September 1956’s issue of Amazing Stories held within its pages a short story by Randal Garrett called “The Man Who Hated Mars.” It’s a bit of a morality story, following an inmate, one Ron Clayton, as he tries to flee Mars for the “Green Hills of Earth.” Mostly, he wrecks lives and spacecraft in that frenzied pursuit, even as he runs from the law and any reminder of what he once left behind.
Just like any morality play, Clayton gets his comeuppance at the end, as, in his hubris, he forgot one key detail: the gravity of the situation.
Not of all the lives he stranded in hypoxia and the cold depths of space. Literal gravity–and the atrophy in musculature caused by the reduced gravity of Mars. Unable to move under his own strength, the very home he sought punishes him, with a near -certain exile to Mars.
No one said criminals were smart.
Perhaps this morality tale should be called a technology tale instead. The crimes are all very bloodless, with the post-Campbell eschewing of the horror needed for the instruction and catharsis of a proper morality tale. Even the just deserts are rendered in a stale official report. Without that horror, the reader is left with an unpleasant main character doing dastardly deeds without a reason to remain in such a vile presence. But what else does one expect from the great systemizing of fiction but the tyranny of the rules?
What is more of interest, however, than the relentless march of Newtons Sleep on the weird genres, is the meta aspects. Clayton is tormented by musical choruses of Robert Heinlein’s “The Green Hills of Earth.”
We rot in the molds of Venus,
We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death.
That’s the first of several snippets Robert Heinlein wrote for the short story of the same name. But it’s not the first mention of “The Green Hills of Earth” as a ballad, or of lyrics to the song. For that, we must return to Mars, to a different version of the red planet, as told by Catherine Lucille Moore. To “Shambleau” and Northwest Smith humming “The Green Hills of Earth” to himself, quite satisfied after rescuing Shambleau, but before finding out her true nature.
“The Green Hills of Earth” become part of the background of the entire Northwest Smith story cycle, with recurring mentions until the Jirel of Joiry crossover “The Quest for the Starstone” where Moore and future husband and cowriter Henry Kuttner penned their own stanzas:
Across the seas of darkness
The good green Earth is bright –
Oh, Star that was my homeland
Shine down on me tonight.–
My heart turns home in longing
Across the voids between,
To know beyond the spaceways
The hills of Earth are green.
While I much prefer the almost Celtic wanderlust and homecoming cycles in Moore and Kuttner’s stanzas to Heinlein’s people in captivity ones, it is quite enjoyable to trace how continued tips of the hat towards friends inform science fiction stories.
Sadly, this meta story about “The Green Hills of Earth” was more enjoyable than a man who hated Mars.