HCE on Mars

HCE on Mars

In the science fiction novel Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, the first settlers on Mars develop a legend about a figure named Big Man. Aspects of the Martian landscape, such as craters and volcanoes, are variously said to be parts of his body, his playthings, and so on. All this is done fairly consciously, as an homage to all the "Big Man" legends on Earth, such as the Howth giant of FW_Geography.

It's fun to wonder whether HCE ever went to Mars, or whether Big Man is a distant relation. After all, almost all of Finnegans Wake takes place on Earth. Check out this spectacular photo of Olympus Mons, the largest mountain in the solar system -- Big Man's big hairy eyeball looking back at us?

It turns out that Olympus Mons is what happened when Paul Bunyan and Babe the big blue ox went to visit Big Man and got into a fight. Big Man slammed Paul and Babe most of the way through the planet, and Olympus Mons is the bulge left from Babe's impact on the underside. Or so it says here.

Later still, it turns out that John Boone, the First Man on Mars -- a kind of Lincoln/Gandhi figure who blusters in an Earwickian way, and who is assassinated in the book's first chapter -- starts being talked about in a way that may in time conflate him with Big Man. Two-thirds of the way through the first huge volume of the four Mars books, things are taking on a distinctly Wakean cast. However, this may not be so much because Robinson is deliberately alluding to Joyce, but because both Joyce and Robinson tell big human stories with verisimilitude.

Another reason that John Boone is a Here Comes Everybody figure: his first words as the first man on Mars are, "Well, here we are."