Oh dear, this is getting confusing!
Let me explain.
Back in May 2010 in the very early days of this Blog (although at the time it seemed like I’d been doing it FOREVER) a brilliant pun occurred to me and I worked backwards from the punchline to the story as originally published. If you wish to read it in all it’s original glory, just go to the “Archives” heading in the right-hand column near the top of this page, select “May 2010” and scroll down to the post dated 4th May and headed “The Sequel”.
The event that inspired it then was the setting up of the Committee of Inquiry into the causes of the Iraq War of 2003 – commonly known as “the Chilcott Inquiry” after its Chairman, Sir John Chilcott.
After a masterly display of delay and prevarication by the politicians then in power the results of that inquiry were finally published in the summer of 2016 and I thought the time was ripe for resurrecting the piece. I added some additional information about how the original had been received (“mixed messages” is probably the nicest way to put it) and hoped that a few more people would finally “get” my twisting of the Iraq War justifications into dazzling wordplay. This time I would categorise the response as “underwhelming”! That version can be found in the July 2016 Archive if you’re interested.
So why, you are probably thinking (knowing, with a sinking feeling, that it is about to be reprinted yet again), is the article not being allowed to rest in peace for all time?
Well that’s not my fault!
Peterborough Central Library recently reorganised its shelving and the Science Fiction section, which used to be in an out of the way corner, has been re-positioned to right outside the door to the back office where I go to sign in before my volunteering sessions- which means it is far easier for me to scan through while I wait for someone to answer my knock and let me in.
And one of the things that caught my eye this morning was a paperback book showing on its cover a picture of the traditional image of a Martian Fighting Machine from “The War of the Worlds”. It was not, I was surprised to see, the original tale but a sequel (apparently authorised by the H.G.Wells Estate) entitled “The Massacre of Mankind” by well known British Sci-fi author Stephen Baxter.
I have not read it yet (although I suppose that it is incumbent upon me to do so in the circumstances) but just thumbed through it while waiting at the office door. In that short time one short sentence imprinted itself on my memory! It was this: “The cannon was never fired”.
Now if you have taken note of my earlier hints and read my original post for yourself you will understand why I am now wondering whether the worthy Mr Baxter has actually been exposed to my 2010 musings. It would be interesting to know whether he experienced the “bright blue vortex” and a printed copy of “The Sequel” falling through into HIS study.
So here it is again in case you couldn’t be bothered to go to the Archives but mainly because I am so proud of it that I want to keep showing it to you!
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!”