We are now going to begin--or at least prepare for--a new sort of trek. A sort of . . . star
This issue we are going to embark on a journey far different than any other we have hitherto embarked in
this thoughtletter. This journey will, someday soon, take us to Mars. It will take us through the depths of the human soul.
If I do well, it will evoke some laughter. It will also, if done properly, evoke thought. Some may call it "escape". I do
not dare to say that this form of writing deserves to be up with the literary giants. I certainly do not aspire in my form
of it even to be a literary dwarf. I do hope to be a literary Brownie--and at times, that is much more noble a place than
that of giant.
My English textbook this year defined such things as science fiction, fantasy, detective stories as "tales"
and not really as serious fiction. I believe that such a statement is far from the truth. The skill with which Tolkien describes
a scene remains unmatched by many a "serious" writer. The themes embodied in Asimov's Foundation series would not necessarily
be drawn out as well in another literary form. Another fault of what you are about to read, besides being SF, is the fact
that the course of these tales will run through religious, spiritual, and moral ideas--quite often explicitly. A third fault
is that I have attempted some humour. It feels as though, in the literary world, such things are not sought after.
A fourth is "escapism". Escape is regarded with much scorn in the literary world. Escape is often cited as a fault of various
works. I, myself, do not see Escape as a fault of any story. Escape is often the saving grace of some works of fiction. In
"On Fairy-Stories", JRR Tolkien discusses Escape. He writes,
There are other things more grim and terrible to fly from than the noise, stench, ruthlessness, and extravagance
of the internal-combustion engine. There are hunger, thirst, poverty, pain, sorrow, injustice, death. And even when men are
not facing hard things such as these, there are ancient limitations from which fairy-stories offer a sort of escape, and old
ambitions and desires (touching the very roots of fantasy) to which they offer a kind of satisfaction and consolation"
He states that often "serious" literature "is no more than play under a glass roof by the side of a municipal
swimming bath."* Tolkien says that we would not condemn a prisoner for, if not escaping from prison, at least dreaming of
escape or of a place other than that which imprisons him. I feel that escape is a natural thing humans do. This is why we
go to the movies, read literature, watch television. Even if these media discuss or portray reality, they serve as an escape
from the life we lead day by day.
What you are about to read is a fine example of a moral, escapist, science fiction tale about missionaries
to Mars. This is the first in a series (hence serial). Once a month I will feature the next chapter in the saga of the Martian
*From Tree and Leaf, © 1964 by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. pp. 65-66, 63.
This selection is from Randomness, Issue 63