AskDefine | Define Martian

Dictionary Definition

Martian adj : of or relating to the planet Mars (or its fictional inhabitants) n : imaginary people who live on the planet Mars

User Contributed Dictionary



  • (RP): /ˈmɑːʃən/, /"mA:S@n/
  • (US): märʹshən, /ˈmɑrʃən/, /"mArS@n/
  • Rhymes: -ɑː(r)ʃən


  1. Of or relating to the planet Mars.
    the Martian landscape
  2. Of or relating to Martians.
    a Martian invasion
  3. In a network, being on a different range of addresses but carried on the same connection.
    I'm running my LAN and my cable modem on the same Ethernet. They're Martian to each other.


of Mars
of Martians


  1. An imaginary inhabitant of the planet Mars.


imaginary inhabitant of the planet Mars

Extensive Definition

As an adjective, the term "martian" is used to describe anything pertaining to the planet Mars.
However, a Martian is more usually a hypothetical or fictional native inhabitant of the planet Mars. Historically, life on Mars has often been hypothesized, although there is currently no solid evidence of life there at present. Some scientists have theorized that there is meteorite evidence of fossilised microbes.

History of the concept

The idea of intelligent Martians was popularized by Percival Lowell and in fiction, especially by Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter (Barsoom) Series, H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. Despite the observation by Alfred Wallace that Mars' atmosphere was too thin to support an Earth-like ecology, various depictions of a Martian civilization were popular throughout the 20th century. The first pictures of Mars returned by space probes dashed hopes of contacting Martians, although claims of past Martian civilizations have continued into the twenty-first century (see Cydonia for one such claim).

The real Martians

Because of the prevalence of stories containing Martians, the idea of the Martian was for much of the 20th century the default identity of extraterrestrial characters in popular culture. If Mars is colonized in the future by humans, the generations descended from the settlers may well be called Martians. Some members of the Mars Society, an organization devoted to such colonization, semi-humorously describe themselves as "Martians in exile". Recent photographs of the Hale (Martian crater) have been found to show what could be evidence of ancient life on Mars.
It has been suggested by scientists that life on Earth actually originated on Mars and that life arrived on Earth via a comet (see Panspermia).

Martians in fiction

The Martian was a favorite character of classical science fiction; he was frequently found away from his home planet, often invading Earth, but sometimes simply a lonely character representing alienness from his surroundings. Some martians were actually hailed as gods and people created a religion for them. Martians, other than human beings transplanted to Mars, became rare in fiction after the visit of the space probe Mariner 4 to Mars, except in exercises of deliberate nostalgia - more frequently in genres such as comics and animation than in written literature.

Literary Martians

  • Aelita. Aelita, Queen of Mars, novel, written by Russian writer Alexey Tolstoy.
  • The War of the Worlds'' (1898) by H. G. Wells. The Martians are an ancient, advanced race with a tentacled, cephalopod-like appearance. They cultivate a "red weed", which is what was giving Mars its red color. They invade Earth with huge tripedal "fighting machines" armed with "heat rays" and "black smoke" (a kind of poison gas), against which human armies of the time are helpless. They conquer London and much of England (and possibly other countries as well), use human beings as a source of nourishment, but are ultimately overcome by terrestrial microbes.
  • There were many "additions" to the Wells novel, for example Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds which describes the adventures of Holmes and Watson in Martian-occupied London. Kevin Anderson edited the anthology "War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches" which describes the events of the Martian invasion as experienced in France, Italy, Russia, India, China, Texas, Alaska, Equatorial Africa and other locations.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a series of books depicting his character John Carter on Mars. In his novels, he refers to Mars as Barsoom.
  • Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men, a vast future history published in 1930 and spanning billions of years, includes a long and carefully worked-out account of several Martian invasions of Earth over a period of tens of thousands of years. Stapledon's Martians - sentient cloudlets composed of countless microscopic particles and capable of drifting across interplanetary space - are completely different from Wells', yet the book shows his influence and follows the general scheme of a drying and dying Mars and of Martians seeking the warmer and wetter Earth. Much later in the book, the humans themselves flee the dying Earth, invade and colonise Venus and exterminate its native intelligent species.
  • C. S. Lewis wrote, in Out of the Silent Planet, about three humans visiting Mars, and there meeting three different kinds of native intelligent creatures (sorns, (or séroni), hrossa, and pfifltriggi), as well as hunting hnakra and meeting the Oyarsa, or eldil in charge of this planet, called Malacandra in the Old Solar language.
  • Raymond Z. Gallun's Seeds of the Dusk, published in 1938, shows the influence of both Wells and Stapledon, but with a special original twist. In the far future, Earth is invaded by sentient plants from Mars, whose specialty is to make use of planets in their "dusk" - i.e., still liveable but nearing their end. (These plants had actually originated on Ganymede, in the distant past, went on to Mars, continued after long aeons to Earth, and would continue on to Venus when Earth had died too). In this case the invasion is successful and it is the Itorloo, distant descendants of Mankind, who are exterminated by a plague microbe artificially produced by the invaders. But the Itorloo had been an arrogant race, extremely cruel to sentient bird and rodent races which shared the Earth of their time, while the new plant dominant species leaves these alone - so that the reader is left to conclude that on balance, the change might be for the better.
  • In four stories by Eric Frank Russell published in the early 1940s and collected in the classic Men Martians and Machines, humans together with very likable Martians are shipmates who go out together into interstellar space, and guard each other's back while encountering various other aliens. Not accidentally, Russell's humans included blacks as well as whites - quite unusual for the time. The book can be credited with starting the SF sub-genre of spaceships with a mixed human and non-human crew, which was to reach great popularity with Star Trek. Russell's martians are chess-loving octopoids, with tentacles extending down and out from a central head with large eyes. They can survive in Earth-normal air, but prefer to don low-pressure helmets for comfort. Read today, their description is amusingly similar to that of Kang & Kodos in The Simpsons.
  • Ray Bradbury's short story The Concrete Mixer (1949) inverts the idea of a Martian invasion: the invaders are welcomed with open arms, and fall victim to a not overtly hostile but nonetheless deadly alien culture -- that of Earth.
  • John Wyndham dealt with Martians in two short stories, Time to Rest (1949) and Dumb Martian (1952).
  • Fredric Brown wrote Martians, Go Home (1955), a spoof of Wells' Martian invasion concept.
  • Many "invasion of Earth" stories owe much to Wells, even when their invaders come from elsewhere in the cosmos. The derivation is especially clear in John Christopher's trilogy The Tripods (1967-1968), depicting boys born on an alien-occupied Earth and dedicating themselves to overthrowing the cruel invaders - who, like Wells' Martians, move about in huge three-legged machines, towering high above the countryside.
  • Robert A. Heinlein repeatedly used Martians (usually, human beings born and bred on Mars) as characters in his novels and short stories, including:
    • Red Planet (novel) (1949). Humans have colonized Mars along the model of the British East India Company; two prep-school students discover a Company plot to suppress the colonists, and enlist the native Martians' help. This novel shows one of the last and most detailed visions of the pre-spaceflight Mars of 1880-1950.
    • Double Star (1956). The issue of giving Martians the vote becomes a central issue in Earth politics, and the hero eventually overcomes both his own deep-rooted anti-Martian prejudice and the entrenched political power of the bigots, and helps enfranchise the downtrodden Martians (publication of this book coincided with the early Civil Rights Movement of the Blacks in the US South).
    • Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). An Earthman raised on Mars returns to Earth and creates chaos. Concerned with philosophical and religious subjects.
    • Podkayne of Mars (1963). Takes place in space and on Venus, but the main characters originate from a Mars that has been colonized by humans and is an important player in Solar System diplomacy.

Film, television, and radio Martians

  • The October 30, 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. This broadcast was the cause of much confusion when it was aired, with people believing an actual Martian invasion was taking place
  • Looney Tunes – Included the cartoon character Marvin the Martian (1948-), a comic foil to Warner Bros. mainstays Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in several animated shorts.
  • Red Planet Mars (1952) - Scientist Peter Graves contacts Martians by radio, they respond by preaching Christianity and thus Communism is defeated.
  • Invaders from Mars (1953) – A film, remade in 1986.
  • Quatermass and the Pit (1958-9) - A British television serial in which a crashed spacecraft is discovered in London, which reveals that humanity on Earth is the result of experiments by a Martian civilisation, now long dead. It was remade as a film in 1967.
  • My Favorite Martian (1963-1966) – A television comedy series and film.
  • Doctor Who - Includes a race native to the planet Mars known as the Ice Warriors
  • Invader Zim - In one episode, the main character, Zim, travels to Mars to find out "whatever killed these... marzoids" in order to destroy mankind himself. When he arrives, he makes contact with a holographic interactive instruction manual pre-programmed by the Martians that explained they worked themselves to extinction transforming all Mars into a space vessel, by adding massive engines using similar technology tested on a nearby planet. When Zim asks why would they do all that, the holographic martian simply responds: "Because it's cool!".
  • Captain Scarlet (1967-1968) – The Martians at war with Earth are the Mysterons — an invisible race of superbeings hell-bent on revenge after an unprovoked attack on their Martian city by Captain Black, a Spectrum agent investigating strange alien signals.
  • Spaced Invaders (1990) – A sci-fi comedy in which dim-witted Martians attempt to invade a small Illinois town during a re-broadcast of Orson Welles 1938 "War of the Worlds".
  • Biker Mice from Mars (1993-1996, 2006-present) – A cartoon series about three Martian Mice who crash-land on Earth after their ship is attacked by their enemies, the fish-like Plutarkians. The Mice --leader Throttle, gentle-giant Modo, and wild-mouse Vinnie-- decide to remain on Earth to fight the evil Plutarkian Lawerence Limburger, who threatens Chicago. and then the villainous Catationains in the 2006 revival series.
  • Mars Attacks! (1996), – A satirical film directed by Tim Burton, based on the equally satirical, unpunctuated Topps trading card series Mars Attacks (1962); see below in other media). Unlike ordinary martians, they have to wear glass-like helmets to breathe on Earth (they take in nitrogen, not oxygen). One of the martians, dressed as an eerily beautiful woman, chews a stick of nitrogen-based chewing gum so it could both survive and deter suspicion in its disguise. As revealed in a boxing match in the end, the glass is very fragile, as one of the characters easily breaks it with a few punches.
  • Mission to Mars (2000), -Martian
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