Trip to Mars, the Picture Book, or, How the Ship Became a Fantastical Theater Stage
My first “novel,” Trip to Mars, was fifty-five penciled pages in a small yellow notebook, starring Jack Commer and outlining the horrors of a 2033 World War IV and the evacuation of Earth’s surviving population to Mars. Was the sixth grade and the spring of 1964 really fifty years ago? This ancient story is a childhood prequel to, and the inspiration for, my published Jack Commer series, where many of the 1964 details still find expression. In 1964, of course, 2033 was the far future. Now it’s just nineteen years away!
I’m not sure what prompted me to create Trip to Mars, the Picture Book over the past year and a half, but I had enormous fun with it. The resulting PDF file is way too large to distribute at 109 MB, but I found that if I recreated it as a PowerPoint file I could then save it as a WMA video that loads easily on YouTube and takes just a few minutes to play:
Trip to Mars, the Picture Book on YouTube
So Trip to Mars is now a silent movie! Full screen is best for reading the text/captions. There’s no music yet–I suppose I should think of something.
Unless you’re a really fast reader, the introduction is the only part that can’t be read during the approximately ten-second video transitions, but you can pause at that point if you want to read the whole page, or for that matter if you want to linger on any of the illustrations. But I included the salient points of the introduction in the YouTube description.
I expanded the twenty-page MS. (all of 2,646 words) into sixty-five pages of a few lines each, illustrated each page in pencil, then scanned the results. Of course, this means the words in this “Draft 1” are limited to a scanned Times New Roman 12.
I refused to change any words from the original story other than correcting misspellings, but the text works well for this project, and as the introduction belligerently states, “if there are awkward phrasings and illogical plot developments, that’s part of the flavor.” I think of this project as an homage to the writing it later inspired. I used my generic Sortmind Press as the publisher for now, but I need to figure out where I want to take a final version. PDF? EPUB format with its attendant image hassles? Print? In any case a final version will involve cropping the images and having separate text with larger fonts.
The 1964 notebook also had numerous crude drawings, some of which I used for new image ideas. One aspect of the new drawings that I’ve really enjoyed is that there are spaceship interiors which just cannot be. As the introduction explains:
The exterior views of the Typhoon are more or less consistent, but echo the fact that I drew the ship somewhat differently every time I rendered it in scores of childhood drawings. I had fun with interior views, which are a series of theater stages and absolutely cannot be reconciled with the layout of an actual ship about the size of a space shuttle. And I never worried about depicting any of the characters consistently.
Some concepts that never would have occurred to me in 1964 found their way into the picture book:
- Panel 5 depicts some of the equations of Einstein’s 1905 Special Theory of Relativity.
- Panel 18 has a copy of the astronomer Schiaparelli’s 1886 drawing of Martian “canals.”
- Panel 22 is an homage to the paperback cover of Heinlein’s Have Space Suit–Will Travel.
- Panel 38 reveals for the first time what an Xon bomb actually looks like!
- Panel 62 depicts a Marsport Automated Transport System bus, which later becomes a flippant robotic character in The Martian Marauders.
Trip to Mars is the 1964 kid’s view of Mars, tempered by nuclear war fears and the Kennedy assassination five months before, which inspired the events in panels 10-12. I can also still recall the sense of shock in the air when the first Mariner 4 pictures came back in 1965 to reveal craters and no canals–and an atmosphere too thin for my astronaut heroes to breathe.
Copyright 2014 by Michael D. Smith
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