Over six years ago (4th May 2010 to be precise) I published what I modestly considered to be the most wonderful, contrived pun of my life.
As I recall, I thought of it during an interminable “your feet are killing me” shopping session with Faith in the Ladies Footwear Department of the John Lewis store in Peterborough, and I believe it was inspired by then current news stories concerning who would be called to give evidence to Sir John Chilcott in his enquiry into the causes of the Iraq War that began in 2003.
When I published this piece reactions varied.
My old school chum in Thailand raved about it, said it was the best thing I had ever written and urged me to get it published professionally.
My dear wife got wrapped up in the summary of the book contained therein and urged me to write THAT story.
A Mensa friend for whose blog I also wrote stuff around that time “got it” while actually in the middle of a comment advising that he “didn’t get it”!
And then there was my elder Daughter who missed the point completely on account of having spent the years of the Iraq invasion at University studying to hate Michael Gove (i.e. becoming a Teacher) and partaking of lots of fizzy Italian wine! How times change – in my day the students would have been out fighting the riot police over something like that rather than getting pissed on Lambrini!
Everyone else who read it kept their thoughts about it decently hidden.
Just this week, however, Good Sir John has published his 2.6 million word “report on the bleedin’ obvious” (goodness, his typing fingers must be sore!) and the whole thing about why Tony Blair felt we had to go to war has come to the fore again.
So, in the hope that some of the readers who wondered what I was on about the first time (and any who haven’t seen it before) can now appreciate fully my brilliant wordplay, I present once more for your amusement and with no more shame that I had the first time:
Something REALLY exciting happened today!
I was working on another article in my study this morning when, without any warning at all, a swirling bright blue vortex of energy a bit like a tiny horizontal tornado appeared over near the bookshelves! It was no more than six inches in diameter and as I could see another older-looking room through it I immediately deduced that it was a hyperspacial gateway to an alternate reality probably with some displacement on the time axis!
Before I could observe any other pertinent facts it began to emit a strange electrical crackling sound.
Suddenly an envelope shot through and fluttered to the floor causing me to take my eyes off the vortex which promptly disappeared!
The envelope (which was unsealed) was addressed to “W. Heinemann” in a VERY old fashioned hand and as it plainly wasn’t going to reach its intended recipient now I naturally opened it. Well, wouldn’t you?
There were two sheets of paper inside; the first was a letter, the second I’ll come to later.
As soon as I saw that it was signed “Herbert George Wells” I knew at once that here was something to arouse my Science Fiction enthusiasm because it was plainly a letter to his publisher William Heinemann. Here is what the letter said:
“My dear Heinemann,
I am extraordinarily gratified at the way “The War of the Worlds” has been received by the readers of Great Britain and, indeed, the world. So much so that I now wish to offer to you a synopsis of my ideas for a further book to continue the story. I hope that you will indulge me in this and will look with favour upon it.
My tale begins some two years after the fortuitous defeat of the Martians by our earthly diseases. Mankind has pulled itself together into a collective of nations held together largely by fear and the knowledge that the greater part of the Martian race still exists and continues to look covetously towards our world.
Our magnificent scientists, working in the knowledge that only one of our races can survive, have created a new explosive sufficiently powerful to propel a massive artillery shell towards Mars at the almost unbelievable speed of SIXTY MILLION miles per hour. The momentum of such a shell when aimed correctly would blast our neighbouring world to dust and, obviously, would need an enormous cannon to send it on its way.
Such a cannon has been built into a mountain on the eastern borders of Canada and its southern neighbour; a mountain that has first to be leased at great expense from one of the great native tribes to whom it is sacred.
I will, my friend, say no more of the story at this stage, save that if the artillery is to be fired it must be while Mars is at its closest distance of under fifty million miles and that this will occur during the present year of our lord 1900.
I hope that I have engaged your interest sufficiently that you will wish to publish and that you will also give consideration to the sheet that I enclose herewith. This contains a suggested mock newspaper headline that I believe we might use to publicise the eventual printing of the book.
I look forward to hearing your impressions on this and remain,
Yours most sincerely
Herbert George Wells”
I have since looked into some of the points that this remarkable letter raises and while Victorian science takes a large amount of “science” to extremes that our Physics does not allow, the astronomical facts are correct – in 1900 Mars WAS at a very close forty five million miles from us.
The high speed cannon would certainly NOT have worked! It would probably have vaporised the holy mountain and the friendly tribe that owned it!
In our world no such sequel to “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells was ever published by William Heinemann or any other publisher but of course we cannot know whether it found popularity in the alternate reality from which the letter came.
What we DO know is that we were mercifully spared Mr Wells’ early effort at advertising “hype”.
I mean to say, WHO, whether in their right mind or not, would give any credence WHATSOEVER to a newspaper headline that stated:
“Iroquois supergun! Delivers Weapons of Mars Destruction in 45 minutes!”