Tag Archives: Mars

Martian Landscape (NASA)

Plot-a-Day: Planets of The Solar System – Mars

Our solar system is an awesome place for stories and adventure, and there’s also a lot we still need to explore and discover.

In the next half-dozen installments of Plot-a-Day, I will post ideas about the various planets, moons or asteroids of the solar system. And to star this series off let’s take a look at Mars.

Mars (NASA/Hubble Space Telescope)
Mars (NASA/Hubble Space Telescope)

The red planet has fascinated mankind for thousands of years, and has been center to many a science fiction story over the past century: Martian invasions, Princesses of Mars, Ancient Canals, but also the human exploration and colonization of Mars are all subjects that resonate deeply with us. It’s a great place for all kinds of stories.

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John Carter of Mars

I knew that a John Carter of Mars movie was being filmed – I didn’t know they had already released a trailer. Behold:

Now, I am a huge Edgar Rice Burroughs / Barsoom fan. Considering my Arnaron setting, this is probably not a surprise to my readers. I do realize that the worldbuilding for Barsoom is naive (at best; the phrase “thrown together” comes to mind) but it’s a strong archetype, and the stories are an easy, fun read. Besides, wouldn’t it have been exciting if Mars had turned out to be littered with ancient ruins?

There are a few nits I have to pick with the trailer though.

  • The Green Men of Mars look retarded. What are those things off the sides of their heads? Makes them look like puppies. Strange, evil, twisted, alien puppies, but still puppies.
  • The John Carter actor displays the Charisma of a loaf of bread in the trailer. He doesn’t look butch enough to be John Carter, either.
  • Dejah Toris looks like a “competent woman” in the trailer. Okay, a useless damsel in distress is probably less exciting to watch, and of all the dramatic license they could have taken this is not the worst. But John Carter saves the princess; it’s what he does. I surely hope that they didn’t make her too competent.
  • On that subject, she doesn’t quite look red enough.
  • And on that subject, nothing does! This is not a nit, it’s gonna be a gripe. The landscape does not look like Mars. Seriously guys, it’s the American West. When John Carter wakes up I first thought this was still on Earth. “He is supposed to be lay in a cave, not the desert, damn it!”, I thought – until I realized he was already on Mars. The fake looking plants kind of gave this away. The following shots, with the ruins and so on, they all look like Earth. They are nice shots, yes. But seriously, in this age of computer effects, couldn’t they have tinted everything in Mars colors? I am not even talking about the fake Viking colors we associate with Mars. Make it true-color Mars!

It’s still a definite “must see” for me, of course. And perhaps I should dust off my Barsoom pastiches before 2012…

My next project…

NaNoWriMo is over, I won, and I am in the process of completing my novel. I decided on a project to tackle next. I could just start something completely new, but I do not want to start yet another project that never gets done. So I looked at my large collection of worlds and picked one that is dear to my heart.

Arnâron.

As you may remember, Arnâron is my version of Barsoom. I began to work on Arnâron in its current form as my project for World Building Month, back in August. (Has it only been three months? Amazing how time flies.)

When I last visited Arnâron, I was writing random articles and working on a con language. I still have a to do list with many open items. Let me re-list it here, with current status:

* Language. I made some progress, but a lot of work remains to be done.
* Religion. I have not worked on this aspect.
* Nations: Still in the same state as in August.
* Money and trade: I have posted one article on natural resources, more needs to be written.
* Cities of Arnâron. No update.
* Ruins and relics: I wrote about the ruins and the past, I think this is a solid basis to work from.
* Astrology and zodiacs: I haven’t created these at all.
* Heroes and villains: Still needs to be written.
* Prizes and princesses: Ditto.
* The hordes: Ditto, again.

Now, a lot of this is fundamental work that could simply keep me busy for years. I’d like to define some sort of goal, something that is reachable. (NaNoWriMo taught me the importance of that.)

There is one event, or story-arc, that I planned for the world, somewhat related to the basic John Carter story A Princess of Mars. I will use this event to write a series of stories, and will create all the supporting material I need for this story. I will try to write one “chapter” every month in 2009 (and into 2010 if the series does not get done in 12 months).

I have a month for outlining and for completing my NaNoWriMo novel. Let’s see how this goes.

Schedules and plans

Time is always an issue. I have a regular job that takes way too much of my time, and usually leaves me with little energy in the evenings. And then there are other things. But no matter what I do, schedules always seem to be unpredictable. I knew there was a reason why I do not plan more than a few weeks ahead. It turns out that something I had planned to do won’t happen and that will leave me with ample spare time for the rest of August.

Figures.

So I’ll be world-building.

Since World Building Month is half-over, and I do want to at least have a complete skeleton of a world by the end, I thought about what needs to be done:

* Language. Very important.
* Religion. We know some basics already, but this needs to be worked out in detail.
* Details on the nations – Customs, history, rulers, attitudes.
* Money and trade: The economy needs to be designed at least in some detail. What do the nations produce, what do they export, and what do they need to import? Where are the main resources located, and what are they?
* Cities of Ârnaron.
* Ruins and relics: The shattered past lurks among the dunes.
* Astrology and zodiacs.
* Heroes and villains: Create at least a few of each as sample characters, so to speak.
* Prizes and princesses: What do the heroes and villains fight over, and how?
* The hordes: There are uncivilized, regressed barbarians everywhere, as befits a savage, mythical Martian styled world. Need to write about these guys, too.

I think that mostly covers it. I’ll probably deviate here and there and throw some other stuff in, as ideas pop up. But if I forgot something important or if there’s anything you actually want me to work out, do let me know via comments.

Inkscaping Mars

As you know I originally wanted to use Mars as a setting for sword & planet fiction, games, and so on.

So before I started to work on Arnâron, I actually did some design on a mythical Mars. Here are two samples of Inkscape art I created; the planet itself and a rough map.

I still sometimes wish I could just use Mars as the setting, but as you know I have my reasons why I decided against it. I guess Mars just strikes a chord with me (and a lot of people). Even so I think my decision was a good one – sever the links with what came before, use it as an inspiration rather than a mold. Create IP, rather than use other people’s.

Welcome to Arnâron!

After some deliberation, I’ve signed up for the world building month, and I just decided what I will work on: I’ll revisit a project I started last year, and let slide way too much. Welcome, my friends, to the beautiful desolation of Arnâron.

Arnâron (pronounced roughly “Ah-nuh-ron” – [aʀ̥nɑˑʀon] in IPA, [aR_0nA:\Ron] in X-Sampa) is an ancient world that became arid is now slowly dying. Life on Arnâron is a constant struggle for survival as the remaining species – and people – compete for its dwindling resources.

The world is my attempt to design a modern mythical Mars – a new Barsoom, if you will. A dying Mars with canals and all the associated things is a world that I always loved more than most other settings. There are three reasons why I don’t simply use Barsoom:

First and foremost, Barsoom simply wouldn’t be my own setting.

Secondly, while most of the John Carter of Mars books are in the public domain, it seems that ERB, Inc. still claims ownership of the trademarks like “John Carter” and “Barsoom” and while I am in no position to determine to validity of such claims it makes using Barsoom impossible for anything worth-while.

The third reason is probably the biggest reason of the lot.

When I started out, I tried to make this setting work by using the real Mars as a foundation. This didn’t really work: Our Mars simply was never a truly Earth-like world, and even if I changed things around enough there was still the problem of the low gravity… in short, modern scientific findings completely ruined my suspension of disbelief. There are of course ways to work around this but they’re all obvious hacks. For example, I could have set the story in the past. But that would still leave the problem of Mars’ low gravity. It doesn’t work for me, so how could I expect others to suspend their disbelief sufficiently?

Mars, I hardly knew you
Mars, I hardly knew you

The approach I settled on is an easy one that solves all issues I have with using Mars in one fell swoop: I moved Mars to another universe, gave it more mass, changed the make-up of the solar system somewhat, and lo and behold, that problem is now fixed. No monotonous geography, no low gravity, no pesky space probes ruining the fun setting. I probably won’t get away with cool story titles ending in “… of Mars”, but I’ll survive that (and there’s a somewhat heavy-handed hack even for that problem). But there will be canals, ruined cities, vast deserts, violent cultures, beautiful princesses and most importantly, sword-fighting.

At the current stage, Arnâron consists of a collection of notes, background material, and a lot of work I did on using Mars. I won’t have to start from zero, but I would hesitate to call it a “work in progress”. As a listener of the Shakespeare & Dragons podcast, I am going to try and build this setting along Paul’s “story based approach to world building”.

So stay tuned – work begins tomorrow, on August 1st. And if you have any type of feedback, suggestions, or criticism, please, by all means, post a comment. I’d love to hear from you.