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Marek Kukula

Utopian Mars: From Aleriel to The Martian

This excerpt has been adapted from Dunn and Kukula’s extended introduction to W.S. Lach-Szyrma’s Aleriel, A Voyage to Other Worlds. First published in 1883, Aleriel is one of the early classics of science fiction. The titular hero explores the Solar System – from his homeworld of Venus to the ‘inchoate horrors of Saturn’, with lengthy stops to visit a Utopian society on Mars and, of course, Earth. Notable for the way the novel incorporated the latest scientific, political and religious thinking, Aleriel is also the first work of fiction to use the words ‘Martian’ or ‘Venusian’ to describe the residents of these planets.

This new edition of Aleriel contains the author’s original prefaces and end-notes to the first and second editions, and comes with a lengthy introduction from the Richard Dunn (Head of Science and Technology, Royal Museums Greenwich) and Marek Kukula (Public Astronomer, Royal Observatory Greenwich), discussing the role our celestial neighbours – especially Mars – have played in inspiring contemporary fiction. As a further bonus, Vermilion and The Pleasure Merchant‘s Molly Tanzer has written a brand new sequel to Aleriel, “Civilisation and Its Discontented”, which investigates the repercussions of Aleriel’s visit to Mars. Alerial will be available November 24th from Jurassic London.

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