“H. G. Wells was a novelist, journalist, sociologist and historian best known for his science fiction novels such as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds. From humble beginnings, he endured financial hardship and illness as a child, finding solace in reading and learning. Drawn into the world of science, he went on to both amaze and unsettle the world with his uncannily accurate predictions of how the world might look in the future.
“His ability to make science fiction believable brought his work and the genre to a whole new audience, earning him nicknames such as the ‘father of science fiction’. Nominated four times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, his influence extends far beyond the literary world and into modern society, where he has even had an impact crater on Mars named after him.
“Seventy-five years on from his death, we’re celebrating the imagination and enquiring mind of a man who helped shaped the world we live in. Chris Costello’s reverse design focuses on iconic images from Wells’ work, including The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man.”
What’s Wrong with This Amazing Honor?
It is unlikely that the artist who was hired for this honor had ever read the original work of the War of the Worlds, nor heard the radio play, the traumatizing portrayal which even caused people to believe this was an actual event – nor seen any of a dozen different productions regarding this story for the last hundred years.
I can say such a bold thing because of the fact the word tripod appears eight times in War of the World. Each of the uses is talking about the alien machines of the Martians, not a stool in an office, or a tiny chair used by milkmaids to acquire their requisite namesake. It was used to describe only one thing. The one thing which appears on this commemorative coin showcasing one of Wells most singular works, with artwork which was not representative of this singular defining element.
Could the person who approve this project be held to the same standard? Yes. Because all they had to do was read the two works being showcased, or talk to a real fan who would have told you that this was the paragraph to use to describe the great war machines of the Martians.
“And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it?
“A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder.
“A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? That was the impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand.”
“You are the first men I’ve seen coming this way this morning,” said the lieutenant. “What’s brewing?”
His voice and face were eager. The men behind him stared curiously. The artilleryman jumped down the bank into the road and saluted.
“Gun destroyed last night, sir. Have been hiding. Trying to rejoin battery, sir. You’ll come in sight of the Martians, I expect, about half a mile along this road.”
“What the dickens are they like?” asked the lieutenant.
“Giants in armour, sir. Hundred feet high. Three legs and a body like ’luminium, with a mighty great head in a hood, sir.”
Ironically, I don’t think Wells would mind. The very nature of his prank which terrified thousands would be just the kind of thing, which presented the idea people couldn’t be sure what happened and that an artist would misrepresent his work would be just the kind of thing he might laugh at – the terrifying laugh of a psychotic made invisible and quite mad, someone who might hold a grudge if you caught him on a bad day …
We salute you HG Wells. Your madness was just another Tuesday for us. That is the best kind of terror imaginable, one which becomes commonplace and more horrifying for its ubiquity. The day the aliens arrive on Earth will likely resemble your invasion in every meaningful way.
Without the happy ending …
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.