The standard depiction of Mars in fiction until the arrival of planetary probes derives from the astronomers Percival Lowell and Giovanni Schiaparelli. Schiaparelli had observed (or thought he had seen) linear features on the face of Mars, which he thought might be water channels. However, since the Italian word he used for channels was canali, the accounts of his work in english tended to translate that as canals; with attending implications of artificial construction. Lowell's books on Mars expanded on this notion, and the standard model of Mars, as a drying, cooling dying world was established, with ancient Martian civilizations having constructed irrigation works that spanned the planet. This of course, was the origin for a large number of science fiction scenarios.
Some of these concerned the attempts by the Martian race(s) to take the desirable warmer wetter world of Earth:Fredric Brown in Martians, Go Home.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, true to form, was more concerned with writing adventure stories, so his novels featuring earthman John Carter on Mars (called by the natives Barsoom) are pure primitive space opera, with princesses, energy weapons and swords, and exotic animals. Leigh Brackett's The Sword of Rhiannon (1953) is another example of the type.
More thoughtful approaches to the planet, generally featuring intelligent Martians much older and wiser than humans include:
After the Mariner and Viking spacecraft had returned pictures of Mars as it really is, the canals and ancient civilizations had to be abandoned. Roger Zelazny's "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" was the exception to this: knowing the true conditions of Mars, Zelazny deliberately set the story in farewell to the old conception of Mars, complete with canals and an ancient, dying Martian race. (Just as his story "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" was a farewell to the old science fictional Venus). Authors soon began writing stories based on the new Mars:
Not taking itself at all seriously was Larry Niven's Rainbow Mars — the title seems to be a lampoon upon Robinson's three-colored Mars Trilogy — in which a time machine is used to visit ancient Mars. The only problem being that time travel is impossible, and the machine actually travels back to a fictitious Mars. The protagonist meets a wide variety of different Martians, including most of those from the pre-spaceprobe novels listed above.
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