Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy is one of the most important books about terraforming (and interplanetary colonization) of the past 20 years. And Robinson spent 10 years working on it, learning a lot about the subject as he went. But it all started becuase he fantasized about going backpacking on Mars.
Over in Kirkus Reviews, io9 contributor Andrew Liptak has a great profile of Robinson, who grew up exploring the Sierra Nevada mountains. And there's a terrific nugget about the origins of the Mars trilogy. Liptak writes:
Robinson was first inspired by images sent back to Earth from the Viking program: "I knew when I saw the photos from the Viking Orbiter, which included stereoscopic 3-D photo pairs where you could see what the landscape might look like, somewhat like early primitive versions of Google Earth. These were NASA publications that came out in the late 1970s." Robinson's love for hiking the Sierra Nevadas came into play when he began writing science fiction, and he "realized that only by terraforming Mars could you actually backpack there; and there were scientific articles coming out about terraforming Mars in those years, so I paid attention to those, and thought that would be a good story to tell. I spent about ten years thinking about that and collecting research materials."
There's more — including how the Mars trilogy was originally planned as just one very, very long novel — at the link. [Kirkus]