White Mars; or, The Mind Set Free: A 21st-Century Utopia

White Mars; or, The Mind Set Free: A 21st-Century Utopia

by Brian W. Aldiss, Roger Penrose

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A breathtaking vision of a utopian future on Mars by one of science fiction’s most renowned authors

In the middle decades of the twenty-first century, the corporate powers on Earth have established a thriving colony on Mars as an alternative to life on the overpopulated, war-torn, ecologically ravaged home planet. But when the economy of EUPACUS—Earth’s collective industrialized nations—collapses, all contact between the two worlds abruptly ceases, and the Martian pioneers are left to fend for themselves. Led by Tom Jeffries, a philosopher and a visionary, the colonists now face a twofold challenge: No longer supported and subsidized by Earthbound interests, they must somehow form a working planetary alliance to create a new society based firmly in freedom and fairness for all while at the same time eliminating war, hunger, hatred, environmental abuse, and other former scourges of humanity. But first and foremost, they must survive.
Brian W. Aldiss, a Hugo and Nebula Award–winning Grand Master of Science Fiction, presents a vision for the future that is startling, uplifting, and endlessly exciting. Written in collaboration with noted mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose—and with essential input from international law expert Laurence Lustgarten—Aldiss’s remarkable White Mars opens a window onto a relentlessly thrilling and gloriously possible tomorrow.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504010283
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 05/19/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 326
Sales rank: 201,436
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Brian W. Aldiss was born in Norfolk, England, in 1925. Over a long and distinguished writing career, he published award‑winning science fiction (two Hugo Awards, a Nebula Award, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award); bestselling popular fiction, including the three‑volume Horatio Stubbs saga and the four‑volume the Squire Quartet; experimental fiction such as Report on Probability A and Barefoot in the Head; and many other iconic and pioneering works, including the Helliconia Trilogy. He edited many successful anthologies and published groundbreaking nonfiction, including a magisterial history of science fiction (Billion Year Spree, later revised and expanded as Trillion Year Spree). Among his many short stories, perhaps the most famous was “Super‑Toys Last All Summer Long,” which was adapted for film by Stanley Kubrick and produced and directed after Kubrick’s death by Steven Spielberg as A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Brian W. Aldiss passed away in 2017 at the age of 92. 
Brian W. Aldiss was born in Norfolk, England, in 1925. Over a long and distinguished writing career, he published award-winning science fiction (two Hugo Awards, a Nebula Award, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award); bestselling popular fiction, including the three-volume Horatio Stubbs saga and the four-volume the Squire Quartet; experimental fiction such as Report on Probability A and Barefoot in the Head; and many other iconic and pioneering works, including the Helliconia Trilogy. He edited many successful anthologies and published groundbreaking nonfiction, including a magisterial history of science fiction (Billion Year Spree, later revised and expanded as Trillion Year Spree). Among his many short stories, perhaps the most famous was “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long,” which was adapted for film by Stanley Kubrick and produced and directed after Kubrick’s death by Steven Spielberg as A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Brian W. Aldiss passed away in 2017 at the age of 92. 

Read an Excerpt

White Mars; or, The Mind Set Free

A 21st Century Utopia

By Brian W. Aldiss, Roger Penrose


Copyright © 1999 Brian W. Aldiss and Roger Penrose
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1028-3


Memoir by Moreton Dennett, Secretary to Leo Anstruther, Concerning the Events of 23 June AD 2041

On this day, Leo Anstruther decided he would walk to the jetport because he believed in being unpredictable. I went with him, carrying his notecase. Two bodyguards walked behind us, following at a short distance.

We wound our way down narrow back streets. Anstruther walked with his hands clasped behind his back, seemingly deep in thought. This was a part of his island he rarely visited; it held few charms for him. It was poverty alley. The narrow houses had been sub-divided in many cases, so that their occupants had overflowed into the streets to pursue their livelihoods. Vulcanisers, toy-makers, shoemakers, kite-sellers, junk-dealers, chandlers, fishermen and sellers of foodstuffs – all obstructed the freeway with their various businesses.

I knew Anstruther had a concealed contempt for these unfortunates. These people, no matter how hard they worked, would never improve their lot. They had no vision. He often said it. Anstruther was the man of vision.

He paused abruptly in a crowded square, looking about him at the shabby tenements on all sides.

'It's not just the poor who help the poor, as the absurd saying has it,' he said, addressing me although he looked elsewhere, 'but the poor who exploit the poor. They rent out their sordid rooms at extortionate rates to other families, inflicting misery on their own families for the sake of a few extra shekels.'

I agreed. 'It's not a perfect world.' It was my job to agree.

Among the dreary muddle of commerce, a bright stall stood out. An elderly man dressed in jeans and a khaki shirt stood behind a small table on which were stacked jars of preserved fruit, together with mangoes, blackcurrants, pineapples and cherries, as well as a handful of fresh vegetables.

'All home-grown and pure, señor. Buy and try!' cried the old man as Anstruther paused.

Observing Anstruther's scepticism, he quoted a special low price per jar for his jams.

'We eat only factory food,' I told him. He ignored me and continued to address Anstruther.

'See my garden, master, how pure and sweet it is.' The old man gestured to the wrought-iron gate at his back. 'Here's where my produce comes from. From the earth itself, not from a factory.'

Anstruther glanced at the phone-watch on his wrist.

'Garden!' he said with contempt. Then he laughed. 'Why not? Come on, Moreton.' He liked to be unpredictable. He gestured to the bodyguards to stay alert by the stall. On a sudden decision, he pushed through the gate and entered the old fellow's garden. He slammed the gate behind us. It would give the security men something to think about.

An elderly woman was sitting on an upturned tub, sorting peppers into a pot. A sweet-smelling jasmine on an overhead trellis shaded her from direct sunlight. She looked up in startlement, then gave Anstruther and me a pleasant smile.

'Buenos dias, masters. You've come to look about our little paradise, of that I'm certain. Don't be shy, now.'

As she spoke, she rose, straightened her back and approached us. Beneath the wrinkles she had a pleasant round face, and though fragile with age stood alertly upright. She wiped her hands on an old beige apron tied about her waist and gave us something like a bow.

'Paradise, you say! It's a narrow paradise you have here, woman.' Anstruther was looking down its length, which was circumscribed by tile-topped walls.

'Narrow but long, and enough for the likes of Andy and me, master. We have what we require, and do not covet more.'

Anstruther gave his short bark of laughter. 'Why not covet more, woman? You'd live better with more.'

'We should not live better by coveting more, merely more discontentedly, sir.'

She proceeded to show her visitors the garden. The enclosing walls became concealed behind climbers and vines.

Their way led with seeming randomness among flowering bushes and little shady arbours under blossom trees. The paths were narrow, so that they brushed by red and green peppers, a manioc patch and clumps of lavender and rosemary, which gave off pleasant scents as they were touched. Vegetables grew higgledy-piggledy with other plants. The hubbub of the streets was subdued by a murmur that came from bees blundering among flowers and the twitter of birds overhead.

The woman's commentary was sporadic. 'I can't abide seeing bare earth. This bit of ground here I planted with comfrey as a child, and you see how it's flourished ever since. It's good for the purity of the blood.'

Anstruther flicked away a bee that flew too near his face. 'All this must cost you something in fertiliser, woman.'

She smiled up at him. 'No, no, señor. We're too poor for that kind of unwise outlay. Human water and human waste products are all the fertilising we require in our little property.'

'You're not on proper drainage? Are you on the Ambient?'

'What's that, the Ambient?'

'Universal electronic communication system. You've never heard of it? The American bio-electronic net?'

'We are too hard-up for such a thing, sir, you must understand. Nor do we require it for our kind of modest living. Would it add to our contentment? Not a jot. What the rest of the world does is no business of ours.' She searched his face for some kind of approval. He in his turn studied her old worn countenance, brown and wrinkled, from which brown eyes stared.

'You say you're content?' He spoke incredulously, as though the idea was new to him.

She gave no answer, continuing to gaze at him with an expression between contempt and curiosity, as if Anstruther had arrived from another planet.

Resenting her probing regard, he turned and commenced to walk back the way we had come.

'You aren't accustomed to gardens, I perceive, señor.' There was pride in her voice. 'Do you shut yourself in rooms, then? We don't ask for much. For us, ours is a little paradise, don't you see? The soil's so rich in worms, that's the secret. We're almost self-sufficient here, Andy and me. We don't ask for much.'

He said, half joking, 'But you enjoy moralising. As we all do.'

'I only tell you the truth, sir, since you invited yourself in here.'

'I was curious to see how you people lived,' he told her. 'Today, I'm off to discuss the future of the planet Mars – which you've probably never heard of.'

She had heard of Mars. She considered it uninteresting, since there was no life there.

'No worms, eh, my good woman? Couldn't you do something better with your life than growing vegetables in your own excreta?'

She followed us up the winding path, brushing away a tendril of honeysuckle from her face, amused and explaining, 'It's healthy, my good sir, you see. They call it recycling. I've lived in this garden nigh on seventy years and I want nothing else. This little plot was my mother's idea. She said, "Cultivate your garden. Don't disturb the work of the worms. Be content with your lot." And that's what Andy and I have done. We don't wish for Mars. The vegetables and fruits we sell keep us going well enough. We're vegetarian, you see. You two gentlemen aren't from the council, are you?'

Something in the tone of her voice stung Anstruther.

'No. Certainly not. So you've simply done what your mother told you all the years of your life! Did you never have any ideas of your own? What does your husband make of you being stuck here for seventy years, just grubbing in the soil?'

'Andy is my brother, master, if you refer to him. And we've been perfectly happy and harmed no one. Nor been impolite to anyone ...'

We had regained the tiny paved area by the gate. We could smell the fragrance of the thyme, growing in the cracks between the paving stones, crushed underfoot. The two looked at each other in mutual distrust. Anstruther was a tall, solidly built man, who dominated the fragile little woman before him.

He saw she was angry. I feared he might destroy all her contentment with an expression of his irritation at her narrow-mindedness. He held the words back.

'Well, it's a pretty garden you have,' he said. 'Very pretty. I'm glad to have seen it.'

She was pleased by the compliment. 'Perhaps there might be gardens like this on Mars one day,' she suggested, with a certain slyness.

'Not very likely.'

'Perhaps you would like some beans to take away with you?'

'I carry no money.'

'No, no, I mean as a gift. They might improve your temperament after all that factory food you eat.'

'Don't be disgusting. Eat your beans yourself.'

He turned and gestured to me to open the gate. His two security men were waiting for him outside.

Anstruther's jet took us to the UN building. Members of the United Nationalities rarely met in person. They conferred over the Ambient, and only on special occasions were they bodily present; this was such an occasion, when the future of the planet Mars was to be decided. For this reason, the United Nationalities building was small, and not particularly imposing, although in fact it was larger than it needed to be, to satisfy the egos of its members.

On my Ambient I called Legalassist on the third level and gained entry to their department while Anstruther fraternised with other delegates below.

A Euripides screened me various files on EUPACUS, the international consortium whose component nations – the European Union, the Pacific Rim nations, and the United States – all had a claim on Mars.

Flicking to a file on the legal history of Antarctica, I saw that a similar situation had once existed there. Twelve nations had all laid claim to a slice of the White Continent. In December 1959 representatives of these nations had drawn up an Antarctic Treaty, which came into effect in June 1961. The treaty represented a remarkable step forward for reason and international cooperation. Territorial disputes were suspended, all military activities banned, and the Antarctic became a Continent for Science.

I took print-outs of relevant details. They might prove useful in the forthcoming debate. What the twentieth century had managed, we could certainly better, and on a grander scale, in our century.

In the ground-floor reception rooms, I found my boss consorting with Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Malay diplomats, all members of interested Pacrim countries. Anstruther was improving his shining image. A great amount of smiling by activating the zygomatic muscle went on, as is customary during such encounters.

When the session gong sounded, I accompanied Anstruther into the Great Hall, where we took our assigned places. Once I was seated at a desk in the row behind him, I passed him the Legalassist prints. Unpredictable as ever, he barely glanced at them.

'Today's the time for oratory, not facts,' he said. His voice was remote. He was psyching himself up for the debate.

When all delegates were assembled and quiet prevailed in the hall, the General Secretary made his announcement: 'This is the General Assembly of the United Nationalities, meeting on 23 June 2041, to determine the future status of Planet Mars.'

The first speaker was called.

Svetlana Yulichieva of Russia was eloquent. She said that the manned landing on Mars marked a new page, if not a new volume, in the history of mankind. All nationalities rejoiced in the success of the Mars mission, despite the tragic loss of their captain. The way of the future was now clear. More landings must be financed, and preparations be made to terraform Mars, so that it could be properly colonised and used as a base for further exploration of the outer solar system. She suggested that Mars come under UN jurisdiction.

The Latvian delegate was eloquent. He agreed with Yulichieva's sentiments and said that the space-going nations must be congratulated on the enterprise they had shown. The loss of Captain Tracy was regretted, but must not be allowed to impede further progress. Was not, he asked rhetorically, the opening-up of a new world part of a human dream, the dream of going forth to conquer space, as envisioned in many fictions, book and film, in which mankind went forward boldly, overcoming everything hostile which stood in its way, occupying planet after planet? The beginning of the eventual encompassing of the galaxy had begun. The terraforming of Mars must assume top priority.

The Argentinian delegate, Maria Porua, begged to disagree. She spoke at length of the hideous costs of an enterprise such as terraforming, the success of which was not guaranteed. Recent disappointments, such as the failure of the hypercollider on the Moon – the brainchild of a Nobel Prize winner – must act as a caution. There were terrestrial problems enough, on which the enormous investments required for any extraterrestrial adventure could more profitably be spent.

Tobias Bengtson, the delegate for Sweden, scorned the last speaker's response to a magnificent leap into an expanding future. He reminded the assembly of the words of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the great Russian aeronautical engineer, who had said that Earth was the cradle of mankind, but that mankind could not remain for ever in the cradle. 'This great nineteenth-century visionary woke up the human race to its destiny in space. The dream has grown more real, more accurate, more pressing, as the years have progressed. A glorious prospect must not be allowed to slip away. A few deaths, a little expense, along the way must not deflect the nationalities from achieving our destiny, the conquest of all solar space, from the planet Mercury right out to the heliopause. Only then will the dreams of our forefathers – and our mothers – be fulfilled.'

Other speakers rose, many arguing that terraforming was a necessity. Why go to Mars if not to create more living space? Some warned that Mars would become a United States dependency, others that a ruling was required, otherwise competing nations would use Mars not as living space, but as a battlefield.

'I am going to talk practicalities,' said a delegate from the Netherlands. 'I have listened to a lot of airy-fairy talk here today. The reality is that we have now acquired this entire little planet of waste land. What are we to do with it? It's no good for anything.' He thumped the desk for emphasis. 'Who'd want to live there? You can't grow anything on it. But we can dump our dangerous nuclear waste on Mars. It would be safe there. You can build a mountain of waste by one of the poles – it might even make the place look a bit more interesting.'

It was Leo Anstruther's turn to speak. The antagonism generated against the previous delegate's speech gave him the opportunity to put his argument forward. He walked deliberately to the rostrum, where he scrutinised the assembly before speaking.

'Do you have to act out the dreams of your mothers and fathers?' he asked. 'If we had always done so, would we not still be sitting in a jungle in the middle of Africa, going in fear of the tribe in the next tree? EUPACUS – and not simply NASA – has achieved a great feat of organisation and engineering, for which we sincerely congratulate them. But this arrival of a crew of men and women on the Red Planet must have nothing to do with conquest. Nor should we turn the place into a rubbish dump. Have we lost our reverence for the universe about us?'

My boss went on to say that he had nothing but contempt for people who merely sat at home. But going forward did not mean merely proliferation; proliferation was already bringing ruin to Earth. Everyone had to be clear that to repeat our errors on other planets was not progress. It more closely resembled rabbits overrunning a valuable field of wheat. Now was our chance to prove that we had progressed in Realms of Reason, as well as in Terms of Technology.

What, after all, he asked, were these dreams of conquest that mankind was supposed to approve? Were they not violent and xenophobic? We had not to permit ourselves to live a fiction about other fictions. To attempt to fulfil them was to take a downward path at the very moment an upward path opened before us, to crown our century.


Excerpted from White Mars; or, The Mind Set Free by Brian W. Aldiss, Roger Penrose. Copyright © 1999 Brian W. Aldiss and Roger Penrose. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1 Memoir by Moreton Dennett, Secretary to Leo Anstruther, Concerning the Events of 23 June AD 2041,
2 The Testimony of Acting Captain Buzz McGregor, 23 May AD 2041 Cang Hai's Account,
3 The EUPACUS Deal: The Rotten Door,
4 Broken Deals, Broken Legs,
5 Corruption, Cash, and Crash Testimony of Tom Jefferies,
6 A Non-Zero Future!,
7 Under the Skin,
8 The Saccharine/Strychnine Drip Cang Hai's Account,
9 Improving the Individual,
10 My Secret Dance and Rivers for God,
11 The Missing Smudge Testimony of Tom Jefferies,
12 The Watchtower of the Universe Cang Hai's Account,
13 Jealousy at the Oort Crowd,
14 'Public Hangman Wanted',
15 Java Joe's Story Testimony of Tom Jefferies,
16 Life is Like This and This ...,
17 The Birth Room,
18 The Debate on Sex and Marriage,
19 The R&A Hospital,
20 A Collective Mind Further Memoir by Cang Hai,
21 Utopia,
Note by Beta Greenway, Daughter of Alpha Jefferies,
Appendix by Dr Laurence Lustgarten: The United Nationalities Charter for the Settlement of Mars,
How It All Began: APIUM: Association for the Protection and Integrity of an Unspoilt Mars,

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