This is an updated post that was originally published in 2013, here on Amazing Stories.
There’s no better science fictional realization of the spirit of Halloween than Wells’ War of the Worlds, goblins, ghoulies, ghosties and things that go bump in the night (like Martian cylinders landing) indeed!
The anniversaries represent the original date of publication of Wells’ novel; its subsequent serialization in Amazing Stories and Orson Welles’ radio broadcast.
In 1898 Herbert George Wells unleashed the first otherworldly invasion upon an unsuspecting, complacent world.
His own words still remain the best introduction to the subject:
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
It’s a fantastic novel, one that rests firmly in the canon of scientific romances that provide science fiction’s underpinnings.
If you’ve never read it, you can do so here (it’s a quick read).
Such is our fascination with this seminal work that it has remained present in our media consciousness almost continuously since its publication.
Amazing Stories published the novel in 1927.
Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater presented it as a radio play in 1938 – panicking large swaths of the country.
You can listen to the broadcast here
A movie was made in 1953, produced by the great George Pal (who has given us many great science fiction films), which can be found at many online outlets
A fantastic musical arrangement by Jeff Wayne in 1978:
You can listen to it here. (Richard Burton narrates.)
A television series in 1988 (watch a promo video here)
And several other movie treatments (none all that really good) from 2005 on:
A new take, the first from the BBC (odd, considering Wells’ origins and the setting of the story itself) began broadcast in early October of this year as a three part television series.
We’ve been fascinated by this work for so long, and in so many ways, I almost believe we’re kind of hoping that something like it actually happens. Hey – it’s Halloween. Maybe it will.