Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination

Duke University Press
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For more than a century, Mars has been at the center of debates about humanity’s place in the cosmos. Focusing on perceptions of the red planet in scientific works and science fiction, Dying Planet analyzes the ways Mars has served as a screen onto which humankind has projected both its hopes for the future and its fears of ecological devastation on Earth. Robert Markley draws on planetary astronomy, the history and cultural study of science, science fiction, literary and cultural criticism, ecology, and astrobiology to offer a cross-disciplinary investigation of the cultural and scientific dynamics that have kept Mars on front pages since the 1800s.

Markley interweaves chapters on science and science fiction, enabling him to illuminate each arena and to explore the ways their concerns overlap and influence one another. He tracks all the major scientific developments, from observations through primitive telescopes in the seventeenth century to data returned by the rovers that landed on Mars in 2004. Markley describes how major science fiction writers—H. G. Wells, Kim Stanley Robinson, Philip K. Dick, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Judith Merril—responded to new theories and new controversies. He also considers representations of Mars in film, on the radio, and in the popular press. In its comprehensive study of both science and science fiction, Dying Planet reveals how changing conceptions of Mars have had crucial consequences for understanding ecology on Earth.

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About the author

Robert Markley is Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of a number of books, including Fallen Languages: Crises of Representation in Newtonian England, 1660–1740. He is a coauthor of the DVD-ROM Red Planet: Scientific and Cultural Encounters with Mars and the editor of the book Virtual Realities and Their Discontents.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Sep 8, 2005
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Pages
456
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ISBN
9780822387275
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Science Fiction & Fantasy
Science / Astronomy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In 1905, a young Jewish immigrant from Luxembourg founded an electrical supply shop in New York. This inventor, writer, and publisher Hugo Gernsback would later become famous for launching the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926. But while science fiction’s annual Hugo Awards were named in his honor, there has been surprisingly little understanding of how the genre began among a community of tinkerers all drawn to Gernsback’s vision of comprehending the future of media through making. In The Perversity of Things, Grant Wythoff makes available texts by Hugo Gernsback that were foundational both for science fiction and the emergence of media studies.

Wythoff argues that Gernsback developed a means of describing and assessing the cultural impact of emerging media long before media studies became an academic discipline. From editorials and blueprints to media histories, critical essays, and short fiction, Wythoff has collected a wide range of Gernsback’s writings that have been out of print since their magazine debut in the early 1900s. These articles cover such topics as television; the regulation of wireless/radio; war and technology; speculative futures; media-archaeological curiosities like the dynamophone and hypnobioscope; and more. All together, this collection shows how Gernsback’s publications evolved from an electrical parts catalog to a full-fledged literary genre.

The Perversity of Things aims to reverse the widespread misunderstanding of Gernsback within the history of science fiction criticism. Through painstaking research and extensive annotations and commentary, Wythoff reintroduces us to Gernsback and the origins of science fiction.

Stages of Transmutation: Science Fiction, Biology, and Environmental Posthumanism develops the theoretical perspective of environmental posthumanism through analyses of acclaimed science fiction novels by Greg Bear, Octavia Butler, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Jeff VanderMeer, in which the human species suddenly transforms in response to new or changing environments. Narrating dramatic ecological events of human-to-nonhuman encounter, invasion, and transmutation, these novels allow the reader to understand the planet as an unstable stage for evolution and the human body as a home for bacteria and viruses. Idema argues that by drawing tension from biological theories of interaction and emergence (e.g. symbiogenesis, epigenetics), these works unsettle conventional relations among characters, technologies, story-worlds, and emplotment, refiguring the psychosocial work of the novel as always already biophysical. Problematizing a desire to compartmentalize and control life as the property of human subjects, these novels imagine life as an environmentally mediated, staged event that enlists human and nonhuman actors. Idema demonstrates how literary narratives of transmutation render biological lessons of environmental instability and ecological interdependence both meaningful and urgent—a vital task in a time of mass extinction, hyperpollution, and climate change. This volume is an important intervention for scholars of the environmental humanities, posthumanism, literature and science, and science and technology studies.
Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel of Time® by Robert Jordan has captivated millions of readers around the globe with its scope, originality, and compelling characters.

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At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

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