Joseph Fraser 1889. Melbourne and Mars: My Mysterious Life on Two Planets. Republished 2020 by the Grattan Street Press: Parkville. 187 pp.

Masquerading as science fiction, this intriguing and endearing book is really the lament of a 19th century author trapped in a Melbourne he evidently didn’t like. The novel is his utopian vision of an ideal far future, realised as life on Mars where superior evolved humans live a life with no money, no wars or crime, no want, no politics. Some Earth-bound humans who reach a sufficiently state elevated state seem to occupy dual lives by tranferance of conciousness to another self on Mars. Which is how we come to read this story, written as a diary of Charles Frankston who recollects his experiences on Mars as dreams. The novel has a lot to say about efficient towns, cities and agriculture, about death, about electric transport. It embraces womens rights, socialism, the potential of science but rejects Malthus, is able to escape only the worst of the colonial attitude to the Aboriginal people, accords no value to wilderness and seems to view animals approximately as Aristotle did: according to their value to humans.

Joseph Fraser died from tuberculosis within a few months of the original publication of the book in 1889. The modern reader yearns to know more of him, and this is partly satisfied by the short but very informative introduction by the two Grattan Street Press editors, Alexandra Roginski and Zachary Kendal. But it would be nice to know more of the author.