Monday, 8 April 2013

Welcome To Mars

We can perceive any one book very differently. Some - the Bible, the Koran, The Origin of Species - are so influential that we acknowledge their significance and have some idea of their content, or message, even if we have never read them.

Of the books that we have read, it makes a difference whether we have merely read them once or twice in the past, have reread them recently or have studied them. Certain works by James Blish are almost designed to re-arrange themselves in our heads if they are reread or studied closely:

both Welcome To Mars and Galactic Cluster feature Adolph Haertel;
both The Star Dwellers and Mission To The Heart Stars feature Jack Loftus;
The Quincunx Of Time and Midsummer Century are linked by a "Dirac message";
of the four works mentioned here that do not feature Haertel, three nevertheless do refer to him, as does A Case Of Conscience;
thus, these seven volumes are closely interconnected without forming a linear sequence.

I am currently rereading Welcome To Mars (London, 1978). Having already introduced Haertel as an adult and future equivalent of Einstein, Blish now tells us about Haertel's parents and his teenage years, when he is known as "Dolph." Mission To The Heart Stars describes Milne and Dingle as intermediate between Einstein and Haertel and Welcome To Mars shows us Haertel studying these intermediaries.

Milne died in 1950. This was "...nearly twenty years before Dolph's birth..." (p. 18). Let us call that eighteen or nineteen years. So Dolph is born in 1968 or '69.

"At the age of seventeen, Dolph Haertel had discovered anti-gravity." (p. 14)

- so that was in 1985 or '86. Blish's Foreword and Afterword are dated 1965 and the text of the novel assumes no Moon landing yet, not even by '85 or '86. Dolph, flying his tree hut to Mars, will be the first man on another planet.

Dolph discovers that gravity "...has polarity..." (pp. 18, 27) and therefore "...could be manipulated..." (p. 18). Although Haertel does not mention the Blacket-Dirac equations, gravitational polarity does sound like the graviton polarity generators, nicknamed "spindizzies," of Blish's Okies or Cities In Flight series and, in fact, Dolph's "...breadboard rig..." (p. 19) does indeed function like a mini-spindizzy by lifting the Haertel's garage an inch from the Earth, thus confirming that it is able to lift a smaller object into space.

There were plans to film two of Blish's juvenile works, this Haertel novel and the second Okie novel. If this had been done, might the two films have become a series with the Haertel overdrive and the Dillon-Waggoner graviton polarity generator merging into a single Haertel graviton polarity generator?

Finally, for this post, Haertel's device functions like Cavorite: Dolph leaves Earth by shutting out terrestrial gravity, then approaches Mars by letting in Martian gravity. Never forget Wells.

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