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[PART 56]

Radio Interview with Mr. H. G. Wells

(October 1936)

As the thirty-fifth anniversary of the war with Mars came around radio stations in several countries put on special programs in line with the anniversary. The Committee encouraged these programs in order to keep the public aware of the Martian danger. By now we were all but certain that a new and very deadly full-scale war with Mars could literally come at any moment therefore we needed a relatively informed public, but not one alarmed at the possibility. We were walking on a very thin rope.

By this time it was estimated that nearly 39 million people nightly tuned into radio broadcasts in the United States alone, with another 21 million in Europe and many would be tuning in to one or more of the anniversary shows. One of the best was broadcast from Upper-New York City from Blue Network radio station WXNY. Their “Remembering the Martian War” interview program featured author and war reporter Mr. H. G. Wells. Recruited to conduct this memorable interview with the well known author was upcoming 21-year-old producer and director Orson Welles who was himself at the time preparing a radio show of his own based upon Mr. Wells’ popular book The War of the Worlds.

What most people were never told was that Orson Welles had been instructed not to ask H. G. any questions about the Executive Committee of Twelve, his general personal life after the war or inquire about any of the Committee’s activities. If he had crossed that particular line the interview program would have been immediately cut off and Orson Wells would have found himself in a very small underground room for a very long time!

The show began at 7 p.m. Eastern time on 16 October 1936, and would become one of the best listened to radio shows of all time. Copies of the show were later packaged up by the Committee for distribution world-wide to many other radio stations as part of their public information program.

Orson Wells


INTRODUCTION: “No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

ORSON WELLES: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This is Orson Welles speaking to you from the studios of WXNY in Upper-New York. As we all know this week commemorates, if that is the proper term, the 35th anniversary of the war with the inhabitants of planet Mars. After that most titanic struggle in human history was finished mankind recovered and rebuilt much of what we had lost, save the millions who had lost their lives during the war. The work of course is not nearly complete. Yet there is a whole generation who have grown up in this brave new world forged from the blackened planetary destruction that have no real memory of those events of 35 years past other than what they read in the history books. With that in mind we at WXNY present to you our remembrance show with our one-on-one interview with the man whose prose have so touched millions of readers and whose work has so firmly placed his name synonymous with those terrible days some 35 years ago. He has authored such memorable works as The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The First Men in the Moon, The War in the Air and of course The War of the Worlds.

The New Times of London would report, “Suppose yourself at home with them, in Mars, and you will not find them good company. We might live a more interesting life with Victor Hugo’s pieuvre, comparatively a domestic animal. It is unnecessary, and, indeed, without the limits of space, impossible to give an idea of Martians as understood by Mr. Wells, but a very large, round, ruthless cuttlefish, with a genius for scientific inventions and applied mechanics, comes, perhaps, as near a Martian as a brief phrase will allow. Their ravages permit free contrast of the commonplace with the gruesome, and of these contrasts the book is made.”

And with that modest introduction we welcome to our humble studios Mr. H. G. Wells. Welcome Mr. Wells to Upper-New York and WXNY radio.”

H. G. WELLS: “Thank you Orson, it’s a pleasure to be here.”

ORSON WELLES: “It is indeed wonderful to have you here sir. Mr. Wells, I know that your time is short so let’s quickly go back to that time some 35 years ago when our planet was under attack by the Martians. My first question is: Why did it not cross many of our minds that intelligent life could possibly be found on Mars?”

H. G. WELLS: “Orson, so vain is man, and so blinded by his vanity, that no writer, up to the very end of the nineteenth century, expressed any idea that intelligent life might have developed there far, or indeed at all, beyond its earthly level. Nor was it generally understood that since Mars is older than our Earth, with scarcely a quarter of the superficial area and remoter from the Sun, it necessarily follows that it is not only more distant from life’s beginning, but nearer its end.”

ORSON WELLES: “Sir, after years of reflection what is your impression of how these ancient Martians view us today?”

H. G. WELLS: “We men, the creatures who inhabit this Earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as the monkeys and lemurs in Madagascar to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars.”

“And let me add, looking across space with instruments and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they [still] see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and gray with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas.”

ORSON WELLES: “In the end form then, sir, is mankind, when looked upon with an open mind, truly any different than the Martians?”

H. G. WELLS: “I should think not. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Perhaps we judge of them too harshly. The Martians seem to have calculated their descent with amazing subtlety – their mathematical learning is evidently far in excess of ours – and to have carried out their preparation with a well-nigh perfect unanimity. We would do as much.”

ORSON WELLES: “In hindsight then, could we have observed anything on Mars at the time just before the war that would have given us any warning of their eventual attack on Earth?”

H. G. WELLS: “Had our instruments permitted it, we might have seen the gathering trouble far back in the nineteenth century. Men like Schiaparelli watched the red planet – it is odd, by the bye that for countless centuries Mars has been the star of war – but failed to interpret the fluctuating appearances of the markings they mapped so well. All the time the Martians must have been getting ready.”

ORSON WELLES: “What was our first indication that events on Mars were coming our way?”

H. G. WELLS: “The storm burst upon us 35 years ago now. As Mars approached opposition, Lavelle of Java set the wires of the astronomical exchange palpitating with the amazing intelligence of a huge outbreak of incandescent gas upon the planet. It had occurred towards midnight of the twelfth of August and the spectroscope, to which he had at once resorted, indicated a mass of flaming gas, chiefly hydrogen, moving with an enormous velocity towards this Earth.”

ORSON WELLES: “You observed the Martian Heat-Ray up close, sir. Tell us about that if you would.”

H. G. WELLS: “This intense heat they project in a parallel beam against any object they choose, by means of a polished parabolic mirror which is still of unknown composition, much as the parabolic mirror of a lighthouse projects a beam of light. Lead runs like water, it softens iron, cracks and melts glass, and when it falls upon water, incontinently that explodes into steam. It is indeed a terrible and most formidable weapon.”

ORSON WELLES: “Martians collected humans in a sort of basket, correct?”

H. G. WELLS: “Yes, at times they used no Heat-Ray to destroy them, but picked them up one by one. Apparently they tossed them into the great metallic carrier, which projected behind them, much as a workman’s basket hangs over his shoulder. It was the first time I realized that the Martians might have any other purpose than destruction with defeated humanity. We were food for the Martians.”

ORSON WELLES: “Mr. Wells thanks to yours and other reports we were all made aware that the Martians used mankind for food as if by a vampire, but there were other sources, were there not?”

H. G. WELLS: “Indeed. Their undeniable preference for men as their source of nourishment is partly explained by the nature of the remains of the victims they had brought with them as provisions from Mars. These creatures, to judge from the shriveled remains that have fallen into human hands, are bipeds with flimsy, siliceous skeletons and feeble musculature, standing about six feet high and having round, erect heads, and large eyes in flinty sockets. Two or three of these seem to have been brought in each cylinder, and all were killed before Earth was reached.”

ORSON WELLES: “Speaking of food stuffs, what have we learned about Martian vegetation since those early days?”

H. G. WELLS: “Apparently the vegetable kingdom in Mars, instead of having green for a dominant color, is of a vivid blood-red tint. At any rate, the seeds, which the Martians brought with them, gave rise in all cases to red-colored growths. Only that known popularly as the red weed, however, gained any footing in competition with terrestrial forms.”

ORSON WELLES: “Is it possible in your mind that the Martians had once been not too unlike humans?” “Could we, in some future date, be the Martians or related to them today?”

H. G. WELLS: “To me it is quite credible that the Martians may have descended from beings not unlike ourselves by gradual development of brain and hands at the expense of the rest of the body. Without the body the brain would, of course, because a mere selfish intelligence, without any of the emotional substratum of the human being.”

ORSON WELLES: “Mr. Wells, can you clarify a point for our audience? A listener has phoned in a question of Martian’s never sleeping. Could you address this point?”

H. G. WELLS: “Indeed, their organisms did not sleep, any more than the heart of man sleeps. Since they had no extensive muscular mechanism to recuperate, that periodical extinction was unknown to them. They had little or no sense of fatigue, it would seem. In twenty-four hours they did twenty-four hours of work, as even on Earth is the case with the ants.”

ORSON WELLES: “As you moved about during the fighting in and around old London, always keeping the position of the Martians in perspective, was there any point during the Martian war when you felt utterly alone?”

H. G. WELLS: “Yes. For a time I believed that mankind had been swept out of existence.”

ORSON WELLES: “And this was as you came into the outskirts of London?”

H. G. WELLS: “Yes, I stood there alone, the last man left alive. Hard by the top of Putney Hill I came upon another skeleton, with the arms dislocated and removed several yards from the rest of the body. As I proceeded I became more and more convinced that the extermination of mankind was, save for such stragglers as myself, already accomplished in this part of the world. The Martians, I thought, had gone on and left the country desolated, seeking food elsewhere. Perhaps even destroying Berlin or Paris, or it might be they had gone northward.”

ORSON WELLES: “There has been some controversy as to how much the Martians flew and to what extent they used these craft.”

H. G. WELLS: “It has often been asked why the Martians did not fly immediately after their arrival. They certainly did use a flying apparatus for several days, but only for brief flights of a score or so of miles, in order to reconnoiter and spread their black powder.”

ORSON WELLES: “Would you expect a greater use of such technology in any possible future Martian encounters.?

H. G. WELLS: “I would, but the fact remains that during the London portion of the war they did not fly fifty miles from London. Perhaps they are not fully comfortable in the air.”

ORSON WELLES: “Had they flown more would there have been a different outcome during the war?”

H. G. WELLS: “Had they done so, then the destruction they would have caused would have been infinitely greater than it was, though it could not have averted the end, of course, even by a day.”

ORSON WELLES: “You of course refer to their deaths from Earth’s bacteria?”

H. G. WELLS: “Indeed so. They were doomed the moment they began their deadly attacks.”

ORSON WELLES: “What were you able to see of the deadly gas they used?”

H. G. WELLS: “It was heavy, this vapor, heavier than the densest smoke, so that, after the first tumultuous up rush and outflow of its impact, it sank down through the air and poured over the ground in a manner rather liquid than gaseous, abandoning the hills, and streaming into the valleys and ditches and watercourses even as I have heard the carbonic-acid gas that pours from volcanic clefts is wont to do. The vapor did not diffuse as a true gas would do. It hung together in banks, flowing sluggishly down the slope of the land driving reluctantly before the wind.”

ORSON WELLES: “This of course proved to be quite a deadly weapon used by the Martians. Speaking of these creatures, which now haunt many of our nightmares, the first time anyone comes face to face with a Martian must be very traumatic. Could you relate to our listeners what your first close contact was like?”

H. G. WELLS: “When I first saw one a sudden chill came over me. A big grayish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather. Two large dark-colored eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tenticular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air. Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedge like lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth—above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes—were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.”

ORSON WELLES: “A nightmare encounter to be sure Sir. I want to thank Mr. Wells for dropping by our studios at WXNY as I knew he has limited time and needs to go off to a meeting in town this evening. I’m sure our radio audience has been given much to think about as we on planet Earth continue to rebuild and prepare for what may yet come from planet Mars.”

H. G. WELLS: “It was my pleasure Orson. And a very good evening to your radio audience.”

ORSON WELLES: “Thank you Sir. Our guest this evening has been author and Martian War historian H. G. Wells who was kind enough to discuss his memories from the Martian War and his work The War of the Worlds. And we will be right back with the rest of our remembrance program with some call in questions from you the radio audience after these few messages from the producers and distributors of Blue Coal, the world’s finest Pennsylvanian anthracite. Remember folks that’s Blue Coal for all of your heating needs. We will be right back so please dear friends do stay tuned. This is Orson Welles coming to you from our WXNY studios in Upper-New York.”

Before he left the studio H. G. gave permission for young Orson to produce an adaptation of his The War of the Worlds book for his radio audience. Orson would schedule the show for the night of Halloween two years from today on what would have been the 37th anniversary of the Martian War. However, he was never able to broadcast that show as his subjects, the Martians, decided to preempt his show with one of their own.


Committee Report (C) 36-134 – Palenque Stone Relief, 8 November 1936, 8:40 a.m.

A stone relief not unlike the god Kukumatz in the Yucatan has been uncovered in Palenque. The relief shows a ‘human’ bent forward as if it is riding a motorcycle with what appears to be a rocket jet out of the back end. His foot is on what appears to be a pedal. The clothing worn has a rubber suit look to it and the rider wears a helmet with a pair of antenna coming out of it. Martian markings are clearly cut into the relief.



Copyright © R. Michael Gordon, 2020

[Next week: Part 57: Eruption on Mars as Earth offers peace.]

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