There are different ways of depicting the oldstyle wondrous Mars. Here are two well-known examples:
Edgar Rice Burroughs invoked the “high” mood of fairytales with patrician adventurers in palaces, True Love™, honour before reason, etc. “And the sight which met my eyes was that of a slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women of my past life. She did not see me at first, but just as she was disappearing through the portal of the building which was to be her prison she turned, and her eyes met mine. Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure.”
Leigh Brackett wrote in the gritty “low” tradition of pulp action with plebeian adventurers in grimy taverns, roguish endeavours, questionable motives, etc. Carse walked beside the still black waters in their ancient channel, cut in the dead sea-bottom. He watched the dry wind shake the torches that never went out and listened to the broken music of the harps that were never stilled. Lean lithe men and women passed him in the shadowy streets, silent as cats except for the chime and whisper of the tiny bells the women wear, a sound as delicate as rain, distillate of all the sweet wickedness of the world.
I prefer the pulp-ish approach: Mars as a grim place with rugged people who get sand in their boots. It should contain the following elements:
Deserts: Yes, this is an arid place, where water is a commodity of great value. (Canals are optional, whereas caravan routes, oasis towns and waterwells are mandatory.)
Doom: Mars is dying slowly and most people know that. It will yet last for many generations, but the downwards curve is obvious.
Dilapidation: “Here be Ruins.” A lot of ancient ones. Caused by a changing climate, warfare and natural calamities.
Diversity: There have been other human species than Homo sapiens on Earth, like the Neaderthals and the “hobbits” of Flores, but they went extinct during the last ice age. On Mars, the situations is the opposite: several sapient species compete for the scarce resources.
Devolution: This is the opposite of progress and evolution. Mars’s many societies were far more advanced in the past. For ages they have been regressing by losing technology, skills and knowledge one piece at a time.
Danger: Life is hard on Mars. This is a place with little mercy for the weak.
Continue to part 3 — link >>>