Potlatch 7

The Book of Honor Panel:
The War of the Worlds

Time:Friday, 8 p.m.
Ringleader:Brad Lyau
Cohorts: G. David Nordley, Karen Joy Fowler,
Fr. John R. Blaker, Howard Hendrix

In this, the centenary year of the book's publication, we'll consider its continuing relevance and influence in a panel whose participants will be inspired by the characters in the novel.

The Narrator
Brad Lyau
General introduction and brief historical outline.
The Martians
G. David Nordley
How would we look to people from other places?
The Narrator's Younger Brother
Karen Joy Fowler
Social attitudes in the face of dramatic events or changing of eras.
The Curate
Fr. John R. Blaker
The status of current human philosophy and religion as we approach the end of our century.
The Artilleryman
Howard Hendrix
Is our relation with aliens necessarily adversarial when considered in an evolutionary sense of survival?

Reported by Ian Hagemann and Lenny Bailes

Brad read the intro to War of the Worlds. This is the 100th anniversary of the publication of the book. The year before it was published, Dracula appeared. Wells' introduction to the book brought out the arrogance and complacency of the time: "The Balloon of human arrogance is in desperate need of pricking."

Our own species wreaks destruction. Wells refers to "inferior species": Tasmanians. Is it any wonder that the Martians would see us in the same way?

War of the Worlds can be interpreted as a critique of capitalism: Martians have superior technology. Replicators thrive on raw dirt. Yet Martians are vampires, they suck blood and have no internal digestive systems. Wells was an early predictor of non-anthropomorphic aliens, yet the Martians also suggest an ultimate, decadent evolution of the human species.

The narrator of the story is a philosopher. The contemporary paradigms of the period are being challenged: Newtonian physics, economics, "White Man's Burden."

Technology influenced War of the Worlds: "Martian telepathy" = radio? The work was influenced by Jules Verne. The propulsion system for the Martian craft relies on the viscosity difference of the Earth's atmosphere to cushion its fall."

The Curate is depicted by Fr. Blaker as an unsympathetic character, thriving on the status quo of his niche in society. A curate is an "assistant priest." The curate may have been chosen as an exemplar to illustrate what was wrong with the contemporary religious institutions of Wells' day.

The narrator's younger brother is depicted by Karen Fowler as purposely "faceless." A representative of everyman to bring out the "Godzilla rampage" portion of War of the Worlds. Karen finds parallels with a quote from Chinese history: "It would take an invasion from Mars to unite people in common cause." The Boxer rebellion came close to accomplishing this.

It would have been uninteresting for Wells to use the devastation wreaked by Martians as the basis for a morality tale: "good folks rise to the occasion, bad folks remain bad." Instead, he used this section to depict a universal human reaction to devastation. The POV is anglocentric. One woman imagines that the French and the Martians might be somewhat similar. These scenes became a model for later derivative renderings of post-apocalyptic destruction.

The Artilleryman (depicted by Howard Hendrix) makes the transition from "survivor" to "survivalist." He is a model for many stereotypical renditions of pragmatists in derivative works. The artilleryman rejoices in the breakdown of false and superfluous distinctions of civilization: no more class distinction. His embracing the benefit of the Martians eliminating the weak is a prototype for the Nazi philosophy of the 20th century. The artilleryman is a model paradigm borrowed frequently for action-adventure stories in 20th century s-f movies (specifically Independence Day).

Howard believes that if the artilleryman were alive now, he'd be writing movie scripts. He plans to be a terrorist, and is happy with the idea that "the future eats the past", destroying and reinventing the present. Wells' Martians are "out of touch" with important things, like scientists. There is class warfare in War of the Worlds. "Eat the rich" is a literal maxim.

Wells' own opinion of the artilleryman might be that he is a curious creature with interesting ideas, but undisciplined.


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