Wikipedia:Peer review/Mars in fiction/archive1

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Mars in fiction[edit]

I've listed this article for peer review because I want to bring it to WP:Featured article status. I previously overhauled the article completely and brought it to WP:Good article status. As far as I can tell, there are currently no featured articles of this kind ("X in fiction/popular culture/whatever"), and I would like that to change. It would be beneficial to have high-quality articles to point to as examples to follow, since unfortunately a large number of "X in fiction" articles are rather poor. A handful of featured articles might go a long way.

Any and all feedback would be appreciated, be it about copyediting, content, structure, or something else.

Thanks, TompaDompa (talk) 00:17, 7 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't think I'll have time to do a review, but I see you're not using Bleiler's Gernsback Years, which has a Mars entry in the theme index. I could copy that for you but it gives little information -- you'd have to have the whole book. I think it would be worth getting a copy for this article. If you're unable to get a copy I can probably eventually spend some time on this but I don't know when it would be. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 00:28, 7 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The full book is available to me, as is Bleiler's Science-Fiction: The Early Years, but I find those books useful mostly for plot detail verifiability when it comes to individual works. The indices are, well, indices—there's not really any in-depth analysis of the overarching topic. The article does already (heavily) cite two full-length books that are devoted to the specific topic of how Mars has been depicted in fiction: Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination (2005) by Robert Markley and Imagining Mars: A Literary History (2011) by Robert Crossley. TompaDompa (talk) 00:48, 7 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, that makes sense -- the books don't themselves contain much, although sometimes Bleiler's comments on the stories themselves might be useful. But it sounds like you've consulted them. I will do my best to review this at FAC if I don't get time to do so while it's here. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 00:52, 7 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Comments from Olivaw-Daneel[edit]

  • A really interesting topic, and it looks robustly cited. There are quite a lot of works discussed here, which makes the article a bit listy, but I like the fact that it slows down to give some important authors more attention – HG Wells, Ray Bradbury and Kim Stanley Robinson.
  • A few comments about Ray Bradbury. The lead says he was part of a minority group of anti-science writers, as opposed to the majority who wrote hard SF. I think this "minority" framing elides a couple of facts about The Martian Chronicles. It was really popular, more so than anything written about Mars in the previous 50 years (per Crossley 2011). Its success among both readers and critics meant that hard SF "lost the battle" for readership at the time (per Stableford and Pringle). I'm not saying all of that detail needs to be in this article, but I don't think the current portrayal of Bradbury tells the full story.
  • The "Nostalgic depictions" section calls some stories "backward-looking" as opposed to other "comparatively highbrow science fiction". I think these need to be attributed and not stated in wikivoice. Specifically wrt Bradbury, some hard-SF critics strongly disliked The Martian Chronicles but they seem to be in a minority (per [1]), so we probably should be careful not to foreground their opinions.
  • When talking about "Mars in fiction", I think the topic is not just the scientific object but also Mars as a myth, as a theme, as a certain romantic atmosphere. The SFE entry on Mars does this quite well - when it talks about "the mythology of Mars" or the "Magical echoes of romantic Mars", it lets the topic breathe without mentioning science or realism unless it needs to. The "Nostalgic depictions" section in contrast seems to start with and continually circle back to realism (as though it's the default, desired mode of fiction).
  • In "Colonization" section, I think Bradbury's "Mars is a mirror" theme is definitely important to mention, but the way it's currently framed, it implies to me that extrapolation was the default purpose of SF, while Bradbury was an outlier. But per [2], it really wasn't unique to him: using the future as a way to explore the past is a common theme he shares with other authors.
  • I noticed a theme of "masculinist fantasies" mentioned in Crossley 2011; this might be worth mentioning. I mean the fact that Burroughs' Mars is distinctive for its fantasies of men traveling to Mars to find princesses and slave girls. Olivaw-Daneel (talk) 09:07, 17 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Olivaw-Daneel: Thank you for your comments!

  • It was not my intention to portray Bradbury or The Martian Chronicles as anti-science, or indeed the other works of science fiction that portrayed Mars more in line with the advances in planetary science as hard sci-fi (there's a reason the only time hard science fiction is mentioned in the article is in relation to Robinson's Mars trilogy). The intended framing is to do with how the portrayal of Mars in fiction has changed over time as a result of scientific advances. The Martian Chronicles is mentioned in the WP:LEAD (and gets a separate paragraph in the body) because it is a major work that the sources give a lot of weight to, and it's described as The central piece of Martian fiction in this era because the sources do note its popularity and influence.
    I agree that the effect of scientific change on fiction is an interesting angle; but it's not the only subtopic of "Mars in fiction". Leaning too much on it might give a minor aspect of a book undue weight. Specifically, [3] says that only a subset of critics talk about Bradbury's scientific plausibility. This seems true even of the sources used here: the SFE entry on Mars doesn't discuss science when it talks about TMC; neither do Markley, or Rabkin, or Stableford. (Correct me if I'm wrong). Crossley seems like one of the few exceptions. If I had to summarize what the majority of sources focus on, it'd be TMC's nostalgic or fantastical vision of Mars, and its themes. E.g. "haunted by the ghosts" of ancient Martians is often mentioned: the sources are more interested in the fantasy and horror elements than the science, which is quite a minor topic. Just to clarify, the amount of space you give to Bradbury seems fine; my concern is only about the framing. Olivaw-Daneel (talk) 19:23, 18 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Scientific plausibility (or the lack thereof) in itself is an issue raised by some of the sources (besides Crossley, there's Hotakainen and Webster), but more importantly there is a pretty clear through-line of The Martian Chronicles being a transitional work or among the last of its kind, and the context there is the scientific advancements. That's to a large extent what the book being "nostalgic" or "romantic" is about. Says Westfahl: Bradbury is clearly nostalgic for something else as well; even while writing stories about humanoid Martians in ancient cities beside vast canals, he recognizes such stories are becoming obsolete, victims of new scientific realities, and the way his Martians are gradually driven into extinction by human colonization parallels the way that stories about Lowellian Mars were being driven out of science fiction.
    What in-universe aspects of The Martian Chronicles the sources on the overarching topic of Mars in fiction focus on varies a fair amount. Some of them such as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Science Fact and Science Fiction: An Encyclopedia do indeed describe Mars as dead and haunted by ghosts, though others such as The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy describe it instead as dying. Some even focus on the (in-universe) early stories where Martians are still around, one example being Jenner's 4th Rock from the Sun: The Story of Mars. The article mentioning Martians going extinct due to human diseases, covered by Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination and Imagining Mars: A Literary History among others, seemed like a reasonable approach to sort of cover all bases without getting overly lengthy. That also allows us to cover the parallels with Native Americans that several sources mention. Besides these things, the main recurring thing the sources on this topic mention in relation to The Martian Chronicles is the theme of humans becoming the Martians (Imagining Mars, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Lost Mars: Stories from the Golden Age of the Red Planet, among others). The "mirror" part is a pretty good quote and makes for a nice transition from talking about this being a romantic vision of Mars to talking about the real-world issues the book touches upon, so I decided to include that as well even if it doesn't permeate the sources as much as the aforementioned bits. The horror/fantasy element is covered briefly in the form of the telepathic Martians in "Mars Is Heaven!"/"The Third Expedition" mentioned in the "Evil" section, but if anything The Martian Chronicles-related in this article is excessive, I reckon that would be it. There's no doubt that there's more that could be said about this book, and sources primarily concerned with The Martian Chronicles (such as Rabkin's essay) may have a different focus, but I think that would be better reserved for the article on the book itself, The Martian Chronicles. TompaDompa (talk) 02:35, 19 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    The Westfahl link was an excellent read, thank you. It conveys something in a way the lead doesn't, to me. Quoting from the lead: A significant minority of works nevertheless persisted in portraying Mars in a way that was by then scientifically outdated. The way it's phrased, it provokes the question: why? did they not believe in science? The missing piece is "nostalgia", which carries quite a different connotation from merely "scientifically outdated". Westfahl makes sure to mention nostalgia, as do the majority of sources; it seems to be the defining characteristic. I'd highly recommend working it into that sentence. One possibility is A significant minority of works persisted in portraying Mars in a nostalgic fashion rather than a scientifically accurate one, including .... Olivaw-Daneel (talk) 06:09, 19 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Added a mention of nostalgia in the lead. TompaDompa (talk) 06:50, 19 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • "Backward-looking" is not intended to carry a negative connotation, it's meant to be read the same way as "nostalgic" or "romantic" in this context (but I try not to make the word choices too repetitive). As for "comparatively highbrow", I thought it better to paraphrase the source since it says not only in works of little imagination but in sophisticated novels which I thought was way worse. I could change this (I could even remove "backward-looking" altogether as I think it is clear from context which vision is referred to), but I'm not sure it would be an improvement.
    I think it's improved now, although you're stating the opinions of just one critic (Crossley) in wikivoice here, which is a bit dangerous. Olivaw-Daneel (talk) 13:39, 18 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    It is, but the alternatives are either quoting a needlessly value-laden phrasing verbatim or leaving this part out altogether, both of which I think would be detrimental to the overall article quality. What do you think? TompaDompa (talk) 02:35, 19 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I'd go with Martian canals remained a prominent symbol of this more traditional vision of Mars, appearing even in comparatively highbrow science fiction works like the 1963 novel The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis and the 1964 novel Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick, which is neutral. Olivaw-Daneel (talk) 06:09, 19 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    It would be neutral but less informative, since it doesn't convey that these are examples of a type of work one might not expect to include canals in this manner. I changed it to [...], appearing both in lighthearted works like the 1954 novel Martians, Go Home by Fredric Brown and more serious ones like the 1963 novel The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis and the 1964 novel Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick. How does that work for you? TompaDompa (talk) 06:50, 19 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Looks good. Olivaw-Daneel (talk) 07:05, 19 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Hm. I try to avoid using too flowery or figurative language to keep the tone fairly formal. I don't know if there's a good spot to include details on the mythology/atmosphere of Mars without relating it to reality in some way. Maybe in the "Decadent" section.
    I think the term "myth" or "mythology", which appear often in the sources but the article avoids, is not about floweriness but conveying the same meaning. "Myth" gives me a sense of a connected set of works (a literary tradition from Wells to Lewis to more modern authors) which the SFE spends some time talking about. (And it may also mean a mix of fantasy/SF.) Olivaw-Daneel (talk) 13:39, 18 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No, definitely not unique to Bradbury. Pretty much the entire "Utopias" section is of course about using Mars as a mirror (though several decades earlier). I'll see if I can figure out a good way to rephrase it.
  • My reading of Crossley's "masculinist fantasy" designation is that it overlaps a fair amount with the term planetary romance (not that that's an entirely well-defined term, either). The aspect you talk about gets a brief mention as part of the decadent portrayal of Martians: Burroughs presents a Mars in need of human intervention to regain its vitality, a place where violence has replaced sexual desire. The phrasing might be a bit "clinical" or even dull, since I have tried to err on that side rather than risking it becoming somewhat lurid. It could be expanded, if you want me to.

TompaDompa (talk) 21:25, 17 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Update: I have replaced "backward-looking" with "more traditional", added a sentence about Lowell's influential vision of Mars (the enduring "myth" of Mars, as it were), and rephrased the part about Bradbury using Mars as a mirror. What do you think? TompaDompa (talk) 06:02, 18 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks for the responses. Some replies above. Re. "masculinist", I didn't mean an analysis of the themes, but just a mention of the plot (only male travelers and female Martian princesses), which Crossley talks about on p. 150. I'm not sure your quote talks about the same thing. Olivaw-Daneel (talk) 13:39, 18 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Alright. I added a quote from Crossley. TompaDompa (talk) 02:53, 19 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]


This is a really good article! One advice I would give is to avoid WP:OVERCITING and distill down the amount of citations made to uncontroversial statements. My rule of thumb here is to pick the best two references that preferably thoroughly discuss about the topic. I'm not sure if the article also mention ancient tales about Mars as well, but besides that, that's pretty much it for me. You can ask around at Wikipedia:WikiProject Novels to get more feedback. CactiStaccingCrane 15:54, 31 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thank you, that's very kind. I'm aware of the high number of citations and risk of WP:OVERCITING. Sometimes the large number of citations is because the different sources verify different parts of the text and I don't want to add the citations in the middle of the sentences. Sometimes it's because sources are used both for assessing WP:WEIGHT and for verifiability. That being said, sometimes it's probably because I found better sources later and added those without removing the ones that I had added previously. I'll see if there are some sources that could and should be removed. As for ancient tales: not really, I have found no mentions of anything like Lucian's A True Story (which is about a journey to the moon) about Mars. Some sources mention the various names given to the planet by different cultures, but that doesn't really belong at this article but at Mars in culture, History of Mars observation#Earliest records, and/or Mars#Ancient and medieval observations. Thanks for the suggestion about asking at WP:NOVELS, I'll do that. TompaDompa (talk) 21:16, 31 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I don't have many comments, but I notice that the image of Valentina Kuindzhi in Aelita doesn't seem relevant to the article. In particular, her role in the movie isn't explained. Her expression doesn't sell "utopia" or "parody thereof." Another image, either featuring the Martian architecture (and fashion) or the titular Queen of Mars, might be more relevant to the subject of the article. ~Maplestrip/Mable (chat) 10:20, 10 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I replaced it with a book cover for A Plunge into Space instead. The other available images for Aelita are rather poor quality-wise, and it's nice to get some more colour in the article seeing as a majority of the images are in black-and-white. TompaDompa (talk) 23:14, 10 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]