H. G. Wells and Beyond

(Printed as "H. G. Wells" in the October3, 2012, issue of the Warsaw Times Union

Dear Editor,

I read with great interest and enjoyment the column about H. G. Wells and his contributions to science fiction in the September 21, 2012, issue of the Times Union. Wells lived long enough to see some of his novels made into movies, like The Invisible Man and The Island of Dr. Moreau (i.e. The Island of Lost Souls). Wells even foretold about the atomic bomb in his novel The World Set Free. Wells not only directly influenced science fiction, he indirectly influenced it by inspiring other writers.

The article describes the novel The War of the Worlds as H. G. Wells’ "master work." Other writers have been inspired to write their own versions of the Martian invasion, from Orson Welles’ radio broadcast to movie and television shows. Other characters have been added to the events from Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger to John Carter and Superman. But the most influential of these derived works was the unauthorized sequel Edison’s Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss, written in 1898, the same year Wells published his original novel.

Edison’s Conquest of Mars opens with the earth recovering from the Martian invasion. People begin to fear a second invasion when they see strange lights and sights in the sky at night. But the truth comes out that Thomas Edison – the Wizard of Menlo Park – and the world’s leading scientists have backward engineered and improved the Martian technology. The Martian flying machines Wells mentioned in his novel were turned into "ships of space." Serviss’ novel foretells for the first time space suits, ray guns, and space walking. I do not want to give away more details but Serviss pioneered science fiction tropes later seen in such works as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers to Star Wars and Star Gate. I first saw an article about Edison’s Conquest of Mars a couple of weeks ago at www.cracked.com. The novel is available on line at gutenborg.org. Thanks for your continued influence, Mr. Wells.


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