Edison's Conquest of Mars

Edison's Conquest of Mars is an 1898 science fiction novel by American astronomer and writer Garrett P. Serviss. It was written as a sequel to Fighters from Mars, an unauthorized and heavily altered version of H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds. It has a place in the history of science fiction for its early employment of themes and motifs that later became staples of the genre.[1]

The book features Thomas Edison as the primary character, though neither Edison nor H. G. Wells were involved in its creation. Set after the devastating Martian attack in the previous story, the novel depicts Edison leading a group of scientists to develop ships and weapons, including a disintegration ray, for the defence of Earth. Edison and company fight the aliens in space and on Mars, eventually causing a flood that defeats the enemy and forces an end to hostilities. Serviss wrote himself into the story as a professor whom Edison consults; also appearing are scientists such as Edward Emerson Barnard, Lord Kelvin, Wilhelm Röntgen, and Silvanus P. Thompson, and heads of state such as Queen Victoria, U.S. President William McKinley, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Emperor Mutsuhito.[1]

Serviss' first attempt at fiction, the book was published serially in the New York Journal. Serviss went on to write other science fiction stories, arguably making him the first American to write science fiction professionally.[1] An early example of what would later be called space opera, Edison's Conquest of Mars was also a particularly literal "Edisonade". The book contains some notable "firsts" in science fiction: alien abductions, spacesuits (called "air-tight suits": see Spacesuits in fiction), aliens building the Pyramids, space battles, oxygen pills, asteroid mining and disintegrator rays.[2]

Edison's Conquest of Mars
Edisons conquest of mars
Dust-jacket from the first book publication
AuthorGarrett P. Serviss
IllustratorBernard Manley, Jr.
Cover artistRussell Swanson
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherCarcosa House
Publication date
1947 (book edition)
Magazine serial 1898
Media typePrint (hardback)
Pagesxxiii, 186
Preceded byFighters from Mars 


Martian Prisoner - conquest of Mars
Martian prisoner, teaching the Earthmen their language. 1898 illustration by GY Kauffman.
Martian - Conquest of Mars
"Like men, and yet not like men; combining the human and the beast in their appearance, it required a steady nerve to look at them.... In our eyes their moral character shone through their physical aspect and thus rendered them more terrible!"
1898 illustration by GY Kauffman

The book is set following the abortive Martian attack depicted in Fighters from Mars, much more devastating and global than in H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, though in both works the onslaught is thwarted when the aliens die from bacterial illness. Determining that the Martians will inevitably return, Earth's leaders, including U.S. President William McKinley, Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Emperor Mutsuhito, unite the world against the common threat and plan an attack on Mars. American inventor Thomas Edison leads a group of scientists studying derelict Martian equipment; they are able to develop an anti-gravity device powered by electric repulsion as well as a disintegration ray.[1]

Using this new technology, the allies construct an armada of space ships for the attack. Edison takes some ships to the moon on a test run; using the first known fictional depiction of space suits, the explorers uncover evidence of an extinct civilization of giants. The armada heads on, discovering a solid gold asteroid being mined by the Martians. The humans fight two space battles against the Martians, suffering heavy casualties but ultimately winning thanks to the superiority of Edison's ray gun compared to the Martians' electric weapons. The humans take a captive, from whom they learn the Martian language.[1]

The humans reach Mars, but in spite of their superior forces they have lost half their men to the Martians' overwhelming numbers. The Martians envelop the planet in a smoke screen, and the humans retreat to the moon Deimos. During a raid on Mars for supplies, the earth men find Aina, the last of a population of human slaves whose ancestors were captured from Kashmir in a Martian raid 9,000 years before. During this raid, the Martians also constructed the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphynx in Egypt, the latter of which is a statue of their leader. Aina advises Edison that meeting the Martians in battle would be fruitless, and that they should instead attack the dams that channel water from the polar ice. Since most of Mars' cities are under sea level, the flood spreads rapidly, killing most of the Martians and destroying their civilization. Edison and company force a peace with the surviving Martians, and return home to great celebration.[1]


There are three type of aliens in the book.

The Martians in this version are not like the squid-like Martians described in H.G. Wells's story. These Martians are more humanoid with arms, legs and an enormous head with projector-like eyes and bad looking faces. When they rise, they are 15 feet (4.6 meters) high. However this is only the male, for the species exhibits sexual dimorphism. To Earthlings, they appear unpleasant. The Martian women, however, are graceful and beautiful.

The residents of Ceres are at war with the Martians. However, they are only mentioned, except for a female slave who is 40 feet tall. The 'Cerenites' are this height due to the reduced gravity of their world.

When Edison's men land on the Moon, they discover that the Moon was, at one point, capable of supporting life. Only a giant footprint is seen, leaving the reader (and the characters) wondering what was once there.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bleiler, Everett Franklin (1990). Science-Fiction, the Early Years. Kent State University Press. p. 665. ISBN 0873384164.
  2. ^ Edison's Conquest of Mars. Apogee books. 2005. p. 4.


  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 138.
  • Tuck, Donald H. (1978). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 384. ISBN 0-911682-22-8.

External links

1898 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1898.

Alien invasion

The alien invasion or space invasion is a common feature in science fiction stories and film, in which extraterrestrials invade the Earth either to exterminate and supplant human life, enslave it under an intense state, harvest people for food, steal the planet's resources, or destroy the planet altogether.

The invasion scenario has been used as an allegory for a protest against military hegemony and the societal ills of the time. H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds extended the invasion literature that was already common when science fiction was first emerging as a genre.

Prospects of invasion tended to vary with the state of current affairs, and current perceptions of threat. Alien invasion was a common metaphor in United States science fiction during the Cold War, illustrating the fears of foreign (e.g. Soviet Union) occupation and nuclear devastation of the American people. Examples of these stories include the short story The Liberation of Earth (1950) by William Tenn and the film The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

In the invasion trope, fictional aliens contacting Earth tend to either observe (sometimes using experiments) or invade, rather than help the population of Earth acquire the capacity to participate in interplanetary affairs. There are some notable exceptions, such as the alien-initiated first-contact scenarios in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and Arrival (2016). A trope of the peaceful first-contact is humanity attaining a key technological threshold (e.g. nuclear weapons and space travel in The Day the Earth Stood Still or faster-than-light travel in First Contact), justifying their initiation into a broader community of intelligent species.

Technically, a human invasion of an alien species is also an alien invasion, as from the viewpoint of the aliens, humans are the aliens. Such stories are much rarer than stories about aliens attacking humans. Examples include the short story Sentry (1954) (in which the "aliens" described are, at the end, explained to be humans), the video game Phantasy Star II (1989), The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, the Imperium of Man in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Invaders from Earth by Robert Silverberg, the movies Battle for Terra (2007), Planet 51 (2009), Avatar (2009) and Mars Needs Moms (2011).

As well as being a subgenre of science fiction, these kinds of books can be considered a subgenre of invasion literature, which also includes fictional depictions of humans invaded by other humans (for example, a fictional invasion of England by a hostile France strongly influenced Wells' depiction of a Martian invasion).


Carcosa is a fictional city in the Ambrose Bierce short story "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" (1886). In Bierce's story, the ancient and mysterious city is barely described, and is viewed only in hindsight (after its destruction) by a character who once lived there. Its name may be derived from the medieval city of Carcassonne in southern France, whose Latin name was "Carcaso".

American writers Robert W. Chambers and H.P. Lovecraft borrowed the term Carcosa for their stories, inspiring generations of authors to similarly use Carcosa in their own works.


"Edisonade" is a term, coined in 1993 by John Clute in his and Peter Nicholls' The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, for fictional stories about a brilliant young inventor and his inventions, many of which would now be classified as science fiction. This subgenre started in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and had its apex of popularity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Other related terms for fiction of this type include scientific romances. The term is an eponym, named after famous inventor Thomas Edison, formed in the same way the term "Robinsonade" was formed from Robinson Crusoe.

Fighters from Mars

Fighters From Mars consists of two unauthorized edited versions of The War of the Worlds serial that appeared in the Cosmopolitan Magazine between April and December 1897.

The first version appeared in the New York Evening Journal between December 5, 1897 and January 11, 1898, and was entitled Fighters From Mars, or The War of the Worlds. The second version appeared in the Boston Post between January 8, 1898 and February 1898, and was entitled Fighters from Mars, or The War of the Worlds in and near Boston.

These versions change the settings to the local areas where the newspapers were on sale, and also edited out most of the passages containing science, science details pertaining to ordinary people and problematic actions by the narrator. Even though they are considered unauthorized it does seem that Wells may have inadvertently given the go ahead to the versions, as can be seen from a letter that was published in the magazine The Critic in March 1898. Where Wells states: "Yet it is possible that this affair is not so much downright wickedness as a terrible mistake."

In each paper the sequel 'Edison's Conquest of Mars' by Garrett P. Serviss was published after Fighters From Mars had finished.

Forever Autumn (song)

"Forever Autumn" is a song written by Jeff Wayne, Gary Osborne and Paul Vigrass. The original melody was written by Wayne in 1969 as a jingle for a Lego commercial. Vigrass and Osborne, the performers of the original jingle, added lyrics to the song and recorded it for inclusion on their 1972 album Queues. Their interpretation was also released as a single and gained moderate commercial success in Japan, selling more than 100,000 copies and becoming a top-20 hit on the country's record chart.

The best-known version is the recording by Justin Hayward from the album Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. Wayne wanted to include a love song on the album that sounded like "Forever Autumn", and he decided that the best course of action was to simply use the original song. Wayne chose Hayward, of The Moody Blues, to sing it saying that he "wanted that voice from 'Nights in White Satin'". It was recorded at London's Advision Studios in 1976. The song reached #5 on the UK Singles Chart in August 1978.

A new version was released in late 2012, sung by Gary Barlow for the new album Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds – The New Generation.

Garrett P. Serviss

Garrett Putnam Serviss (March 24, 1851 – May 25, 1929) was an American astronomer, popularizer of astronomy, and early science fiction writer. Serviss was born in upstate New York and majored in science at Cornell University. He took a law degree at Columbia University but never worked as an attorney. Instead, in 1876 he joined the staff of The New York Sun newspaper, working as a journalist until 1892 under editor Charles Dana.

Serviss showed a talent for explaining scientific details in a way that made them clear to the ordinary reader, leading Andrew Carnegie to invite him to deliver The Urania Lectures in 1894 on astronomy, cosmology, geology, and related matters. With Carnegie's financial backing, these lectures were illustrated with magic lantern slides and other effects to show eclipses, presumed lunar landscapes, and much else. Serviss toured the United States for over two years delivering these lectures, then settled down to become a popular speaker in the New York area. He also wrote a syndicated newspaper column devoted to astronomy and other sciences and wrote frequently for the leading magazines of the day.Serviss' favorite topic was astronomy, and of the fifteen books he wrote, eight are devoted to it. He unquestionably was more widely read by the public on that topic than anyone prior to his time. He worked with Max and Dave Fleischer on The Einstein Theory of Relativity (1923), a short silent film released in connection with one of Serviss' books. He also wrote six works of fiction in his lifetime, all of which would today be classified as science fiction. Five of these were novels, and one was a short story.In his private life, Serviss was an enthusiastic mountain climber. He described his reaching the summit of the Matterhorn at the age of 43 as part of an effort "to get as far away from terrestrial gravity as possible." His son was the Olympic high jumper Garrett Serviss.


The Heat-Ray is the primary offensive weapon used by the Martians in H. G. Wells' classic science fiction novel The War of the Worlds and its offshoots.

List of works based on The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds (1898) is a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells. It describes the memoirs of an unnamed narrator in the suburbs of Woking, Surrey, England, who recounts an invasion of Earth by an army of Martians with military technology far in advance to human science. It is said to be the first story that details a human conflict with, and overall defeat by, an extraterrestrial race.Following its publication, The War of the Worlds rapidly entered popular culture. Through the 20th and 21st centuries, the novel has been adapted in various media, including radio, television and film. These have been produced with varying degrees of faithfulness to the original text, with many of the more famous adaptations, such as Orson Welles' 1938 radio adaptation and the 2005 film directed by Steven Spielberg, choosing to set the events in a contemporary setting. In addition, many adaptations, including both of the above, relocated the location from its original setting of England in favour of the United States. The most recent adaptation of this type was produced in Canada and broadcast on Britain's BBC (autumn 2013) and BBC America (summer 2014) for the centenary of World War I. It posits the Martian invasion as The Great Martian War 1913–1917, with the Martians invading Earth, first falling on Germany, and then expanding their war on mankind throughout Western Europe.

Martian (The War of the Worlds)

The Martians, also known as the Invaders, are the fictional race of extraterrestrials from the H.G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds. They are the main antagonists of the novel, and their efforts to exterminate the populace of England (and later the Earth) and claim the planet for themselves drive the plot and present challenges for the novel's human characters. They are notable for their use of extraterrestrial weaponry far in advance of that of mankind at the time of the invasion.

Martian canal

It was erroneously believed that there were "canals" on the planet Mars during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These were a network of long straight lines in the equatorial regions from 60° north to 60° south latitude on Mars, observed by astronomers using early low-resolution telescopes without photography. They were first described by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli during the opposition of 1877, and confirmed by later observers. Schiaparelli called these canali, which was translated into English as "canals". The Irish astronomer Charles E. Burton made some of the earliest drawings of straight-line features on Mars, although his drawings did not match Schiaparelli's. By the early 20th century, improved astronomical observations revealed the "canals" to be an optical illusion, and modern high-resolution mapping of the Martian surface by spacecraft shows no such features.

Phobos and Deimos in fiction

Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. Due to their small size, both moons were discovered only in 1877, by astronomer Asaph Hall. Nevertheless, they frequently feature in works of science fiction.

Some of the earliest mentions of Mars's moons in fiction predate their discovery. In Jonathan Swift's famous satire Gulliver's Travels (1726), the astronomers of flying island Laputa are described as having discovered two satellites of Mars. Voltaire's short story "Micromégas" (1752), about alien visitors from Sirius and Saturn, also describes Mars as having two moons. Voltaire is thought to have been influenced by Swift. In recognition of these mentions, many geological features of Phobos and Deimos are named after characters and places from Gulliver's Travels, including among others Laputa Regio and Lagado Planitia on Phobos, and craters Swift and Voltaire on Deimos.


A raygun is a science fiction particle-beam weapon that fires what is usually destructive energy. They have various alternate names: ray gun, death ray, beam gun, blaster, laser gun, laser pistol, phaser, zap gun, etc. In most stories, when activated, a raygun emits a ray, typically visible, usually lethal if it hits a human target, often destructive if it hits mechanical objects, with properties and other effects unspecified or varying.

Real-life analogues are directed-energy weapons or electrolasers, electroshock weapons which send current along an electrically conductive laser-induced plasma channel.

Robert Godwin

Robert Godwin (born 1958, England) is a British author who has written about rock music and spaceflight. Early in his career he was a rock music impresario who managed a venue in Burlington, Ontario and founded Griffin Music.

Spacesuits in fiction

Science fiction authors have designed imaginary spacesuits for their characters almost since the beginning of fiction set in space.

Often, comic book creators seem unaware of the effects of internal pressure which tends to inflate a spacesuit in vacuum, and draw their imaginary spacesuits as hanging in folds like a boilersuit; this can often be seen in the Dan Dare stories, where the artist often drew from actual or photographed posed actors. Many space story writers merely mention a "spacesuit" without considering or describing design details, in the same way as they mention a raygun or a spaceship without considering how its mechanism would work.The breathing apparatus which is part of the Primary Life Support System of real space suits is always a rebreather type system. However, in illustrations in fiction such as comics, a spacesuit's life support system is often largely composed of two big backpack cylinders, as if it was open circuit; at least one fictional scenario has liquid breathing spacesuits.

The Treasury of Science Fiction Classics

The Treasury of Science Fiction Classics is an anthology of science fiction stories, edited by Harold E. Kuebler, published in hardcover by Hanover House in 1954 with dust jacket art by Richard Powers. A Science Fiction Book Club edition followed later that year, but the volume has not otherwise been reprinted.

The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells, first serialised in 1897 by Pearson's Magazine in the UK and by Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. The novel's first appearance in hardcover was in 1898 from publisher William Heinemann of London. Written between 1895 and 1897, it is one of the earliest stories to detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. The novel is the first-person narrative of both an unnamed protagonist in Surrey and of his younger brother in London as southern England is invaded by Martians. The novel is one of the most commented-on works in the science fiction canon.The plot has been related to invasion literature of the time. The novel has been variously interpreted as a commentary on evolutionary theory, British imperialism, and generally Victorian superstitions, fears, and prejudices. At the time of publication, it was classified as a scientific romance, like Wells's earlier novel The Time Machine. The War of the Worlds has been both popular (having never been out of print) and influential, spawning half a dozen feature films, radio dramas, a record album, various comic book adaptations, a television series, and sequels or parallel stories by other authors. It was most memorably dramatized in a 1938 radio program that allegedly caused public panic among listeners who did not know the Martian invasion was fictional.

The novel has even influenced the work of scientists, notably Robert H. Goddard, who, inspired by the book, invented both the liquid fuelled rocket and multistage rocket, which resulted in the Apollo 11 Moon landing 71 years later.

Thomas Edison in popular culture

Thomas Edison has appeared in popular culture as a character in novels, films, comics and video games. His prolific inventing helped make him an icon and he has made appearances in popular culture during his lifetime down to the present day. He is often portrayed in popular culture as an adversary of Nikola Tesla.

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