Edisons Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss

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Edisons Conquest of Mars Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Edisons Conquest of Mars was written in a hurry, beginning daily serialization in William Randolph Hearsts The New York Evening Journal immediately after the conclusion of The War of the Worlds was published in serial form. The speed of its production shows in its crudely contrived plot and its excruciatingly rough-hewn prose style, but it is an interesting work despite these faults.

Garrett P. Serviss was a leading American popularizer of science, and in his capacity as a science correspondent for the Hearst papers he had conducted a series of interviews with leading men of science, some of whom appear in the novel. He was the obvious man for Hearst or his local representative to turn to once the idea of spinning out Wellss story in a sensational sequel had been conceived. The insertion of real people into the plot enhanced its “news value” in a fashion pioneered by such legendary circulation boosters as Richard Adams Locke’s “moon hoax”, which in 1835 had described for the readers of The New York Sun telescopic discoveries allegedly made by Sir John Herschel. Hearst and his editors undoubtedly knew that the British newspaper magnates C. Arthur Pearson and Alfred Harmsworth were attempting to boost the circulation of some of their titles by printing extravagant serial stories of imaginary wars, often awarding significant minor roles to real politicians and military men.

Edison already was the star player in a burgeoning American mythology of technological cornucopia. Although World War I had not yet destroyed Europes hold on the economic heart of the world, Americans already considered their nation to be the cutting edge of progress, by virtue of its pioneering spirit. Edison was a frontiersman of science, boldly devising what no man had devised before. What American editor could resist the notion that although poor, decadent Britain had crumbled before the Martian assault, America had the will, the intelligence, and the qualities of natural leadership required for a spirited counteroffensive?

Serviss is generously cosmopolitan in assembling the team of scientists who provide the expedition with its intellectual teeth. Moissan was a Frenchman who later won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of fluorine, and Kelvin was the most distinguished English physicist of his day.

By virtue of its publication in an ephemeral medium, Edisons...

(The entire section is 584 words.)