Wells, Welles, wells

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched…

So begins The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. But some did believe it 75 years ago on Halloween in 1938. Orson Welles’ fake radio news report based on the novel panicked many people into thinking it was a real invasion, if not by the Martians then by the Germans. The broadcast remains scarily realistic (listen to a clip here). It made Welles famous, and even Hitler referred to the hoax, calling it an example of ‘the decadence of democracy’.  H.G.Wells once met Orson Welles and recorded a nicely understated interview.  The novel is one of the most influential of all sci-fi stories although it displays the some of the racist attitudes of its time (1898). It gave the world its extraterrestrial consciousness and opened narrative wells that have produced a host of alien stories. And the existence of alien life seems more than likely amongst the billions of ‘Goldilocks’ (suitable) planets, stars and galaxies.

Picture by Alvim Corréa, 1906 edition.

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