IS THAT A MARTIAN IN MY
18 August 2003
There's a lot of buzz about the planet Mars these days. On August 27, Mars will be less
than 34.65 million miles (55.76 million kilometers) away -- closer to our planet than it's
been in nearly 60,000 years. The view, scientists say, will be stupendous. Amateur
astronomers and people who have never paid attention to the heavens before in their lives
are driving out of the cities, away from bright lights, squinting up into the sky and
trying to get a glimpse of the red planet.
I wonder why it is that we're more fascinated with Mars than the other planets. I guess
it's because it's closer to us than the others and, being a sociable people, we
like to look over the back fence and get to know our neighbors.
I was glued to the television set when we landed a camera on Mars and watched with
fascination as they guided that little rover across the terrain, praying when it got stuck
that they could get it moving again. It was amazing to think that some scientists with
remote controls were moving a little car around a planet millions of miles away, just like
a little boy in the park moves his little remote-controlled car around an oak tree.
We've been intrigued by Mars for years. Martians have invaded planet earth in
countless movies, Marvin the Martian has been a popular cartoon character for a long
time, and Ray Walston was Bill Bixby's "Favorite Martian" on the popular television sitcom. Obviously we don't know whether real Martians are friendly or not. We don't even know if real Martians
Well, some people don't know whether Martians exist. I know they exist.
You see, I have a good friend who is a Martian.
I didn't always know he was a Martian. I first became aware of him on a compuserve chat
board. A single father had come on to discuss his adoption of a child, a child with the
emotional difficulties that come with being abandoned, placed in foster homes, abused, and a number of
other traumas that no 8 year old child should have to know about, much less endure.
Throughout the next year I watched the discussion with this Dad about his child, adding
information and support from time to time, and the Dad and I became casual friends.
I'm not sure how far it was into the friendship that I discovered that this father I'd
been conversing with was actually science fiction writer David Gerrold (the man who gave
the world tribbles), writing under a nom de plume. By now I knew a lot more about his son
Dennis, but I still didn't realize Dennis was a Martian.
But it makes sense, doesn't it, that the perfect father for a Martian kid is a sci fi
writer who wouldn't blink twice on learning that his child was really conceived on
After the adoption was finalized and Dennis had become Sean, David sat down to write
his incredible story, which won him some big sci fi awards (the Hugo and the Nebula). The
novella was called "The Martian Child" and it tells how David was warned by the
adoption agencies that Dennis-now-Sean claimed to be a Martian.
There are those who may feel that this was some flight of fancy on David's part and
that the story was a work of fiction, based loosely on the facts surrounding Sean's
adoption, but I think if you read it you will become, as I am, convinced that this is a
fact-based book, thinly veiled as fiction.
David recently expanded the novella into a full-length book. It is perhaps the most
compellingly honest work he's ever done. You'll laugh, you'll cry. You'll believe in
It was some time before I actually met the real Martian face to face. I learned that
Martians give great hugs and that they are eager to please.
Martians love to wash floors, for example. When Sean saw my once-white expanse of
linoleum, you'd have thought he died and went to heaven. Give a Martian a mop and a pail
of water and you'll both be very happy--and your floor will be spotless. (This love of water probably stems from the difficulty in finding any water at all on Mars.)
I even have an original piece of Martian artwork, which Sean made for me to cheer me up
after he learned of the death of our first son. (I'm wondering if this depicts some
strange creature that he remembers from his days back on Mars).
Sean is almost an adult now and the powers he once had for "Martian wishes,"
which did everything from causing baseballs to go sailing out of the ballparks for his
favorite team or turning stoplights from red to green have disappeared as he has become more
and more assimilated into earth culture.
But when I think of the approaching closeness of his home planet, I wonder if he looks
up in the sky searching for that red ball and remembers what it was like before he came to