Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Before Steven: Versions of The War of the Worlds

by William S. Kowinski

An earlier essay described the text and subtexts of H.G. Wells' '>novel, The War of the Worlds. After a few additional tidbits on the novel, a brief rundown of previous versions on film and on radio follows.

First, the novel...

"The War of the Worlds," first published in 1898, transformed two popular topics that had been building interest throughout the decade: Mars and invasions.

Observations of Mars with new telescopes led to sensational speculations, including the fabled canals that American astronomer Percival Lowell was sure would prove the existence of Martian civilization. In 1894, the astronomer M. Javelle of Nice reported "strange lights" on the Martian surface which might be signals. This prompted eminent inventors, including Marconi and Edison, to try to devise a way to signal back. Mars seized the popular imagination--- more than 50 novels concerning Mars and Martians were published during the 1890s.

At the same time, the ominous build-up of armies and the leaden threat of new forms of mechanized warfare inspired another series of popular novels, depicting one European nation invading another, beginning with Germany invading England in "'>The Battle of Dorking." Few of the Mars novels or the invasion novels have lasted, but Wells saw the potential of putting the ideas together, and creating something greater than the sum of its parts.

text continues after illustrations

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