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#1 2019-05-17 23:07:07

From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526

Tent Towns

Most summers I reread the Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson.  If you haven't read them yet, you definitely should, they're a joy to read and each time I read them I get something new out of them.

This time I've been really picking up on Robinson's descriptions of the tented cities on Mars.  Here's a few excerpts that I really loved, up to where I am in Green Mars (Second 6, Tariqat):


Kim Stanley Robinson wrote:

It was the first town of any size to be built freestanding on the Martian surface; all the buildings were set inside what was in effect an immense clear tent, supported by a nearly invisible frame, and placed on the rise of Tharsis, west of Noctis Labyrinthus.  This location gave it a tremendous view, with a distant western horizon punctuated by the broad peak of Pavonis Mons.  For the Mars veterans in the crowd it was giddy stuff: they were out on the surface, they were out of the trenches and mesas and craters, they could see forever! Hurrah!
He found himself surprised by how big the town appeared.  It covered a long triangle, and they were gathered at its highest point, a park occupying the western apex.  Seven paths rayed down through the park to become wide, tree-lined, grassy boulevards.  Between the boulevards stood low trapezoidal buildings, each faced with polished stone of a different color.  The size and architecture of the buildings gave things a faintly Parisian look, Paris as seen by a drunk Fauvist in spring, sidewalk cafes and all.  Four or five kilometers downslope the end of the city was marked by three slender skyscrapers, beyond which lay the low greenery of the farm.  The skyscrapers were part of the tent framework, which overhead was a network of sky-colored lines.  The tent fabric itself was invisible, and so taken all in all, it appeared that they stood in the open air.  That was gold, that was.  Nicosia was going to be a popular city.

Burroughs, c. 2100:

Kim Stanley Robinson wrote:

Out the Biotique office's windows he could see most of the old city, looking about the same as he remembered it, except that the mesa walls were even more extensively lined by glass windows, colorful horizontal bands of copper or gold or metallic green or blue, as if the mesa were stratified by some truly wonderful mineral layers.  Also the tents that had topped the mesas were gone, their buildings now standing free under the much larger tent that now covered all nine mesas, and everything in between and around them.  Tenting technology had reached the point where they could enclose vast mesocosms, and Sax had heard that one of the transnats was going to cover Hebes Chasma, a project that Ann had once suggested as an alternative to terraforming--a suggestion that Sax himself had scoffed at.  And now they were doing it.  One should never underestimate the potential of materials science, that was clear.
Burroughs' old canal park, and the broad grass boulevards that climbed away from the park and between the mesas, were now strips of green, cutting through orange tile rooftops.  The old double row of salt [bareiss] columns still stood beside the blue canal.  There had been a lot of building, to be sure; but the configuration of the city was still the same.  It was only on the outskirts that one could see how uch things had changed, and how much larger the city really was; the city wall lay well beyond the nine mesas, so that quite a bit of surrounding land was sheltered, and much of it built upon already.
And no doubt the bowllike shape of the region, with its archipelago of small mesas, gave it an impressive look as well.  When he walked around on the wide grassy boulevards, the nine mesas appeared evenly distributed, and each mesa had a slightly different look, its rugged rock walls distinguished by characteristic nobs, buttresses, smooth walls, overhangs, cracks--and now the horizontal bands of colorful mirror windows, and the buildings and parks on the flat plateaus crowning each mesa.  From any point on the streets one could always see several of the mesas, scattered like magnificent neighborhood cathedrals, and this no doubt gave a certain pleasure to the eye.  And then if one took an elevator up to one of the mesa's plateau tops, all about a hundred meters higher than the city floor, then one had a view over the rooftops of several different districts, and a different perspective on the other mesas, and then, beyond those, the land surrounding the city for many kilometers, distances larger than were usual on Mars, because they were at the bottom of a bowl-shaped depression: over the flat plain of Isidis to the north, up the dark rise to Syrtis in the west, and to the south one could see the distant rise of the Great Escarpment itself, standing on the horizon like a Himalaya.

Tharsis Tholus:

Kim Stanley Robinson wrote:

Nirgal went out into the green streets of the small town, dominated by the cone of [the volcano] Tharsis Tholus, rising in black and rust majesty to the north, like a squat Fuji.  He ran in his rhythmic way, around  and around the tent wall as he burned off some of his excess energy.  Sax and his great unexplainable...
in rooms over the cafe across the street, he found Coyote hobbling restlessly from window to window[...]



#2 2019-09-24 14:06:55

From: Thunder Bay
Registered: 2017-03-10
Posts: 87

Re: Tent Towns

Yeah, I loved those descriptions too. How about the part where Maia and maybe Sax watch the Martian sunsets every night sharing a bottle of wine, with all the extra gas pressure that has been added over the 100 years of settlement, logging the colours they see, until suddenly they see a deep blue and say "that's just like the sky of Earth!" which they haven't seen for so long.

-- Because it's there! --


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