Edison’s Conquest of Mars by Garrett P Serviss, 1898
Once again the kids over at Cracked have published a great article. This time focusing on how the “hack” Garrett P Serviss invented some classic Sci Fi ideas, all in his 1898 book Edison’s Conquest of Mars.
Read the Cracked article here:
Read all of Edison’s Conquest of Mars at Project Gutenberg:
Summation of the novel from wikipedia:
Edison’s Conquest of Mars, by Garrett P. Serviss, is one of the many science fiction novels published in the 19th century. Although science fiction was not at the time thought of as a distinct literary genre, it was a very popular literary form, with almost every fiction magazine regularly publishing science fiction stories and novels. Edison’s Conquest of Mars was published in 1898 intended to be a sequel to Fighters from Mars, an unauthorized and heavily altered version of H. G. Wells‘s The War of the Worlds, but did not achieve the fame of its predecessor. Serviss wrote himself into the story as a professor that Edison consults.
The book was endorsed by Thomas Edison, the hero of the book, though not by Wells. The themes and messages of Serviss’s book are diametrically opposed to Wells’s original. In it, Edison travels to Mars, his inventions (including the disintegrator ray) allow an Earth spacefleet to destroy the Martians’ ability to make war after several exciting battles. There are ship-to-ship battles, and battles between Earth ships and Martian ground forts. This was perhaps the first space opera, although the term did not yet exist; it was perhaps the most literal of the Edisonades.
In the story, communication between spacemen in space needs a wire to be passed between them; spaceships communicate by flags or lights. Although the story was published in 1898 during the early real experiments in radio, it contains no concept of radio.
Besides Edison and Serviss, Edward Emerson Barnard, Lord Kelvin, Wilhelm Röntgen, and Silvanus P. Thompson are all depicted as being involved in building the invasion fleet and its technology. A number of heads of state also appear, including William McKinley and Queen Victoria. Wilhelm II and Mutsuhito are depicted as being treacherous schemers attempting to put their own power ahead of the good of the human race, while the Guangxu Emperor of China is depicted as a child-like stereotype.
The book contains some notable “firsts” in science fiction: alien abductions, spacesuits (called “air-tight suits”: see Spacesuits in fiction), aliens building the Pyramids, space battles, oxygen pills, asteroid mining and disintegrator rays.”
The flying machine had been seen by many persons, hovering by night high above the Orange Hills and disappearing in the faint starlight.
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.
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.
Another soft whirr in the instrument, a momentary flash of light close around it, and, behold, the crow had turned from black to white!
Only a soft whirr, that seemed to pervade everything and to tingle in the nerves of the spectators, and—what had been was not! The wall was gone!
“Will Mr. Edison please step forward?” said the President. There was a stir in the assembly, and the iron gray head of the great inventor was seen moving through the crowd. In his hand he carried one of his marvellous disintegrators.
The Departure of the Flying Ships on Their Marvellous Errand to Mars.
It was a wonderful scene. The polished sides of the huge floating cars sparkled in the sunlight, and, as they slowly rose and fell, and swung this way and that, upon the tides of the air, as if held by invisible cables, the brilliant pennons streaming from their peaks waved up and down like the the wings of an assemblage of gigantic humming birds.
The Air-Tight Suit.
The device employed by the earth’s warriors when they reached a point beyond the atmosphere of this planet.
A Strange Light.
The other electrical ships appeared as half ships, only the illuminated sides being visible.
Approaching the Great Asteroid.
It altered from the aspect of a star, underwent a gradual magnification, and soon presented itself in the form of a little planet.
As we got near them a terrible scene unfolded itself. Two of the Martians were stretched headless upon the ground. Three others had suffered horrible injuries, and only one remained unhurt.
“I am going to step off,” I suddenly said to Lord Kelvin.
Actually, it was a book that the prisoner produced, and then he proceeded to teach us, as well as he could, several words of his language.