Kim Stanley Robinson, who is, on the one hand, the author of a brilliant, seminal series of novels about terraforming Mars has written a grand, overarching survey of the speculative literature of the Red Planet for the NYT, in the wake of the discovery of Mars's aquaeous history.
Meanwhile, the feedback loop between science and science fiction continues to flow. It is, as we have seen, an elliptical loop, like the orbit of a comet. Science-fiction writers seize on new scientific findings and immediately leap to conclusions, in the form of stories. Then these stories dive into young minds and percolate there, shaping future scientists and giving them dreams, visions, plans.
Leap and percolate. These days I sometimes hear from young people who tell me they are studying some kind of science because of my Mars books. ("But you forgot to mention the math.") I feel like part of the science-fiction loop. I still follow the latest Mars news, and sometimes I wonder what the next wave of Mars stories will be like.
It seems awkward. I suppose the thing to do would be to tell the story of the robot rovers, because that's what we're going to have for a while. Maybe rovers much more powerful than Spirit and Opportunity — artificial intelligences, in fact, and happy to be on Mars, because it's the world they were designed for, and they're protecting an indigenous cryptoendolithic, or hidden in rock, bacterial culture they have discovered. So that when humans finally arrive in person, it's a disaster in the making for all concerned, and the rover artificial intelligences and little red people have to play dumb and play ghost and change humanity for the good of all, and . . .