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Marooned! on Mars with Matt and Hilary

116 EpisodesProduced by Matt Hauske & Hilary StrangWebsite

a kim stanley robinson read-along podcast with regular forays into utopia. hosted by some friends who are into communism, science fiction and other stuff

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The Martians, Parts 1-4: the Sublime, Negation, and Big Sky Country

Hello! We’re back in Phase Two of “Marooned! on Mars” Matt and Hilary will be discussing the short stories, essays, fragments, poems, and other literary concoctions that comprise The Martians, published in 1999. This is kind of like the apocrypha of the Mars Trilogy, things that didn’t necessarily “happen” or aren’t “canonical” to the original trilogy, but that involve the same characters and are set in the same basic world with the same basic presuppositions. 

M & H start by talking about the way we’ve been approaching the books in general, which must represent some synthesis of the different ways the two of us read texts. M admits to a predilection to close reading, which probably accounts at least in part for our focus on them as books populated by characters. H's approach to science fiction (M suggests) revolves more around Darko Suvin’s concept of the novum (which H has discussed a few times), so is more focused on the world created and the political-economic and social ramifications of the new thing posited by the text. This seems to have resulted in a balance of readings strategies for which no one has rescinded our PhDs, so we’re happy about that.

It also sheds light on the way the Mars books engage with 19th century realism. They have characters that are worth paying attention to as characters while simultaneously giving a sense of scope, presenting an entire world that does more than never just tell a story about individual people but rather is always about a world and its possibilities.

Then M goes on one of his patented pointless rambles, this time about Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Seriously, even Matt doesn’t know what he was saying, just skip ahead. Something about rich interior life. This is all part of our collective plan to give ourselves license to be even stupider than we already are about these books, because neither of us has read The Martians before. 

Anyway, these stories demonstrate a kind of formal experimentation and complexity that’s really exhilarating as a reader, with wild perspective shifts (compared to what we’re used to from the Trilogy) and whole revisions of major events. Perhaps no segment of The Martians better illustrates this than MICHEL IN ANTARCTICA, the first one, which ends, hilariously, with the entire trilogy being negated! They don’t go to Mars! M & H talk about Michel's intelligence and unprofessionalism. Michel ends up arguing that the necessary characteristics for a successful member of the First Hundred are full of double binds that are just too complex to be overcome. We talk about those contradictions and the structure of feeling vis a vis the past inhabitants of Antarctica.

EXPLORING FOSSIL CANYON follows a tourist expedition led by one Roger Clayborne (who?) told through the eyes of Eileen Monday. We discuss the sublime as an aesthetic tourist experience, and marvel at the idea that Mars has changed so enormously that, unlike the First Hundred, you don’t have to know anything about the planet to live on it. Eileen was born there, lived her life in a city, and has never the outback. So in a weird way she’s both Martian and alienated from Mars…wonder what that’s like? 

THE ARCHAEA PLOT is a delightful piece of folklore that warns us of the anaerobic revolt to come. It’s a great example of the shift in perspective this collection makes possible.

THE WAY THE LAND SPOKE TO US also does extremely cool things with the sublime, voice, and perspective. We read the entirety of the flatness section and are basically rendered speechless because it’s depiction of the constant state of misperception where we find our being is so beautiful and profound. H shares a story about Big Sky Country.

Listen to our friends! (But only after you listen to us!)

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