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War of the Worlds Invasion: The Historical Perspective

This website is pretty extensive, with overview pages on the books (the original, the sequels, and adaptations, even some non-fiction about the story), the comic books, the movies, the radio adaptations, etc. And then there is a whole page for each individual work. A really excellent resource.

FAQ for The War of the Worlds

If you didn't have Shmoop's guide to help you, this other website would provide you with some of what you'd need to get you through some hard parts. For instance, especially useful are the pages on the timeline of The War of the Worlds and an essay on the difficulty of actually knowing when this novel is set. There's also some fine work on the plot and the themes. Bravo!

Study Guide for The War of the Worlds

This is mostly a collection of thought-provoking questions that you might use to start yourself off in writing an essay. Or to try to stump a teacher. While we think our questions are better, these might be useful.

The Complete War of the Worlds Website

It might not actually be complete, and it seems to give short shrift to the H.G. Wells original, but this site does have some info on other versions of The War of the Worlds, particularly the Welles radio adaptation (see "Audios") and various comics inspired by the book.

The War of the Worlds Book Cover Collection

A collection of 397 different book covers for <em>The War of the Worlds</em>, from 1898 to 2010, and from all over the world. This excellent website allows you to sort the covers by year or by element or by language. (In case you're wondering, it looks like tripods are the most popular image for covers.)

Victorians

Check out this great BBC website to learn more about the historical context surrounding Wells' War of the Worlds.

Victorians and Science

Check out the VictorianWeb for some scholarly articles on Victorian-era England and science. There's even a full section on technology.

Movie or TV Productions

The War of the Worlds (1953)

Let's be honest: if you watch a movie from the 1950s, you're probably not going to be astounded by the special effects. And this movie makes some serious changes from the book. For one thing, it takes place in California. For another, it features a love story. But in all honesty, it's a fair movie version and many of the changes are pretty standard. In fact, most versions update the story to the storyteller's own place and time, and adding a love story is jus the usual for a Hollywood movie. However, this movie version also (for some reason) changes the ridiculous curate into a heroic pastor and trades in the tripods for flying machines, which we think are unforgivable changes. Sigh.

The Night That Panicked America (1975)

We said that the Orson Welles adaptation of The War of the Worlds from 1938 was big news. Here's the proof: they made a movie about it.

The War of the Worlds (2005)

There were actually three film versions of The War of the Worlds in 2005, but the version by Spielberg is the only one we really care about. (If you want to see why, here's a review of one of the other versions, which is very clear about how terrible it is.) As with most adaptations, Spielberg's is updated. In this version, the Martian invasion of 2005 takes place in – of all places – New Jersey). There's also a change in focus, because who really wants to follow around a narrator who is so moody? Instead of the 1953 version's focus on a love story, this version adds a family issue that is totally outside of the book. Also, instead of eating blood, the Martians seem to spray it over the landscape, which is very confusing. But aside from those few gigantic changes, it keeps pretty close to the book, including some of its narration.

Historical Documents

Complete Text of The War of the Worlds

It can be hard to read books online (our eyes get tired sometimes), but having the whole text in an electronic format makes it a cinch to look things up. You could, for instance, easily count how many times the phrase "Black Smoke" is used. (The answer is 25, of which seven are regular references to smoke and eighteen are references to the Martians' chemical weapon.) Now, having an electronic version makes it easier to look up info like that, but you still have to do some analysis. You know, what does it mean that "Black Smoke" gets mentioned so many times? Or that "Heat-Ray" gets 40 mentions?

Time Magazine Article on the Welles Radio Adaptation

This article is from November 7, 1938, about one week after Orson Welles' radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds. They talk about the ridiculous ensuing panic.

Time Article on Princeton Panic Study

Several researchers at Princeton were interested in mass media and mass panic, and the opportunity to study one such panic fell into their laps with Orson Welles' radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds. Hadley Cantril (and others) wrote a book about their study, The Invasion from Mars. This Time article gives an overview of their book.

Video

Discussion of Orson Welles' Adaptation

Here's a little discussion of Orson Welles' adaptation of The War of the Worlds and the panic that it caused. Bonus: watch some interviews with people who actually panicked.

Welles Apologizes

After the nation panicked, Welles publicly apologized for playing a prank on them. Although what he actually said is closer to "the book is forty years old now, if you haven't read it yet, that's not my fault." Should've known better, folks.

Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds Musical

Here's a taste of the Jeff Wayne musical version of The War of the Worlds.

An Interactive Book of The War of the Worlds

Don't run out and buy an iPad just for this (unless you wanted an excuse to anyway), but we found this trailer for an interactive book version of The War of the Worlds, and it looks kind of cool. Now you're not just reading about the Martian Heat-Ray, you're using it. Actually, that sounds kind of gruesome.

Audio

Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre Adaptation -- October 30, 1938

This is perhaps the most famous adaptation of The War of the Worlds. It's updated to 1938 and has a very realistic style – it even starts with a musical show that is interrupted by breaking news of aliens landing in Grover's Mill, New Jersey. Because it was so realistic (and because there were no commercials during the show and only three mentions that it was fiction), it caused something of a panic. There have been several other radio versions of The War of the Worlds, but this is the most famous, so famous that The Simpsons used it in their Halloween story "The Day the Earth Looked Stupid" in Treehouse of Horror XVII.

Radiolab on The War of the Worlds

Now, you could track down all the radio versions of The War of the Worlds and see how they differ and research their histories… or you could listen to this hour-long episode of the public radio show Radiolab, which is all about the radio adaptations and mass hysteria.

H.G. Wells Meets Orson Welles

Wells and Welles meet (on the radio) and briefly discuss The War of the Worlds and the panic that resulted from the radio adaptation.

BBC H.G. Wells Radio Archive

Listen to this recordings of Wells. He talks about topics like war, technology, our place in the world, and how humans are similar to animals.

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds

The title really says it all here. In 1978, Jeff Wayne released a prog rock (short for "progressive rock," and if you don't know that, you should thank your lucky stars) musical version of The War of the Worlds. We might not be huge fans of prog rock, but the album does include several famous people (Richard Burton as the narrator) and is kind of fun. If you listened to the other radio adaptations and thought "this just needs more synthesizer," then this musical version is for you.

Images

The Cover to Amazing Stories, 1927

Amazing Stories was one of the earliest and most important science fiction magazines in the US. Its editor, Hugo Gernsback (for whom the science fiction Hugo award is named), once called Wells, along with Verne and Poe, the models of science fiction.

French Translation of The War of the Worlds, 1947

Another interesting cover for The War of the Worlds. Rather than go with a realistic illustration, this cover is a bit cartoonish. (Although the description of the Martian could be

French Translation of The War of the Worlds, 1954

Unlike the cartoonish illustration from 1947, this cover is more abstract since it just features the title (made up of letter blocks). Notice how different this and the previous cover were from the cover of the American magazine, Amazing Stories. Clearly, these two French versions are trying to sell this book less as a thrilling story, and perhaps more as a thought-provoking one. (Which is thrilling, if you like thinking. We do.)

Original Book Cover, 1898

After the American magazine and the two French book covers, this one probably seems very stark. But this is the cover, which does little to advertise the contents of the book, is the one that the original book readers would've been familiar with.

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