Hi. This is really a history question. It seems not so long ago, people believed there were martians, little green men and all that sort of stuff, and naturally feared them. I want to know how popular this really was and was it more about a mix of other things, like red scare, the space race, and the kinds of science fiction or graphic novel that replaced earthly type enemies in the age of industry and World Wars with aliens?
It seems like in my childhood, the 1970s, martians were kind of like Santa Claus or the tooth fairy, or some other childhood character that seemed real until you grew out of it, fun for a cartoon but not real, while I have the notion that prior to reaching the moon (and how much earlier?), people thought of space as mysterious and full of mysterious life forms. Does alien speculation go very far back in history or occur with industrialization over the last century or so? If the former, in what ways does the speculation or ideation occur? I'm also not sure why people fixated on Mars particularly and none of the other named planets. Maybe the moon, but not after we checked it out. Seems like going ahead and checking it out makes everyone know stuff and not be afraid of the outer space bogeyman kidnapping them as a form of grocery shopping. Is this space alien fear (in the era of interest) more of a Western thing, a USAn thing, or what?
People still seem interested in life on Mars, now that we've been there in robot form, some kooks get the visit by the gray aliens, some conspiracy kooks still think Area 51 is something, the SETI watchers, or the panspermia or exogenesis thoughts, and at least a few of us consider scientifically that it's possible for life to exist elsewhere in the universe, while some of us have categorized aliens equally improbable (if I'm understanding correctly) as deities and the regular bullshit therein. Life in the universe is something people still obviously think about, but not like this whole era of Martians, that the kooks don't seem so marginalized to me as they are now, and more freely allowed to fear the worst.
TL;DR - Fear of Martians - when did it start and when did it sort of go away mostly?