of science fiction includes anti-gravity drives, disintegrator rays
and oxygen pills. While advocating more advanced views, it was three
years earlier than Honeymoon
It was published in 1898 as a serial in the New
Part of its significance is that it further shows that many of the
conventions of science fiction go back to the Victorians.
addition, there were other notions we consider modern: e.g.,
alien abductions and aliens building pyramids. Of course, there are
notions we would not be so comfortable with: racial superiority,
Aryans and Phrenology.
is strange is one marvel is absent, radio. We wonder why, like
Serviss said nothing about radio. There apparently was wireless
telegraphy by then. In fact, Testla had just succeeded in
transmitting radio waves thirty miles. Instead, the anti-gravity
ships communicate, like ships at sea then, by flag signaling.
addition, this novel had another purpose besides technological
wonders: Serviss wrote it to refute Wells’ War
of the Worlds,
and reassure the populace. It shows the superiority of the
Anglo-Saxon race even over the advanced Martians. It not only defeats
the Martians in war; the Martians are not all that different from
view popular in the 1890s was that humans were the height of reason.
The idea goes back to Christian Huygens, in the 17th Century.
For that reason, any intelligent extraterrestrial would have to be
humanoid. His skin might be a different color, as in Gustavus Pope’s
Journey to Mars (1894); but he was a human.
scoffed at this idea. He fashioned his Martians so that not only
their minds were far more rational but their bodies were far more
rationally designed. His Martians vaguely resembled octopuses.
ignores this because, I am sure, it had been one reason Wells’
novel had unsettled the populace. At first, it seems that the
Martians have evolved large heads. However, it turns out that is not
true. They have large heads because they have stimulated the portion
of the brain they needed. They did not even have to learn anything;
that part expanded with the knowledge already there. For some reason,
warriors, in particular, ended up with especially large heads.
short, Phrenology, on Mars, had become an exact science. As far as
Serviss was concerned, however, it was used in a wrongheaded manner.
Their large heads betrayed intellectual and moral imbalance.
Martians’ only real difference from us was, like in Pope’s
novel, because of the lower gravity. They were taller, maybe on
average 15 feet. The beings from the asteroids, in even lower
gravity, were taller still. Serviss speaks of a 40 foot woman from
many ways, Garrett P. Serviss was very much like George Griffith of
Honeymoon in Space. Both were journalists. Both wrote science
fiction. Neither one of them was good at characterization. Serviss
doesn’t even try. Also, both included all the latest ideas in
their books. Finally, both wrote melodramatically in the fashion of
there are differences. Garrett had a reputation for explaining
the science of his time to the masses. In addition, he was
apparently very well informed on it. His field of expertise was
astronomy, which he wrote five books on.
he frequently explains in this novel what, to us, is good science,
some of his technology, to us, is absurd. Maybe not for his time,
though. As I said in my review of Honeymoon, an anti-gravity drive
was considered feasible until the Theory of Relativity was
accepted. Also, many still thought there was something to Phrenology,
although not as many as earlier in the 19th Century. As for the
disintegrator ray, I gather it still remains theoretically
from the tone of the novel, I suspect Serviss wrote it to be a crowd
pleaser. It is an novel of action adventure and daring do, and the
practical remains unimportant. Certainly, a military mission
which all the great military and scientific minds of the time take
part in sounds more like a child’s fantasy than an adult’s
the nature of the novel, he may not have even been racist. In popular
fiction like this, writers who weren’t knew their audience
wanted racial slurs, and provided them. They sometimes went to as
much trouble to insert them as we do to avoid them.
addition, it helped that Serviss mentions so many big names. Since
this novel made Thomas Edison into the savior of Earth, it, of
course, had his approval.
commentator complained that it should have had the approval of H.G.
as well. Why? Despite its proclaimed objective, it has nothing
in common with War
of the Worlds.
beginning makes it sound very similar. The Martians, having
devastated the Earth, leave it.
unlike with Wells, the Earth is hardly helpless. Some Earth men
decide the Martians will return unless they can prevent it. Thomas
Edison is foremost among them. For a mission to Mars, he conjures up
the anti-gravity drive and a disintegrator ray.
developed these, he has the President convene a meeting of all the
nations. There we get ethnic stereotypes galore. In particular that
of the Kaiser, who is arrogant. He believes Germany should head the project because we Americans are Republican upstarts.
However, the German people force him to back down. Another stereotype
is that of the Chinese Emperor, who acts like a buffoon.
upshot is that the nations of the world promise $25 billion dollars
to finance an invasion of Mars. With the money Edison can test his
anti-gravity drive in outer space. When it is successful, he
goes for it.
has a hundred anti-gravity ships built, which will carry twenty crew
each. They are supposed to be more maneuverable than the Martians’.
However, given the close calls, they can’t be all that much
better. Earth is not always the victor in space battles with the
they are, as I said, manned by the top military and scientific minds
of the time. For example, Wihelm Roentgen is there, the inventor
of the X-ray; and Lord Kelvin, the great physicist, is there. I am
sure that the idea wasn’t that we lose them in one fell swoop.
This, as I said, is a kid’s idea of the world: they could only
word about Serviss. He never mentions himself by name; however, he
does refer to the narrator as”I”. He seems to be an
imbedded reporter, like the imbedded reporters of the Iraqi
War. Unlike today’s imbedded reporters, he helps out wherever
he can, and he is totally obedient to Thomas Edison.
are wonders galore in the trip to Mars. During their journey, they
find that the Moon was once inhabited. Later, they find a solid gold
wonder yet plays a big part in the plot. They eventually succeed in
landing on the Martian surface, entering a building and finding a
pretty Earth woman, whom the Martians keep to entertain them with her
music. She is the only one of her kind left. The Martians had other
Earth slaves killed when Edison’s men starting attacking them.
The Martians feared the slaves would betray them.
Earth force learns the woman’s language, and it turns out she
is a descendant of the original Aryans. Historically, they lived in Iran about 5,000 years ago and our language is derived from theirs. ...Or
did Serviss have them living in Egypt?
... In any event, the Martians had abducted a whole bunch of Aryans.
And built the pyramids and the Sphinx besides.
woman is a lucky find. The Earth force had captured a Martian and
they had been learning the Martian language from him; but he
dies. Instead, they use the woman to discover intelligence about
suggests to the Earth force how they can land a knockout blow. Like
Mars has oceans. Also, it has canals and there is a power house that
distributes water all over Mars. All this, in actuality, contradicts Percival She
suggests to the Earth force how they can land a knockout blow. Like
in Journey to Mars Lowell’s
theory of the Martian canals, which presupposed a dry Mars. However,
those who claimed oceans on Mars and those who claimed canals rarely
the woman proposes is to open the flood gates at the power house and
inundate Mars. Which, after a fight, an Earth team succeeds in doing.
Edison himself personally finds and uses the mechanism that controls
the flood gates.
there is still some fighting to come, the anti-gravity ships, this
time, live up to the claims made for them, and the Earth forces are
wildly successful. Ultimately, the Earth force takes the emperor of
Mars prisoner and dictates peace.