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Tucson Weekly Red Planet Revisited

A Nut-Case Classic Makes A Comeback.

By Christopher Weird

AUGUST 24, 1998:  The Truth About Mars: An Eyewitness Account, by Ernest. L Norman (Unarius Publications). Paper, $17.

NOT MERELY THE truth about Mars, but an eyewitness account? Imagine that! Apparently, that's what the author did.

First published in 1955, this alien travelogue by Ernest L. Norman--founder of Southern California's Unarius Academy of Science--explores the red planet's underground cities, revealing an advanced society of peace-loving, cancer-curing, monorail-cruising socialistic vegetarians with a flair for high fashion: "He is dressed in a very brilliant red suit. The coat is long, almost to the knees, with loose fitting pantaloons. On his head is a red hat with a square-shaped brim, which is turned up on four sides."

Swap a pair of tight jeans for the baggy pantaloons, and one might swear Norman met Dwight Yoakam. And consider this bonus revelation, which probably says more about the 1950s than it does about Mars: The Chinese are, in fact, descendants of Martian pilgrims. Uh....

Nevertheless, The Truth About Mars is a fascinating book from an allegorical, and even metaphysical, perspective. Norman's interplanetary sojourns are achieved through a sort of astral projection--the poor man's "Beam me up, Scotty!" previously popularized by Jack London in The Star Rover. He ultimately engages the cultural, political and scientific infrastructures of Martian society and discovers much we Earthlings would do well to learn. Norman's awe and appreciation are genuine, and he seems quite satisfied with his travels. There's no arguing with that. In fact, we should all be so lucky.

Where the new edition implodes is in its appendices, which insist on portraying NASA's recent Martian discoveries as oblique confirmations of Norman's adventures. After all, if evidence of water and alleged microscopic fossils are the highest biological evidence modern science can identify on Mars, then a rather impertinent question must be raised: What happened to the cacti, lizards and gigantic, bipedal ants Norman so affectionately describes?

Sadly, whether on Earth or Mars, the maxim remains: Live by the literal, die by the literal.

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