A Tour of the Human Imagination

by Eric S. Rabkin


As both an enduring object of curiosity and as a celestial embodiment of abstract ideas, Mars offers a fascinating and revealing focus for the historical understanding of the interplay of the physical world, the fanciful world, and the purportedly scientific world that grows from both.

Print Flyer

June 2005


Pages 232
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics The Arts/General
  • Hardcover



    Add to Cart
  • eBook


    Call Your Preferred eBook Vendor for Pricing

  • International Pricing

    Hardcover: £55.00/77,00€/A$112.00

What is Mars? From the ancients to the present, we have imagined Mars repeatedly and studied it longingly. As scientific knowledge of Mars has changed, so has the cultural imagination of this celestial neighbors. The earth-centered beginnings of astronomy connected the blood-red planet with the God of War. The Copernican Revolution and a later, simple mistranslation from Italian supported fantastic visions of distant Mars as the abode of life variously bizarre, ideal, or malignant. In the work of H. G. Wells and Orson Welles, in books, films, radio, and television, Mars reflected not only eternal hopes and fears but then-current political realities. In recent years, NASA-fication has brought Mars home, imagining the Red Planet almost as an eighth continent of Earth, a candidate for exploration and exploitation both in fiction and in fact. Rabkin weaves a chronological tale of many threads, including mythology, astrology, astronomy, literary criticism, and cultural studies.


  • More than 60 brief chapters focus on people, events, or phenomena concerning the eternal object of curiosity, Mars. This rich series of readable, illustrated chapters can be sampled at will for the fun of discovery, read sequentially as a connected history, or enjoyed as a resource for the contemplation. Featuring over 100 illustrations, this unique examination of humanity's most storied companion serves as a resource for the study of ourselves.
Topic Centers

Red Light in the Black Sky
Starry Night
Ancient Egypt: Har Decher
The Idealized Solar System
What Was A Planet?
Mesopotamia: Negral
Ancient Greece: Ares
Ancient Rome: Mars
The Sunset of Mars
Changes in Venus
Metaphorical Mars
The Observation of the Planets
Astrological Symbols
Days of the Week
The Mars Symbol
Nicolaus Copernicus: Reorganizing the Universe
Johannes Kepler: Putting Mars in Its Place
Galileo Galilei: Questions of Authority
Evangelista Torricelli: How Space Became Empty
Christian Huygens: Other Earths?
Giovanni Cassini: Very, Very Carefully
Isaac Newton: One Big Universe
Mars on Their Minds
Jonathan Swift: Imaginary Travels
William Herschel: Stars and Mars
The Solar System Today
Asaph Hall: The Sons of Mars
Giovanni Schiaparelli: Gaining in Translation
Camille Flammarion: Astrophile Extraordinaire
Percival Lowell: A Glorious Obsession
Percival Lowell: Mapping Mars and Martians
H.G. Wells: The War of the Worlds
H.G. Wells: Another View From Mars
A World Ready to Believe
Mark Wicks: A Lowellian Utopia
Edgar Rice Burroughs: Mars and America
Mars: The Bar vrom Barsoom
Dead Mars?
Orson Wells: The War of the Worlds Broadcast
Marvin the Martian: Playing sith Aliens
Ray Bradbury: An American Fairyland
George Pal: The War of the Worlds Again
Spacecraft: Us v. Them
Off to Camp
Robert A. Heinlein: The Martian Savior
Enter NASA
My Favorite Martian
The Age of Aquarius
The Face on Mars
Mars Attacks!
Leaving Earth Behind
Mars Today
Phobos and Deimos Today
Men Are from Mars
The Nasafication of Mars
Mars: The Eighth Continent
Terraforming Mars
Red Rover
Water on Mars
Land of Spirit and Opportunity
August, 2003
The Beagle Hasn't Landed
A-Roving We Will Go



"[O]ften clever and even enlightening....Comprehensive collections."—Choice

"[P]robes the ways in which Mars has influenced not only the field of astronomy but also mythology, astrology, cultural and literary studies, and more."—Library Journal

"Mars has fascinated us since the time we emerged from the ooze and looked skyward. Both H.G. Wells and Orson Welles found it a source of inspiration, and were it not for Mars the television series My Favorite Martian would have to be called My Favorite Californian. Rabkin offers about 60 short chapters on the reasons why the Red Planet hangs over our science, our speculative literature (both good and bad), and our fantasies. He includes period illustrations of those involved, including Mars itself, and a nifty shot of Martin the Martian, foe of Bugs Bunny."—Popular Astronomy

"[T]his book contains a wealth of information... In particular, the sections on early ideas, theories and observers such as Copernicus, Kepler, Cassini, et al, are very informative, and this book is worth having as a reference on the Red Planet."

"[A]n interersting, informative, and different perspective on the planet."—B&F

Other Titles of Interest

Into the Mouths of Babes cover imageThe Fiction of Ellen Gilchrist cover imageJohn Updike cover image
The Critical Response to Flannery O'Connor cover imageThe Critical Response to Kamau Brathwaite cover imageEmbracing the Lie cover image

Product Search

Product Search

Publication Year



Need Help? Try our Search Tips