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.
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.