John Braine’s Messages from Mars is, according to Bleiler’s Science Fiction: The Early Years ‘a curiosity, but not without interesting moments’. A man shipwrecked on an undiscovered island finds plants which have lens leaves, so optically powerful that they have enabled communication between the island’s inhabitants and Mars. A description of Mars shows a mixture of utopian and dystopian features: after a disastrous war involving aircraft, poison gas and deadly microbes, the ‘Martial’ people have settled down to a semi-socialist civilisation, technologically in advance of earth. They live on a centrally-distributed elixir called Sardindrac, ruled by the most virtuous inhabitant (chosen by machine), and have abandoned speech in favour of colour-coded eye contact.
How much of this is seen in H G Wells’s The War of the Worlds?
While there is no evidence that H G Wells was aware of Messages from Mars there are a number of ideas which connect the two books: the gaze between the two planets, the use of a heat ray with which the islanders want to execute the narrator, the use of microscopic life forms as a weapon. Of these, the inter-planetary gaze is particularly noteworthy: at the beginning of The War of the Worlds Wells describes how Mars had been watching the earth, unknown by earth’s inhabitants, leading to the catastrophic contact between the two cultures. In the Martial civilisation in Braine’s story, after some dispute, gaze has become the actual means of communication.
- Article by:
- Iain Sinclair
- Visions of the future, Power and politics, Fin de siècle, London
Writer Iain Sinclair discusses how H G Wells’s The War of the Worlds disturbed the public by combining journalistic sensationalism, scientific fantasy, suburban mundanity and fears of invasion.
- Article by:
- Marcus Waithe
- Visions of the future
In News from Nowhere, William Morris imagines a utopian future in which money, ‘wage slavery’ and marriage have been abolished. Dr Marcus Waithe explores the origins of this iconic socialist work.