Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

July 25, 2009

Moonwalk Reflections (3): Best, Well, Strangest, Novel You've Never Heard Of

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:04 am

Or maybe you have. I ran across it in a stripmall on Cape Canaveral when I was down on “the Space Coast” ( as the liked to call it) covering the first space shuttle launch.

The stripmall featured both an actual strip joint (featuring strippers who started out wearing space suits–I swear!) and a used bookstore. Anyhow, while spending some time in the used book store I came upon a dustty copy of a novel called The Martian Inca by the English sci-fi writer Ian Watson.

I’d stoped reading sci-fi for the most part, because of the heavy handed profoundity that so many of its writers overlarded their fantasies with, most likelyin an effort to escae the aura of literary unseriousness that–for better or worse–hung over the genre. But this novel blew me away.

It was about (on a basic plot level) Mars missions, one returning,one arriving on the red planet. But it was about much more, the nature of conciousness, the evolution of consicousness, the interpenetration of time, space and consicousness. It ultimately had the effect of what I imagine a yage vision might be like. And wow, what a surprize to find it on a strip mall with a strip joint with space suited strippers.

It stayed in my imagination for a long time, but got lost, probably in one of my storage spaces until 2005, nearly a quarter century later, I tracked it down through Amazon/Abebooks. (Now I see through his website Watson has become an established figure in advanced sci-fi circles. (read his memoir of working with Kubrick on the site).

Dicscovering The Martian Inca made the whole disappointing space-shuttle launch experience more worth while. It’s far more thought- provoking than those lumbering science fair vehicles (which, in their killer flaws and constant failures and short-sighted ambitions did more to disrupt planetary exploration than anyhthing else). The Watson novel is a more profound exploration of inner space than those tin cans could ever hope to offer.

Check it out, I won’t spoil it by trying to explain it further, I’m not sure I even understand it, but I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s read it.



  1. I never read anything by Ian Watson. Or any of Bruce J Friedman’s short stories. But I did catch BJF’s Steambath with Tony Perkins and Valerie Perrine at the Truck and Warehouse Theater in the East Village in the early Seventies. A hoot from beginning to end. Brilliant and hilarious. And Valerie Perrine naked on stage for most of the play from a second row seat left an indelible impression.

    But I still would have preferred to see a space launch firsthand. Experienced the thunder and light of Atlas boosters igniting. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

    BTW, there’s something called a pebble-bed reactor under development in several places around the world that doesn’t require lakes of water for cooling or tons of concrete for containment. To date, nuclear propulsion has been limited to aircraft carriers and submarines. This reactor could conceivably power something bigger than those tin cans you sneer at, Ron. Propel huge Star Wars size craft beyond our solar system into deep space.

    One small step for man, one quantum leap for mankind. (Did I get that right, Ron?)

    Comment by david levavi — July 25, 2009 @ 8:32 pm | Reply

  2. Ron, you’re right about most science fiction, of course, but this is a truth the good science fiction writers and discriminating readers (not “fans,” please!) have always known–see Ted Sturgeon’s famous “law” that “ninety percent of science fiction is crap, but then ninety percent of everything is crap.”

    If you’re looking for a non-heavy handed exploration of the deepest questions of consciousness in contemporary science fiction, you could do a lot worse than the works of Robert Charles Wilson–I was first turned on to him by his 1994 novel “Mysterium,” set in a world in which a Gnostic version of Christianity won out. I will tastefully refrain from plugging my own work.

    Comment by Martin Berman-Gorvine — July 28, 2009 @ 9:40 am | Reply

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