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Literature / Martian Time-Slip

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Martian Time-Slip is a 1964 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick, originally serialized in 1963 as All We Marsmen.

In 1994, Martian union leader Arnie Kott hears of a new theory that mentally ill people are out of sync with time. He recruits a ten-year-old autistic boy, Manfred Steiner, to use his precognitive abilities for a real estate deal, and hires recovered schizophrenic Jack Bohlen to build a machine that will allow him to communicate with Manfred.

Martian Time-Slip contains examples of:

  • Abandon the Disabled: Kids with physical or mental disabilities, like autistic Manfred or web-fingered Sam, are often left to be raised at Camp Ben-Gurion, an institution for anomalous children.
  • Anti-Role Model: The teachers at the public school include robotic replicas of historical villains like the Emperor Tiberius, who tell the students their life stories to discourage them from doing the same things.
  • AstroTurf: Anne Esterhazy, a prominent member of a safety committee, campaigns to ban spaceships from landing more than 25 miles from a major canal. The only landing field within 25 miles of a major canal serves Arnie's settlement. Anne is Arnie's ex-wife, and the two are still good friends and business partners.
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  • Conspicuous Consumption: Water is scarce on Mars, so Arnie is proud of the fact that his steam bath doesn't preserve run-off.
  • Driven to Suicide: Manfred's father Norbert impulsively throws himself in front of a bus early in the novel.
  • First-Name Basis: Arnie and his employees all call each other by their first names.
  • Gaia's Lament: Earth is severely overcrowded and suffers from heavy pollution.
  • Madness Mantra: "Gubble, gubble." Gubble is Manfred's word for rottenness and decay. It's also virtually the only word he's capable of saying. When Manfred sends Arnie three weeks back in time, Arnie finds out that most of the words in the newspaper have been replaced by the word "gubble."
  • Magical Native American: The Bleekmen are telepathic.
  • Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Otto Zitte got kicked out of the repairmen's union for having sex with bored housewives on the job. He starts doing it again after he becomes a Traveling Salesman.
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  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Arnie Kott is extremely racist against Bleekmen, whom he regards as subhuman animals.
  • Precursors: The Bleekmen, who inhabited Mars before people arrived from Earth. They built the irrigation canals that are still in use, but their civilization has been in decline for a long time, and now they mostly live as either manual laborers or as bands of scavengers.
  • Recruited from the Gutter: Arnie rescued his "tame" Bleekman, Heliogabalus, from the desert. He keeps Helio on as his slave. The two openly despise each other, but Helio sticks around because serving Arnie is better than dying of thirst.
  • Space Jews: The Bleekmen resemble and are thought to be genetically similar to Africans on Earth. They're referred to by the same racial slurs, are paid below minimum wage, and are seen and treated as subhuman, although they seem as intelligent as the earthlings.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: This is how the robotic teachers at the public schools work. They run through "cycles," playing different canned responses for different situations.
  • Through Her Stomach: Otto feeds rare and expensive foods to women he hopes to seduce.
  • Traveling Salesman: Otto Zitte becomes a door-to-door salesman of black-market goods like caviar.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-universe example. Arnie encodes secret messages as electronic noises taken from experimental music and gives them labels like "Song of the Wind Spirit, A Cantata by Karl William Dittershand," after a celebrated avant-garde composer.
  • Vapor Wear: Otto drools over the girls in New Israel, who work in sweaty t-shirts with no bras.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Norbert Steiner is ashamed of having an autistic son. He blames his wife for being a refrigerator mother.