03 March 2014

The War Of The Worlds & HG Wells

I've noticed that it is not always true when a book states
'Any resemblance to actual events or
locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental'

To name a few, authors Jane Austin and Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes)
cleverly wove locations, current events, and local characters into their stories
which would have been identified by their contemporary readers

H.G. Wells was no exception

via Amazon

Imagine my delight when I discovered that in 1897
Martians roamed past 'my' local craft store in Woking, Surrey
in 'The War Of The Worlds' by H.G. Wells

The storyline of the book is
Martians arrive in spacecrafts outside London and
use heat rays and poisonous gas to destroy anything and anyone in their path
as they make their way toward the capital city

The reader can follow the narrator's journey
through Woking to Leatherhead, Weybridge, and Walton
The routes haven't changed much in a hundred years!
(H.G. Wells was a keen cyclist and knew the roads well)

The house Wells rented during his short stay in Woking

Although Wells only resided in Woking for 15 months,
it is where he wrote 'The War Of The Worlds' and wrote most prolifically 
(7000 words a day versus his typical 1000 words)

At the time, Woking was a 'cemetery town'
meaning it was where Londoners were laid to rest
due to a lack of burial space in London
(and still is)

The street H.G. Wells lived on

Victorian England was concerned about a military invasion
by Germany and/or France

'She seemed, poor woman, to imagine that 
the French and the Martians might prove very similar. 
She had been growing increasingly hysterical, fearful, and depressed.'

The British people felt the military force at home was weak and vulnerable
while the British Empire was expanding its tendrils abroad

I believe Wells questioned the actions of the Empire
a few times in his sci-fi novel

'Surely, if we have learned nothing else, this war has taught us pity - 
pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion'

tensions were mounting between European imperial powers
as World War I loomed in the near future
(Wells foreshadowed the use of poisonous gas and flying machines in war)

Society also was concerned about refugees
flooding the country from Ireland and Eastern Europe

An 'alien' was anyone born out of
'faith and allegiance of the king of England'

The initial Martian landing was in Horsell Common
'...not far from the sand pits. An enormous hole had been made
by the impact of the projectile, and the sand and gravel had been flung violently
in every direction over the heath'

Popular culture was fascinated with Mars
as modern telescopes were seeing new lines on the planet 
that could have been water canals built by Martians,
they theorized

So the Victorian fears of foreign invasion, 
'aliens' coming to England,
and the fascination of Mars
all culminated into the storyline 
of 'The War Of The Worlds'

H.G. Wells received clarity of his plot
as he walked Horsell Common
which he could see from his house

Alien statue in Woking to commemorate
'The War Of The Worlds'
via Wikipedia

With the help of Wells and lesser known authors,
Surrey became the 'cradle of science fiction'

and Wells became the pioneer of 'alien invasion literature'

My, how classic literature comes alive when you know the backstory
and can walk the real settings of a novel

Just had to share!

- photos by me unless otherwise noted -

Lecture by Prof Peter Beck, walking tour by Iain Wakeford, Wikipedia


Vintage Sheet Addict said...

I love this movie, the old version the best but quite enjoyed the latest version too, thanks as always for those amazing bits of information you send our way! :) x

YONKS said...

Well I never knew any of this, thanks for the education. I love the book and subsequent movies. Great :-)

WinnibriggsHouse said...

I have to admit rather shamefacedly that I have neither seen nor read War of the Worlds. But your post has intrigued me and I may yet venture into unknown territory. Thank you for sharing.

Patricia said...

I have to tell you again, how very much I enjoy this blog....Always interesting, informative and fun too! I LOVE your photos, and the information you give us is wonderful - keep up the fantastic writing ! and thank you !

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Aww, thanks Patricia!

Tanya said...

This is in my neck of the woods, and I only recently discovered what the silver sculpture in the Woking town center was paying tribute to. I felt a little clueless! Your post helped explain it all. :)

Privet and Holly said...

How wonderful to
walk the land of
literary greats! Fun
to see the very modern
looking sculpture in
a town that looks
quite traditional : )

Happy Monday,
xo Suzanne

Tammy Chrzan said...

I actually have a friend that lives in Woking so I did know all of this, but I love that you blogged about it. If we stuck to just the Hollywood versions we would think that the Martians were taking over America first! Your pictures never disappoint though and I have always enjoyed seeing your photography.
Much love and I Hope you're having a fantastic week!

Sissym Mascarenhas said...

Dear Laura,

He was fantastic. Because he took as inspiration to create fiction the actual facts of a very tense moment in the life of many people because of World War I.


Janey and Co. said...

I am always delighted to see that you have posted again...and you never disappoint!

Tammy@T's Daily Treasures said...

Very interesting! There's always a back story, we just don't always know what it is. Thanks for sharing! :) Tammy

Tony Kremer said...

So glad you are enthused by Wells and the War of the Worlds. Peter Beck and I are working on something that would really interest you I think... could you email me on Chair@wanw.org.uk?