excerpt from

A Sail in Outer Space

by Albert Daiber

1910

edited by Fredrik Ekman

I recently had the good fortune to come across an old SF novel about a trip to Mars. The book, printed in 1910, is in Swedish and titled En seglats i världsrymden (A sail in outer space). It was written for "mature youth" by Dr. Albert Daiber and it was translated from German, originally published as Vom Mars zur Erde about the year 1900. The book sports six beautiful interior illustrations by Fritz Bergen and a painted cover (apparently of Swedish design) by C. A. Olausson. Translator is Dr. Hugo Hultenberg.

Short summary: Seven German scientists led by Professor Sigfrid Stiller start for Mars in a dirigible of Stiller's construction. After many hardships they finally reach Mars where they are welcomed by the locals of the region Lumata; beautiful humans with somewhat enlarged chests, blond hair and blue eyes. Their clothes and architecture very much resemble ancient Greece. The next 50+ pages describe how nothing at all happens during two years, which the scientists spend learning the language and customs of the utopian Martian society (utopias always tend to be boring, somehow). Eventually they go home with the intention to make Earth a better place to live, except Professor Frommherz who decides to stay on Mars for the rest of his life.

By now you have of course realized that embedded in the description of Martian society is also a description of their calendar. The following is quoted from pages 70-71 (translated from Swedish):

Already an entire year had passed since they had started their Mars voyage from the Cannstatter field. But while cold and snowy winter was now at hand in their home land, eternal spring reigned here in Lumata, yet the Martians also denoted the current time of year as the more advanced.

Was it coincidence alone that the seven men from Schwaben everywhere on Mars, too, in all important groupings found the number seven? Professor Stiller could not explain this surprising fact and was content to accept it.

On Mars the year was split into seven divisions, which each expressed the land's activities and rest. By Earth standards each such time division comprised of about fifty-two days. The periods were called:

  1. Time of awakening.

  2. Time of sowing.

  3. Time of budding and flowering.

  4. Time of fruit.

  5. Time of seed drying [uncertain translation].

  6. Time of harvest or rejoicing.

  7. Time of rest.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. The author does not even seem to know the length of the Martian year, yet other passages indicate that he is well aware of the differences of both rotation and orbit relative Earth. But even though this "calendar" is useless in itself it is definitely older than Burroughs' Mars books, so I suppose it has some historical significance.