Thursday, October 01, 2015

Doing It Over; Water on Mars

This past weekend, my husband, my sister, and I attended our 50th high school reunion. (Technically, it was her 50th. Our three graduating classes, which happened to be consecutive, held a combined celebration.) Aside from touring our old school and observing how the building has changed (they have a swimming pool adjacent to the gym—WE didn't have a pool) and peering at name tags in search of people I knew, I was reminded of the movie PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED. The heroine, at her 25th reunion, travels backward in time to her high school years, fainting in the present and waking up in 1960 as her teenage self with her adult memories. She tries to change her future for the better, incidentally affecting her friends' futures, and avoid what she regards as the mistake of marrying her husband. Of course, she ends up rediscovering why she fell in love with him in the first place.

If you could go back to do your life over, would you? A while back, in discussion group at our church a woman around my age made a remark about wishing our children or grandchildren could have the kind of childhoods we did. I retorted that I certainly would not wish that on them. Not only because I had a mainly unhappy childhood and youth, but for the less personal reason that in most ways I think the present has so many advantages over the 1950s and early 60s. People often say things like, "I wouldn't do that if you paid me a million dollars." Well, for a million dollars, I MIGHT consider living the 1950s over again, but not for less. On a personal rather than cultural level, the prospect of correcting the mistakes of youth is tempting. But suppose in trying to smooth your path and improve your future, you accidentally made things worse? Even if you had the power to "put right what once went wrong," should you yield to the temptation? "Not even the wise can see all ends." (The protagonist in Stephen King's time travel novel who voyages into the past to prevent Kennedy's assassination returns to his own era to discover that his heroic deed has produced a horrific dystopia.) In hindsight, I recognize that my stumbles and wrong turns contributed to getting me where I am now. In trying to undo the mistakes, I might erase the good stuff too. Also, I'm not sure how I'd feel about becoming a teenager again with full knowledge of my forthcoming adult life. We often say we wish we knew then what we know now. But imagine being trapped in a child's or teen's body with an adult's mind and memories. You'd have the comfort of knowing things would eventually get better as well as the perspective of knowing the teen years won't last for the eternity they felt like the first time around. On the other hand, you'd have to put up with the powerlessness of being underage and all the Mickey Mouse restrictions of adolescence in full knowledge that they're Mickey Mouse. You'd have only a limited opportunity to make any effective use of your adult knowledge. I think I'd go nuts.

And in news of general SF interest, you've probably read about the apparent discovery of liquid salt water flowing on Mars now:

NASA Announcement

Not in distant past epochs, but right now! How exciting to contemplate the possibility of present-day Martian life raised by this discovery. Earth life includes some organisms (e.g., certain bacteria, algae, and fungi) that flourish in high salt concentrations, called "halophiles." So why not expect similar life-forms on Mars? And what about Martian life in the past? It's fun to speculate that eons ago the Red Planet might have harbored intelligent beings with an advanced civilization. As their world died, maybe they retreated to underground cities, where the remnants of their population still dwell, deliberately hiding from our probes. I don't think I've ever come across a novel on that premise.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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