“Edison’s conquest of Mars” by Garrett Putman Serviss
Serialized in the New York Evening Journal from January 12 to February 10 1898. Published in hardback in 1947.
dison’s Conquest of Mars is a serialized novel that first appeared in the New York Evening Journal in 1898.
The story is basically an unauthorized sequel to an equally unauthorized and heavily altered version of H.G. Wells “The War of the Worlds”, called “Fighters from Mars” that appeared in a Boston newspaper the previous year.
In this retelling of “The War of the Worlds” it doesn’t have vast cool unsympathetic intelligent blood drinking tentacled Martians invading England for the purpose of making important social commentary.
(The unnamed narrator of the War of the Worlds flees before the embodiment of Social Darwinism that forces him to confronting the inevitable Marxist clash of classes that leads to the development of the Eloi and Morlocks in 802,701 A.D.)
No, this version has giant bug eyed hydrocephalic humanoid Martians invading America.
Little knowing they’ve opened a big old can of whoopass in the form of one Thomas Alva Edison
(A consultation in Wizard Edison’s laboratory between him and Professor Serviss on the best means of repaying the damage wrought upon this planet by the Martians)
The author, Garrett Putman Serviss, was a graduate of Cornell and earned a law degree from Columbia University. Instead of practicing law though he went into journalism. As a journalist he published numerous popular science articles on the latest development in 19th Century Science. Like his fellow Cornell graduate Carl Sagan, he had a talent for explaining scientific concepts and discoveries in terms the lay public could understand. He wrote articles for Scientific American, The Cosmopolitan, and Popular Science Monthly. In 1894, with a grant from Andrew Carnegie, he spent two years traveling across the United State delivering the Urania Astronomical Society of Berlin lectures on astronomy for an American audience. Using then state of the art special effects of matte paintings and planetary models he demonstrated eclipses, lunar landscapes and celestial view from non-terrestrial perspectives.
He also helped in the design of the Barritt-Serviss Star and Planet Finder.
Later in life, in the 1920’s, he was a consultant with the Max Fleischer Studios (famous for the Betty Boop and Superman animated cartoons) in making an animated short film illustrating Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nb7GzyUemO0
(NOT Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.)
Anyway, back to Thomas Edison kicking Martian butt.
The story is written in the sensationalistic style popularized by the yellow journalism pioneered by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hurst at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. The story is also a virtual Who’s Who of 19th century science.
In the aftermath of the Martians succumbing to the effects of pernicious earthly bacteria. Professor E.E Barnard, watching Mars with his forty-inch telescope, saw a sudden outburst of reddish light. Other astronomers soon announced from their observatories that strange lights were visible, moving and flashing upon the red surface of the Planet of War. These mysterious appearances could only be interpreted in the light of past experience to mean that the Martians were preparing for another invasion of the earth, and who could doubt that with the invincible powers of destruction at their command they would this time make their work complete and final?
In response to this threat, dauntless men of science immediately sprang into action. Conspicuous among them were Lord Kelvin, the great English savant; Herr Roentgen, the discoverer of the famous X ray; Dr. Henri Moissan creator of artificial diamonds and specialist in fluorine compounds; Lord Rayleigh, discoverer of Argon and Rayleigh scattering; and especially Thomas A. Edison, the American genius of science. As with all things Edisonian, Nicola Tesla was not to be mentioned. These men and others had examined with the utmost care the engines of war, the flying machines, the generators of mysterious destructive forces that the Martians had produced, with the object of discovering, if possible, the sources of their power.
New technological developments quickly followed. In short order almost every science fiction cliché we know and love today was brought into being.
Spaceships propelled by magnetic/electrostatic forces soon make a quick test flight to the Moon.
I had myself been one of the occupants of the car of the flying Ship of Space on that night, when it silently left the earth, and rising out of the great shadow of the globe, sped on to the moon.
I had the good fortune to be present when this powerful engine of destruction was submitted to its first test. We looked about for some object on which to try its powers. On a bare limb of a tree not far away, for it was late in the Fall, sat a disconsolate crow. “Good,” said Mr. Edison, “that will do.” He touched a button at the side of the instrument and a soft, whirring noise was heard.
“Feathers,” said Mr. Edison, “have a vibration period of three hundred and eighty-six million per second.”
He adjusted the index as he spoke. Then, through a sighting tube, he aimed at the bird.
Another soft whirr in the instrument, a momentary flash of light close around it, and, behold, the crow had turned from black to white!
“Its feathers are gone,” said the inventor; “they have been dissipated into their constituent atoms. Now, we will finish the crow.”
Mankind joined together in the Universal Brotherhood of Revenge.
There was no enmity, and no fear between them… They were now, in spirit, all one fleet, having one object, bearing against one enemy, ready to defend but one country, and that country was the entire earth.
Airtight space suits
(Please resist making rubber fetish comments.)
The ever present danger of meteors to spacecraft.
Through this the meteor had passed, killing two or three men who stood in its course.
The Mars of Percival Lowell
We were approaching the southern hemisphere of Mars in about latitude 45 degrees south. Around the South Pole were spread immense fields of snow and ice, gleaming with great brilliance. Cutting deep into the borders of these ice fields, we could see broad channels of open water, indicating the rapid breaking of the grip of the frost. Almost directly beneath us was a broad oval region, light red in color, to which terrestrial astronomers had given the name of Hellas. Toward the south, between Hellas and the borders of the polar ice, was a great belt of darkness that astronomers had always been inclined to regard as a sea. Looking toward the north, we could perceive the immense red expanses of the continents of Mars, with the long curved line of the Syrtis Major, or “The Hour Glass Sea,” sweeping through the midst of them toward the north until it disappeared under the horizon.
Crossing and recrossing the red continents, in every direction, were the canals of Schiaparelli
In the middle of the great floor, holding the instrument delicately poised, and still awaking its ravishing voice, stood a figure, the sight of which almost stopped my breath! It was a slender sylph of a girl! A girl of my own race; a human being here on Mars!
The occasional act of genocide.
Now that we had let the awful destroyer loose we almost shrank from the thought of the consequences which we had produced. How many millions would perish as the result of our deed we could not even guess. Many of the victims, so far as we knew, might be entirely innocent of enmity toward us, or of the evil which had been done to our native planet. But this was a case in which the good—if they existed—must suffer with the bad on account of the wicked deeds of the latter.
Standing on the apex of a sandy elevation, which still rose a few feet above the gathering flood, was the figure of a woman, as perfect in form and in classic beauty of feature as the Venus of Milo—a magnified human being not less than forty feet in height!
“It is the woman from Ceres. She was taken prisoner by the Martians during their last invasion of that world, and since then has been a slave in the palace of the Emperor.”
Apparently her great stature had enabled her to escape, while her masters had been drowned. She had fled like the others, toward the south, but being finally surrounded by the rising waters, had taken refuge on the hillock of sand, where we saw her. This was fast giving way under the assault of the waves, and even while we watched the water rose to her knees. suddenly the undermined bank on which she stood gave way, the blood-red flood swirled in from right to left, and then The waters closed above her face with many a ring.
“If but for that woman’s sake, I am sorry we drowned the planet,”
It was a golden age of science fiction. That golden age being when you are thirteen.
Public domain free versions of Edison’s conquest of Mars. New York Evening Journal, Jan. 12-Feb. 10, 1898. can be found here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19141/19141-h/19141-h.htm
The 1947 hardback printing can be found here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21670/21670-h/21670-h.htm
Other works by Garrett Putman Serviss can be found here:
His “The Second Deluge” is interesting despite the fact it shares a similar theme as that crappy Roland Emmerich movie “2012”.