the atmosphere to a degree deadly to them, by Jack Brennan, a human who had turned into a Pak Protector—a creature completely devoted to protecting its descendants, or sometimes his entire species, and is unreasonably xenophobic towards anybody else. This act of interplanetary genocide in effect ties Niven's Mars with the older Wells/Stapledon tradition. Some of these Martians are thought to have survived on the Ringworld, however. See Ringworld Engineers, Ringworld Throne, and Ringworld's Children. Various Protectors set up traps against Niven Martians.
  • In Die Erde ist nah: die Marsexpedition (1970), by Ludek Pesek, published in English as The Earth is Near (1973), a crew of twenty men undertake the first human mission to Mars, and after landing in the wrong area due to computer malfunction and/or human error, have to cope with vicious sand storms, and a long trek undertaken in vehicles to their original intended area of exploration. The story is told from the viewpoint of the expedition's psychologist, and tries to be (based on the knowledge then known about Mars when written) accurate and realistic as to the problems encountered due to the Martian environment, the technology they have, and the human emotional response to their situation.
  • In the junior fiction novel Journey Between Worlds (1970) by Sylvia Engdahl, eighteen-year-old Melinda Ashley never wanted to go to Mars but when she meets Alex Preston, a second-generation Martian colonist, she finds herself on a surprising new path.
  • In Police Your Planet (1975) by Lester Del Rey, a disgraced, embittered Earth cop is exiled to a Mars that has been thoroughly corrupted by domed city life – he who controls the air machinery, makes the rules. The local police and city government are utterly corrupt, Chicago style. At first he tries to fit in, then his contact with other downtrodden outsiders renews his old idealism.
  • Birth of Fire (1976) by Jerry Pournelle. The story of a troubled youth transported to Mars as a convict laborer who becomes involved with a rebellion by independent farmers and tradesmen who want to terraform Mars and break the stranglehold by the corporations and domed cities sponsored by Earth governments.
  • In Man Plus (1976) by Frederik Pohl, an astronaut is transformed into a cyborg capable of living on Mars.
  • The Far Call (1978) by Gordon R. Dickson describes a first international mission to Mars featuring a redundant architecture where two spacecraft are sent at once to Mars. It also provides illuminating insight to the culture at NASA.


  • "Ananke" (1982) by Stanisław Lem (a story in More Tales of Pirx the Pilot)
  • Icehenge (1984) by Kim Stanley Robinson. A multiple narratives novel including a doomed political revolution on Mars and its subsequent investigation by an archaeologist working centuries later.
  • Watchmen (1985) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Several Martian landmarks appear in a section of the famous graphic novel, visited by the superhuman Dr. Manhattan and human Laurie Juspeczyk.
  • The Forge of God (1987) by Greg Bear. The only surviving humans, numbering in the thousands, and the only surviving Earth life, are resettled on Mars, after the annihilation of Earth.
  • Desolation Road (1988) by Ian McDonald is a magic-realist science fiction novel set on a terraformed planet that's explicitly named only in the last sentence of the book (though the name "Ares" makes frequent appearances in various contexts).
  • Draka series (1989–), a dystopian alternate history by S. M. Stirling. Mars is colonised by the harsh Draka who create a slave society. To control their slaves there, they breed a special kind of artificial horrendous beast, the ghouloon, out of baboons.
  • Lobster Man from Mars (1989) is a parody of 1950s science fiction films, and tells of a race of Martians who are dying due to a rapidly thinning atmosphere, and send an anthropomorphic lobster to investigate the possible colonisation of Earth.
  • Venus Prime (1989) The third book of the series: Hide & Seek is set on Mars.


  • In Terry Bisson's Voyage to the Red Planet (1990), the first expedition to Mars is organized by a Hollywood producer so he can film a science fiction movie on location.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars, 1992–1996) is concerned with a centuries-long program of terraforming the planet. In Robinson's companion book The Martians, the escarpment is the scene of an epic multi-pitched rock climb. His Icehenge (1984) also features a Mars in process of terraforming. Olympus Mons features as the site of an annual festival. Mars is also one of the terraformed worlds visited during the course of Robinson's The Memory of Whiteness (1985).
  • Mars (1992), Return to Mars (1999) and Mars Life (2008) by Ben Bova, from the Grand Tour series.
  • Moving Mars (1993) is the third volume of a trilogy by Greg Bear, which depicts a colonised Mars seeking independence from the control of Earth.
  • Red Dust (1993) by Paul J. McAuley takes place against a backdrop of a failing attempt at terraforming Mars by the Chinese.
  • The Doom series of video games (with its first release in 1993) involves multiple stories centering around a human research facility on Mars experimenting with teleportation technology that opens a rift into Hell unleashing a massive army of demons onto humanity.
  • Bright Messengers (1995) by Gentry Lee. A novel set in the Arthur C. Clarke's Rama universe. A faithful priestess and an engineer who share the same vision of sparkling particules on Earth meet on Mars as civilization faces total collapse. This affects the Mars colony and during the threat of a global sand storm, they found escape of the doomed outpost inside an alien pod, which carried the fugitive humans into a gigantic and espherical spaceship orbiting Mars.
  • Voyage (1996) by Stephen Baxter. An alternate history about the 20-year lead-up to a 3-person Mars expedition in 1986 using Apollo-derived technology.
  • Mars Underground (1997) by William K. Hartmann, a novel about a partially terraformed Mars by a noted astronomer.
  • Olympus Mons (1998) by Bud Sparhawk. the mountain is the setting for a 21st-century downhill race.
  • Beige Planet Mars (1998) by Lance Parkin and Mark Clapham, a novel in Virgin Publishing's New Adventures series is set on a terraformed Mars which has become a retirement home for Earth's wealthy elderly. The title is a deliberate play on the books of Robinson's Mars Trilogy.
  • Semper Mars (1998) by Ian Douglas depicts the Cydonia region of Mars as home to ancient alien ruins where mummified early humans are found in 2040.
  • "Mars is No Place for Children" (1999) by Mary A. Turzillo, a Nebula Award-winning novella about a child growing up on Mars.
  • The Martian Race (1999) by Gregory Benford
  • Brian Aldiss and Roger Penrose wrote White Mars (1999) as a response to the terraforming science fiction of Kim Stanley Robinson and Paul J. McAuley above. However, their work rejects terraforming and Mars has been designated as a "planet for science", analogously to Antarctica's current status as an ecologically preserved site for managed scientific experimentation.
  • Horsemen of Mars (1999, translated in 2014) by Codex Regius about the first expedition to Mars struck by an almost fatal catastrophe won an award in Germany and was proposed for the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis as the best German SF short story of the year 2001.


  • Mars Crossing (2000) by Geoffrey A. Landis, about a stranded expedition; which won the Locus Award for best first novel.
  • "The Great Wall of Mars" (2000) by Alastair Reynolds, in which the most technologically advanced faction of humans is based on Mars and embroiled in an interplanetary war; introduced some of the most important characters and groups in the Revelation Space universe. Several later Revelation Space novels add additional details of history of groups and characters on Mars.
  • First Landing (2002) by Robert Zubrin.
  • Mars is the scene of the last of three recent space operas by John Barnes: In the Hall of the Martian King (2003). Barnes also sets one of the two Meme Wars novels on Mars: The Sky So Big and Black (2002).
  • "Falling onto Mars" (2002), by Geoffrey A. Landis, a Hugo Award-winning short story that envisions Mars as a prison planet,
  • Ilium/Olympus series (2003– ) by Dan Simmons. Olympus Mons has become the Mount Olympos of Greek myth, home of beings playing the roles of the various Greek gods.
  • Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars (2005) by Warner Bros. Animation and Turner Entertainment. Fictional characters Tom and Jerry goes on an adventure to Mars.
  • Haydn of Mars (2005) by Al Sarrantonio, followed by Sebastion of Mars (2005) and Queen of Mars (2006), collected in Masters of Mars (2006), a Burroughs-inflected trilogy.
  • Stories by Caitlín R. Kiernan:
    • "Bradbury Weather" (2005). Set entirely on a colonized Mars where a plague has made the planet uninhabitable by men, so that only women populate Mars, living alongside an ancient parasitic organism (perhaps also alien to Mars) referred to as "the Fenrir" and "the Wolf."
    • "Zero Summer" (2007). Includes a closing scene set on a station on Mars' satellite Phobos.
    • "Excerpt from Memoirs of a Martian Demirep" (2007).
  • An Old Fashioned Martian Girl (2004), by Mary A. Turzillo, a novel serialized in Analog magazine.


  • New Mobile Report Gundam Wing: Frozen Teardrop (2010-ongoing) by Katsuyuki Sumisawa is a novel continuation of the Gundam Wing anime series taking place primarily on the terraformed Mars.
  • The Quantum Thief (2010) by Hannu Rajaniemi is a novel set in the far future of Mars in the Oubliette, a city moving across the face of the planet.
  • The Martian is a 2011 novel by Andy Weir about an astronaut stranded on Mars trying to survive.
  • The Expanse (novel series) (2011–2019) by James S. A. Corey depicts solar system Mars as an independent nation in competition with Earth. While Earth is seen as a welfare state, Mars is a militaritarized society with the goal of terraforming the planet.
  • Hyperdrive (2013) by Tim Parise depicts a futuristic Mars inhabited by pioneers in domed cities, who have warmed the planet enough to sublimate its permafrost and create a heavy but unbreathable carbon dioxide atmosphere.[9]
  • The Long Mars (2014) by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (author) is a novel that depicts the exploration of a series of alternative Mars via gliders and "Stepper" technology. Its part of The Long Earth (series).
  • Red Desert (2014–15) by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, originally published in Italian under the title Deserto rosso (2012–2013), is a four-book series whose main characters are the first colonizers of the Red Planet.[10] It was translated by the author into English.
  • A terraformed Mars is the primary setting in Pierce Brown's Red Rising series of novels: Red Rising (2014), Golden Son (2015) and Morning Star (2016).
  • Building Red: Mission Mars edited by Janet Cannon (2015) is an anthology of Mars stores. It includes The Cave in Arsia Mons by astronomer Andrew Fraknoi
  • War Dogs: Ares Rising, originally published as War Dogs in 2014, is the first in a trilogy by Greg Bear, the author of Moving Mars, chronicling a war by human soldiers against hostile alien invaders on behalf of a smaller group of aliens who have colonized Earth and whose advanced knowledge makes them indispensable. The first volume takes place largely on Mars.
  • A journey to mars (2015) novel first appeared in Arabic (2014) رحلة إلى المريخ then it was translated and published in English, it was written by Nabil Kochaji.
  • Titrāktūs Chahār La‘natī(2015) (in Persian :تتراكتوس چهار لعنتي), by Reza Khoshnazar is a philosophical Persian novel about living on Mars which is published in Sweden.[2]
  • Teoría rudimentaria sobre estados entrelazados y gemelos (2015 Argentina) by G.G. Melies Inspired by Alexandre Dumas' book "The Corsican Brothers", it deals with Scott and Andrew, twins separated by the distances between Mars and Earth, who perceive their emotional states faster than communications.
  • TerraGenesis (2016), developed by Edgeworks Entertainment and published by Tilting Point, is a mobile terraforming simulator starting on Mars. Players will take the red planet and turn it into a new home for humanity with a blue sky above and green grass underfoot, cultivating an emergent culture as time passes.
  • Fable Hill (2017) by Christopher Uremovich, a hard science fiction novel that takes place in 2045. Follows a double amputee and five other astronauts as they survive on Mars and uncover ancient secrets.[11]
  • De Walden a Gale en 39 días (2018 Argentina) by G.G. Melies Inspired by Thoreau's Walden, it is the story of the Wow robot that wakes up as a singularity on Mars when reading Thoreau and continues until it generates a new system of government.
  • The Martian Rebellion (2019) by D.I.Young, a science fiction war novel set in 2145. Mars has been colonised for 100 years but is still controlled by Earth, a series of events leads to the Martian war of independence.

Nostalgic Mars fiction

Several post-Mariner works are homages to the older phase of Mars fiction, circumventing the scientific picture of a dry and lifeless Mars with an unbreathable atmosphere through such science fiction generic staples as positing its future terraforming, or creating alternate history versions of Mars, where Burroughs' Barsoom, Bradbury's Martian Chronicles or The War of the Worlds are literal truth.

  • Philip José Farmer's World of Tiers series (1965–1993) contains a nostalgic and ironic reminder of the Barsoom stories. Kickaha, the series' adventurer protagonist, asks his friend The Creator of Universes to create for him a Barsoom. The latter agrees only to make an empty world, since "It would go too far for me to create all these fabulous creatures only for you to amuse yourself by running your sword through them". Kickaha visits from time to time the empty Barsoom, complete with beautiful palaces in which nobody ever lived, but goes away frustrated.
  • Some Sword and planet series, such as Michael Moorcock's Kane of Old Mars trilogy (1965) and Lin Carter's Mysteries of Mars (1973–1984) are deliberately anachronistic homages to earlier visions of Mars, particularly Burroughs'.
  • In one of Robert A. Heinlein's last novels, The Number of the Beast (1980), the heroes flee Earth in a car capable of flight in six dimensions and find several alternate versions of Mars, one which had been colonised by the British and another which is an improbable combination of Burroughs' fabulous Barsoom with the home planet of the vicious Martians whose invasion of Earth was described by Wells.
  • A World Of Difference (1990) by Harry Turtledove. In this alternate history, the fourth planet of our solar system – named Minerva instead of Mars – is larger, nearer to Earth and has conditions congenial to the existence of life, including intelligent creatures with their well-defined biology and culture (and wars with each other). Until the 1970s this makes no substantial difference to human history, beyond some minor differences in myths. But when a Viking space probe sends back the picture of an alien creature swinging a stick, a joint US/USSR mission is sent in a hurry to explore the planet, and things develop fast from there.
  • S. M. Stirling's Lords of Creation series includes In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, in which Mars (as well as Venus) have been terraformed by unknown aliens over the course of hundreds of millions of years and seeded with all kinds of terrestrial life. Terran explorers arrive in the latter part of the 20th century to discover that Mars is home to a decaying but still highly advanced culture that was creating technological marvels back when Earthlings were still living in caves.
  • The title of Larry Niven's Rainbow Mars (1999) alludes to Robinson's three-colored Mars trilogy, and the plot concerns a time machine that is used to visit ancient Mars. The only problem is that time travel is impossible, and the machine actually travels back to a fictitious/alternate-universe Mars. The protagonist meets a wide variety of different Martians, including most of those from the pre-Mariner novels listed above.
  • "Larklight" (2006), a story by Phillip Reeve is set in the 18th century, where Mars is inhabited by an elven race, which formerly commanded great space empires. Humans are thought to be their descendants. They are described as purple haired and russet skinned. Mars and most other planets have a breathable atmosphere for humanity in Larklight.
  • Old Mars (2013) is a Mars-themed anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois[12][13]

Nostalgia for the older Mars also frequently appears in comics and role-playing games, particularly of the steampunk genre:

  • The role-playing game Space: 1889 (1988) features an alternate history in which a heroic Mars, complete with natives, is being colonized by the European empires of the 19th century.
  • The wargame Sky Galleons of Mars (1988) is set in the same alternate history as Space:1889.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999–) takes place in a world where characters from various literary sources interact. A scene taking place on Mars features the Hithers from Gullivar of Mars, the Green Martians from Barsoom, and the Séroni from Out of the Silent Planet, with references to Kane of Old Mars. In the world of The League, the Martians from The War of the Worlds are not originally from Mars, but were invading aliens who moved on to try to conquer Earth.
  • In the graphic novels Scarlet Traces (2002) and Scarlet Traces: The Great Game (2006), Olympus Mons is the main base of the British Mars Expeditionary Force. The Scarlet Traces saga is intended as a sequel to H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and centers on a counter-invasion of Mars, beginning about 1908 and continuing over the next three decades.

Film and television

  • Armitage III (1995) – Much of the series takes place on a colonized Mars, with the two main characters, Sybillus and Armitage working for the Martian Police Department.
  • Cowboy Bebop : The Movie (2001) – The crew of the spaceship Bebop, an intrepid band of bounty hunters, land on Mars during Halloween 2071 to chase an enormous cash reward.
  • Doom (2005) – Barely based on the third installment of the Doom computer game series, a group of Marines are sent to the red planet via an ancient Martian portal called the Ark to deal with an outbreak of a mutagenic virus.
  • The Expanse (TV series) (2015–present), much like the novel series that the series is based on, Mars is governed by a militaristic nation called the Martian Congressional Republic, whose goal is to terraform Mars into a garden planet.
  • Ghosts of Mars (2001) – Director John Carpenter uses the planet as a science fiction setting for a remake of his earlier Assault on Precinct 13.
  • The Great Martian War 1913–1917 (2013) – a mockumentary about a Martian invasion, inspired by the H. G. Wells classic and The Great War
  • John Carter (2012) – A Disney-produced reimagining of the John Carter stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
  • Kido Senkan Nadeshiko (1996–97) – Martian colonists come under attack from the descendants of exiled Lunar separatists.
  • The Last Days on Mars (2013) – Science fiction-horror depicting a small research/exploration base in the 2040s that discovers a devastating parasitic-pathogen
  • Mars (2016) – a six-part docudrama mini-series produced by National Geographic, which blends elements of real interviews with a fictional story of astronauts on the first expedition to Mars. Based on the 2015 book How We'll Live on Mars by Stephen Petranek.
  • Mars Attacks! (1996) – Earth is invaded by Martians with unbeatable weapons and a cruel sense of humor.
  • Mars Needs Moms (2011) – A computer-animated film produced by Robert Zemeckis.
  • The Martian (2015) – Blockbuster movie based on the book by Andy Weir, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Matt Damon.
  • Mission to Mars (2000) – A science fiction thriller adventure about a rescue mission of the first human mission to Mars, which encountered a catastrophic and mysterious disaster.
  • Mr. Nobody (2009) – In one of the timelines, the protagonist travels to a Mars colony to spread the ashes of his deceased bride, keeping a promise he made her when they were teens.
  • Princess of Mars (2009) – A direct-to-video movie produced by the independent studio The Asylum, based on A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, starring Antonio Sabato Jr. as John Carter and Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris.
  • Race to Mars (2007) – a miniseries produced in 2007 by Discovery Channel Canada.
  • Red Planet (2000) – A group of astronauts try to make Mars suitable for human life. No relation to the Robert A. Heinlein novel of the same title.
  • RocketMan (1997) – A comedy film about a wacky computer programmer who is recruited by NASA to travel to Mars.
  • Settlers (2021) – A family's survival in an outpost on Mars.
  • Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets (2004) – A documentary style series about a scientific voyage by the crew of the interplanetary ship Pegasus. Mars was one of the first planets visited, and the crew stayed on the surface for some time, finding water and experiencing a huge dust storm.
  • Stranded: Náufragos (2004) – thriller adventure about the crew of the first human mission to Mars getting stranded on the surface. Based on a script by the noted Spanish sci-fi writer Juan Miguel Aguilera.
  • Total Recall (1990) – Loosely based upon a Philip K. Dick short story, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale". The protagonist (Arnold Schwarzenegger) must journey to Mars to uncover his past. Mars is shown as being previously inhabited by an ancient race of aliens who created a machine for producing a breathable atmosphere and later terraforming the planet.
  • Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars (2005) - a 2005 Warner Bros. Animation film where Tom and Jerry landed on Mars and they meet the alien Martians.
  • An episode of Transformers: Armada (2003), entitled "Mars", features some of the Transformers visiting the planet in an effort to locate a Mini-Con.
  • Twilight Zone (1961) – "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" has an attempted Martian colonisation of Earth. A Martian infiltrates a group of humans. He is humanoid with a third arm. However the colonisation is prevented by the Venusians-who are humanoid with a third eye-having already set up a colony.

Theme park attraction

Mission: Space is a simulator ride at Walt Disney World Resort's Epcot theme park was located in Future World in Orlando, Florida about astronauts training in a flight simulation and on a mission to Mars. Along the way, riders experience changes in G-Force, hypersleep, and a meteor shower. Props from the movie Mission to Mars are seen in the queue line and until the refurbishment in 2017, the ride was narrated by Gary Sinise, an actor in said film.

Secondary references to Mars

In film and television

In the following works of fiction, the Martian setting is of secondary importance to the work as a whole.

  • Blue Comet SPT Layzner (1985–1986) anime series. Several episodes take place on Mars.
  • Transformers: The Headmasters (1987–1988) anime series. Mars is destroyed by Scorponok in episode 15.
  • Exosquad (1993–1995) animated television series.
  • Babylon 5 (1993–1998 plus spin-offs) television series and fictional universe. Mars is a human colony seeking independence from the Earth Alliance, which it eventually achieves.
  • seaQuest DSV television series. The episode "Better Than Martians" (1994) deals with the first human mission to Mars returning to Earth, but, encountering difficulty upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere and splashing into the ocean, leaving seaQuest to find the capsule before an unfriendly foreign confederation can.
  • Cowboy Bebop (1998) animated television series. Several episodes take place on Mars.
  • Futurama (1999–2003, 2008–2013) animated television series. By the year 3000, Mars has been completely terraformed to make it habitable for humans – the native Martian aliens are forced to live in specially designated areas, in a parody of the treatment of Native Americans. Amy Wong's parents own half of the planet and it features its own university.
  • Invader Zim (2001–2006) animated television series. In one episode, Zim finds that Mars is a giant spaceship and attempts to roll it over Earth to wipe out all human life.
  • The Fairly OddParents animated television series. In "Wishology! Part 3: The Final Ending," Jorgen sticks a wand to Mars.
  • Adventure Time animated television series. In "Too Young," Peppermint Butler tells the Earl of Lemongrab that "food comes from Mars." In "Sons of Mars," Finn and Jake encounter Martians, who are the inhabitants of the planet. The episode reveals a deity named Grob Gob Glob Grod and introduces Abe Lincoln, the King of Mars. In "Astral Plane," the planet avoids colliding with a comet after Grob Gob Glob Grod manages to divert its path towards Earth.
  • In Transformers (2007), a government agent reveals to the United States Secretary of Defense that an early contact with the eponymous robot species came in the form of a 13-second video transmission from the Beagle 2 probe sent to Mars in 2003; the "footage" was also the primary basis of the teaser trailer used to promote the film;
  • The Star Trek television franchise contains many references to Mars:
    • The original series episode "Court Martial" contains references to the "Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies", long considered an important legal precedent in the development of individual rights.
    • In the original series episode, "The Lights of Zetar", it is mentioned that a guest character, Lt. Mira Romaine, was born on Martian Colony 3.
    • Some starships are assembled at the Utopia Planitia region on Mars, particularly the Galaxy class starships featured in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Utopia Planitia shipyard appears onscreen in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Relativity".
    • In the episode "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a Borg cube is said to have passed through Mars's defense perimeter, its last obstacle before attacking Earth directly.
    • In the film Star Trek Generations, Jean-Luc Picard mentions that several of his ancestors were among the first settlers of the Martian Colonies.
    • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episodes "Demons" and "Terra Prime" (both 2005) it is revealed that Mars is in the process of being terraformed by use of the Verteron array which redirects comets to crashland on the planet's surface; by 2155 the atmosphere had been sufficiently altered so that, in the lowlands, Humans could breathe the air unassisted, though temperatures were still cold enough to require thermal gear. The opening credits of this series feature real images of the Sojourner rover on Mars, being the first Star Trek production featuring real footage filmed on another world.
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "One Small Step", USS Voyager discovers the fate of Ares IV, one of the first human expeditions to Mars in 2032.
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The 37's", it is mentioned that Mars was colonized by humans from Earth in the year 2103.
    • In the Star Trek: Short Treks episode "Children of Mars", the Utopia Planitia fleet yards are destroyed, causing massive casualties (and setting much of Mars ablaze). In Star Trek: Picard, set 14 years after the attack, Mars continues to burn.
  • Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 military science fiction anime series. Yurisha of Iscandar, sent to bring aid to Earth in its war against the invasion by Gamilas, crashes on Mars. One of the main characters, Akira Yamamoto, has red eyes as a result of being born on the planet. In 2202 the planet is home to a shipyard, and function as the last line of defense for the Earth Defense Fleet, against the Gatlantis Empire.
  • Starhunter 2300 Canadian sci-TV series. Several episodes take place in the vicinity of Mars, known as "Mars Federation." It is a more populated and wealthier system than the Jupiter and Saturn Federations. One of the main characters, Callista Larkadia, is a bounty hunter who came from a wealthy family on Mars. She also used to be an officer for "Mars Special Ops."
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: Human colonization of Mars occurred after the Calamity Wars, though it still remained under the authority of the Earth, and its inhabitants seek freedom for a better future.
  • Life is a science fiction movie which focuses on a living cell recovered on Mars and taken on the International Space Station. The cell rapidly evolves into a killer monster by drinking the blood of its victims.

Doctor Who

The Doctor Who television series has Mars as the uninhabitable homeworld of the Ice Warriors, a recurring adversary of the Second and Third Doctors from 1967 to 1974. In Pyramids of Mars (1975), the Fourth Doctor defeats Sutekh, last of the Osirians, who had been imprisoned for his crimes beneath a pyramid, with a signal to keep him paralyzed sent from a Martian pyramid. In "The Waters of Mars" (2009), an episode set on the planet itself, the Tenth Doctor implies that the Ice Warriors have become extinct. (This episode also introduces a viral, water-borne Martian named the Flood.) The episode is set in 2059, and implies that the first human colony on Mars will arrive in 2057, two years before the episode is set (as told in dialogue).


  • In the Watchmen comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Dr. Manhattan character tours Mars and visits Olympus Mons, admiring its features. He takes his girlfriend there, soon after he leaves for another galaxy.
  • In the 2000 AD series The V.C.s Olympus Mons' crater is covered by a massive dome to retain an atmosphere as the main settlement on the planet.
  • Several stories of the DC Comics character Martian Manhunter take place on Mars, and the Manhunter is a Green Martian. Most of the Green Martians were wiped out by a plague, although the more ruthless White Martians still exist. Martians were among the most powerful races in the Universe, capable of telepathy, shapeshifting, and flight, though they have an aversion to fire.
  • The most recent issue of the webcomic Dr. McNinja features Dracula revealing that he discovered the cure for cancer and hid it on Mars.
  • In Wonder Woman Pre-Crisis comics, Mars was the base of the god Mars, (see Ares). Spirits of the dead from various planets were taken to Mars and given new bodies to work. The Duke of Deception is a major villain of that world, operating a Lie Factory and making several attempts to invade Earth.
  • In January–February 1950, Superman journeys to Mars to help actor-director Orson Welles smash a plot by the Martian dictator Martler to "blitzkrieg the solar system" and conquer the Earth (Superman No. 62/1: "Black Magic on Mars!").
  • In Tales to Astonish No. 2 (1959) "My Job: To Catch a Martian", a professor, who discovers an empty alien spacecraft, hires a private investigator to find the occupant when no one else will listen to him.
  • In Tales to Astonish #3 (1959) "I Discovered the Men From Mars", a man from the year 1990 discovers a Martian space-craft while patrolling the coast on the lookout for communist spies.
  • In the manga and anime Sailor Moon, released in 1992, the character of Rei Hino is Sailor Mars. All her attacks are based on fire. Like the other planets in the modern solar system.
  • In the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip book, Weirdos From Another Planet! by Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes travel to Mars because the Earth is too polluted.
  • In Marvel Family No. 36, Mars is shown to be inhabited by a warlike treacherous race that resemble 1940s military dictators. They join the Invaders from Infinity (see List of Captain Marvel (DC Comics) enemies) in their attempt to destroy the Solar System after being defeated, but are beaten and sent back to Mars while the Invaders are imprisoned and destroyed.
  • The manga and anime series Aria by Kozue Amano depicts a fully terraformed Mars in the year 2301 A.D. now known as "Aqua". The planet is now covered by lush oceans. The manga and anime are mostly set in the city of Neo-Venezia, a reconstruction of the Earth city of Venice, Italy which was lost to rising sea levels.
  • Mars is referenced multiple times the Battle Angel Alita and related manga and anime series; in Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Mars is depicted as a war-torn planet, covered under planetary sized canopy.

Computer and video games

  • In the id Software game Commander Keen, Keen explores Mars in the first episode and keeps a Martian pet for the remainder of the series.
  • In Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Mars is the home world and primary base of operations of the Settlement Defense Front, the primary antagonists of the game's single-player campaign. The SDF's flagship is named Olympus Mons, at the insistence of their highest-ranking military officer, Admiral Kotch, who climbed the famous shield volcano on Mars during his early service.
  • In the turned-based tactics game X-COM: UFO Defense the alien invaders use Mars as a base of operations in which to launch UFO attacks on Earth.
  • UFO: Afterlight, a game similar to the X-COM series, is set entirely on Mars and its moons. It involves a human colony struggling for survival against various hostile aliens and the harsh Martian environment. Strategic gameplay takes place on a 3-D rendered globe of Mars, which includes familiar landmarks such as Olympus Mons. The player has the option of altering the landscape through terraforming.
  • The first-person shooter Red Faction tells the story of a Martian mining colony that leads a revolt to throw off an oppressive corporation. Its successor, Red Faction: Guerilla, tells the story of another revolt half a century later, on a partially terraformed planet with a breathable atmosphere, against the corporate-funded Earth Defence Force, in the Tharsis region of Mars. Some of the locations are named after the characters of the first uprising.
  • The computer game Elite 2 starts on Mars in one scenario.
  • The Zone of the Enders video game series is based during a war between Earth's Government and Martian Colonists seeking independence.
  • In the 1993 video game Doom, game events took place on military bases on both of Mars' moons, Phobos and Deimos. The 2004 sequel Doom 3 is set on Mars itself, as well as the 2016 reboot, Doom.
  • Mars is the setting for Worlds of Ultima II: Martian Dreams RPG by Origin Systems released in 1991. The heroic Avatar travels first to the year 1887, then on to Mars to rescue many of Earth's scientists, celebrities, and politicians stranded there by accident. The Avatar will uncover the secrets of a lost Martian civilization.
  • In the video game Airforce Delta Strike, the EDAF establishes a base on Mars to use as a rally point to finish off the OCC's remaining forces.
  • Three levels of the computer game Descent are set in facilities on Mars. Level 8 is set in a processing station, while levels 9 and 10 are (appropriately) set in a military dig and military base. In the game's third installment, Descent³, the player's character is rescued and then assisted by a group of scientists whose base of operations is located on Mars, before the facility is destroyed at one particular game level by an invading Earth force. The next game level after that also takes place on Mars in an underground colony.
  • The survival horror Martian Gothic: Unification is set on a research base on the surface of Mars, and a volcanic vent of Olympus Mons is also explored.
  • Most of the 1986 Infocom game Leather Goddesses of Phobos occurs (despite the name) on Mars.
  • The video game Armored Core 2 takes place on Mars while it is undergoing terraforming and colonization. The game's final mission however takes place on Phobos.
  • In the shoot 'em up game Terra Diver (SoukyouGurentai in Japan), the player's rival company sets up their attack HQ on Mars where the player's final mission takes place.
  • In Darius II, players travel to Mars to eliminate one of many underground enemy bases.
  • In the shoot 'em up Mars Matrix, Martian colonists revolt turning their colony upside down and the players are ordered to stop them.
  • In the Cave shoot em' up DoDonPachi, players control an Earth-bound pilot who is assigned to stop an attack on Earth initiated by an unknown race of highly skilled Martian pilots whereupon the second level in the game takes place on the Martian surface.
  • In the backstory of the Mass Effect franchise, an expedition to Mars launched by the European Space Agency discovers an ancient cache of advanced technology left over from an alien race known as the Protheans. This allows humanity to expand out of the solar system and become part of a larger galactic community. The capitol of Mars is called "Lowell City" – probably named after Percival Lowell, who fueled belief in the possibility of alien structures on Mars.
  • Destroy All Humans! mentions the Furons having a great war with Mars centuries, maybe millennia, before the events of the game. In the sequel survivors of the Martian war are revealed to be the main antagonists of the game in an attempt to colonize once more after Mars was turned into a desert wasteland from the Furons; instead of Martians they are referred to as Blisk.
  • In the video game Galaga: Destination Earth, Mars is featured as the fourth stage of this game.
  • Outerra Virtual Mars is an ongoing project to create a virtual replica of planet Mars by using real world data and procedural generation.[14]
  • In the Bungie video game Destiny, Mars is the site where humanity first makes contact with a large spherical entity called the Traveler, who promptly begins terraforming Mars, giving it an Earth like atmosphere and creating rainstorms. During the subsequent expansion of humanity across the solar system using advanced technology provided by the Traveler, humanity creates the city of Freehold. During the game's back story, a massive near extinction event occurs as the solar system is invaded by numerous alien species and Mars is abandoned, later being conquered by an alien faction called the Cabal, who alter the orbits of both Phobos and Deimos to bring them closer to the planet. During the game's story, the player establishes a foothold on Mars and begins to strike back at the Cabal, and later the Vex, who have established their own stronghold on the planet. The game's sequel, Destiny 2, also features the Hellas Basin of Mars as an in-game location, although only accessible through the Warmind DLC. New enemies present around the location are the Cabal Red Legion and Hive.
  • Surviving Mars puts the player in charge of building and managing a Martian colony.
  • One of the special missions in the free-to-play online first person shooter game Warface takes place in Mars.

Role-playing games

  • In Palladium Games' post-apocalyptic role-playing game Rifts, the Martian canals are mystical ley lines, magical tunnels of energy that create portals through space, time and dimension wherever they cross. In Palladium's After The Bomb Sourcebook 6: Mutants in Orbit, there is a section pertaining to Rifts that also says that there were several points where the ley lines create dimensional pockets (similar to the Bermuda Triangle) in which full-fledged jungles grow within the borders of three nearby Rifts.
  • In the GURPS role-playing game Transhuman Space, Mars is in the process of being terraformed, while several million people live in colonies. China, the first nation to land on Mars and the leader of the most extensive colonies, has built a space elevator on Mars to speed colonization. The Transhuman Space sourcebook In The Well places a University town, "Nix Olympia" and a ski resort "Zeus Tourist Resort" on Olympus Mons.
  • In the RPG Mutant Chronicles, Mars is the homeworld of Capitol Megacorporation.
  • Space: 1889 portrays an arid, aging Mars on the Lowellian model. Its native civilization is decadent and the various city-states and desert tribes squabble as the canal system slowly falls apart and Earthmen arrive to carve out colonial holdings.


  • In the tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000 (set 38,000 years in the future), Mars is a vast, heavily colonized 'Forge World,' home to the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Tech-Priests of Mars. They are the engineers and technicians of the Imperium, who create most of the Imperium's more advanced technology. The planet is almost as well defended as Holy Terra (Earth) itself and home to those who worship the 'Machine Spirit.' Mars is also suspected to be the lair of the Void Dragon, an ancient C'tan imprisoned there by the God-Emperor of Mankind at some point between 1300 AD and 1600 AD (how the Emperor accomplished this has never been described in detail). It is also mentioned that the planet was once terraformed, but the terraforming was undone due to rampant industrialism.
  • In the tabletop wargame and fictional universe of BattleTech, Mars is the location of a military academy. Mars was held by the Terran Hegemony and the Star League before its collapse. Afterward it was controlled by the interstellar communication order known as ComStar. After ComStar split into two factions Mars was claimed along with Terra by the Word of Blake during Operation Odysseus. During the Word of Blake's jihad against the rest of the Inner Sphere the mercenary command Wolf's Dragoons launched a failed assault on Mars which resulted in the nuclear scouring of their base planet of Outreach.


  • In the second verse of the hit song "Rocket Man" (1972), Elton John sings "Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids/In fact it's cold as hell/And there's no one there to raise them/If you did".
  • The cult American rock band the Pixies have an album track on their 1991 album Trompe le Monde named "Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons", on an album filled with references to space, aliens and other 'out of this world' subjects.
  • Rock band The Flaming Lips perform the song "Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)" on their 2002 release Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The song won the 2002 Grammy for Best Instrumental Rock Performance.
  • Progressive rock band Ayreon's 2000 album Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer tells the story of the last surviving human living on a Mars colony, many years after a war wiped out all life on Earth, leaving the Mars colony bereft of supplies. He spends his last days in the "dream sequencer", re-living the memories of his life, and memories of past lives, back to pre-historic times.
  • The title of the 2006 song "Knights of Cydonia" by the band Muse references a region of Mars containing the famous "Face".
  • There is a reference to Mars in David Bowie's single "Life on Mars?" (1973) also released on the album Hunky Dory (1971) which has been described as having 'one of the strangest lyrics ever'.[15] The chorus contains the lyrics "Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know/He's in the best selling show/Is there life on Mars" and was summed up by Bowie as being 'a sensitive young girl's reaction to the media'. It has been described as Bowie's signature song.[16] In June 2015 it ranked as no. 1 in The Daily Telegraph's "100 greatest songs of all time" by Neil McCormick.[17]

Martians in fiction

The Martian is a favorite character of classical science fiction; he was frequently found away from his home planet, often invading Earth, but sometimes simply a lonely character representing alienness from his surroundings. Martians, other than human beings transplanted to Mars, became rare in fiction after Mariner, except in exercises of deliberate nostalgia – more frequently in some genres, such as comics and animation, than in written literature.

See also


  1. ^ Hendrix, Howard V et al. Visions of Mars: Essays on the Red Plant in Fiction and Science. McFarland & Co./2011.pg17
  2. ^ Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization – Science and Science Fiction
  3. ^ Johnson, Ian (26 August 2013). "China: When the Cats Rule". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  4. ^ Avatar (2009 film)#Plot
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 February 2005. Retrieved 6 January 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^
  7. ^ Ley, Willy (April 1966). "The Re-Designed Solar System". For Your Information. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 126–136.
  8. ^ Sagan, Carl (28 May 1978). "Growing up with Science Fiction". The New York Times. p. SM7. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  9. ^ Parise, Tim (2013). Hyperdrive. The Maui Company. pp. 160–172. ISBN 9781300635550. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, Deserto Rosso". Tom's Hardware (in Italian). Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  11. ^ Uremovich, Christopher (2017). Fable Hill. pp. 160–172. ISBN 978-1973192626.
  12. ^ "Not A Blog: Martians, Come Back". 24 August 2012. Archived from the original on 24 April 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  13. ^ DeNardo, John (14 February 2013). "TOC: Old Mars Edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois". SF Signal. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  14. ^ "Outerra – 2013 Retrospective, 2014 Look Ahead". Outerra Blog. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  15. ^ name="soldonsong"
  16. ^ Nissim, Mayer (11 January 2016). "David Bowie 1947–2016: 'Life on Mars' is named Bowie's greatest ever song in reader poll". Digital Spy. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  17. ^ Link to the List of 100 Greatest Songs by Neil McCormick.100 Greatest Songs of All Time: 25 – 1

External links

  • A Hundred Years Retrospective of French Science Fiction about Mars