Sunday, June 25, 2006

Do you blog from the Land Down Under?

It's a tribute to the meme-like power of pop music that one of my strongest associations with Australia is the 1982 song "Land Down Under" by Men at Work. Now that I'm finally here for a couple of weeks, I'm hoping to explore a bit and to form some stronger associations, but not necessarily to try a vegemite sandwich.

One thing I usually do on vacation trips is read a lot, and the current book is the excellent Mapping Mars by Oliver Morton (subtitled "Science, imagination, and the birth of a world"). I really like the way he connects the historical, scientific, and literary Mars, including a chapter on Mars in science fiction, mostly focused on Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. Robinson was heavily inspired by the 1984 book The Surface of Mars, by Michael Carr (who also gets a chapter, "Mike Carr's Mars"). Based on Viking imagery and data from the late 1970's, Morton says it is "...still unrivaled as a single-author survey of the subject." The coherence and completeness of this work apparently helped Robinson to imagine and portray Mars as a believable place. Morton's book adds greatly to this sense of Mars as a real place and connects the many threads of astronomy, geology, space science, technnology, and imagination that allow us to think of Mars as a world and not simply a planet.

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