GURPS Classic Mars provides great detail on the real Mars with the occasional tangent into Planetary Romance (How people imagined Mars to be like)
Mars Observed; Mars in Reality; Mars in Fiction and MythEdit
These three chapters cover the observed Mars and what Mars has meant in fiction, myth, and reality.
Dial M for MartianEdit
"The biggest decision to make when using Mars in a roleplaying campaign is which Mars to use. Percival Lowell’s version? Ray Bradbury’s? Kim Stanley Robinson’s? What about the Mars of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians? There are several “dials” to twiddle when creating a Mars campaign – realism of the setting, technology level, and who the focus will be on."
Hard Science vs. Planetary RomanceEdit
While this section considers this more of a switch then a dial it points out that what was rock-hard science 50 years ago is now quaint science fantasy now. Even in the Planetary Romance category (A Mars with breathable air, canals, temperatures above freezing, and a good supply of exotic life forms) there is quite a range:
- Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoon series (set 1866 to 1886). Both Princess of Mars (2009) and John Carter (2012) are based on this series.
- H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds novel and works based on it.
- Stanley G. Weinbaum's Planetary Series: A Martian Odyssey and Valley of Dreams. The Martian Tweel is one of the first, if not the first, example of an alien that thinks as well as a human, perhaps even better then a human, but not like a human. The planets of Weinbaum's solar system are based on how people of the 1930s imagined them to actually be like.
- Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles with its canals, dying race of Marians, and breathable atmosphere is is firmly in the Planetary Romance.
- Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964): Planetary Romance with a heavier leaning towards the realistic Mars then most.
- Quatermass and the Pit, both the 1959 series and 1967 movie (retitled Five Million Years to Earth in America), actually leans further to the realistic Mars as Mars of the present day is said to be a dead world. The romantic element is that it once had intelligent life.
Primitive vs. AdvancedEdit
"The second dial controls how advanced the Martians are. There are four main possibilities. In descending order, they are: Martians as Elder Race, Martians as rivals, Martians as decadent survivors of greatness, and Martians as primitives."
Dying World vs. New FrontierEdit
Here Mars can range from a New Frontier (even with a dead Mars) to dying world.
This is comic treatment of Mars though sometime the comedy has a message behind it such as in Stop Driving Us Crazy! and Destination Earth. Other times it is on the levels of a Warner Brothers cartoon involving Marvin the Martian.
Domed Mars; Terraformed MarsEdit
These two chapters deal with how a colony on Mars might function.
"Superscience Mars is the Red Planet as it appeared in classic science fiction B-movies" The Martians physiclaly are similar to the insect like beings seen in Quatermass and the Pit
"Martians are generally TL8, with TL12 contragravity, force fields, and reactionless drives appearing as “emergent superscience” four tech levels early. In GURPS 4e terms this is TL8^
"This is a world inspired by the Mars of Burroughs, Brackett, and Bradbury – an exotic place of relic superscience, swordplay, tyrannical rulers, daring desert pirates, and shimmering canal-side cities. Romance and adventure trump scientific realism here."
- Is Mars Habitable? (S730: 1907) by Sir Alfred Russell Wallace
Extra Sci Fi has a series on Mars in science fiction:
- The Canals of Mars - Eye of the Beholder
- The Martian Chronicles - A Dying Race
- The Martian Chronicles - Too Human
- The Martian Chronicles - The New Martians
GURPS Update - update to 4e.