01/11/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: McFarland & Co Inc. 237 page illustrated indexed softcover. Price: $45.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-4105-1.
check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.comand www.war-ofthe-worlds.co.uk
Back on Halloween night, 1938, Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre, using a screenplay written by Howard Koch depicted events based on H.G. Wells' novel, 'War Of The Worlds', and caused a mass panic of alien invasion in the USA. Actually, only in a small quarter really. Whether it was because people weren't paying attention to the broadcast and a reminder that it was only a radio play, imaginations got carried away or just sheer fright of devastating alien invasion is explored in this book. Author John Gosling points out where radio stations in other countries have repeated with their own adaptations with similar results showing that not any one nation is susceptible. The last one was in 1998. Hysteria and fear still rules with anything concerned with an alien invasion. Only the Illuminatii knows what would happen when we have our first contact with real aliens who might just be on the benevolent side.
Not having read the page of books in the bibliography, I would have to consider 'Waging The War Of The Worlds' as a definitive book because it hits on all things related to the subject. We follow the life of Orson Welles and his attempts to take credit for Howard Koch's script, a complete transcript of which is enclosed in the appendix. A sift through the events afterwards follows how the panic daisy-chained with people, including police and military rushing off into action until they realised what they were doing and did a reality check. Gosling's assessment that it was believed because radio listeners were hearing their normal radio announcers giving the information basically illustrates how much we trust the people we hear every day to give us accurate news. Break that trust, be it at Halloween or even April Fool's Day, and there is a credibility gap. Of course, with April first, everyone expects something of the sort, less so on 30th October, more so back then as we Brits didn't do trick or treat.
The fact that it was repeated eight times throughout the world with similar results and Gosling provides information on all of them. Either humans are gullible or earlier occasions are forgotten or hysteria knows no boundaries and people don't think straight with a sudden peril thrown down their throats. I also have a nagging suspicion that this might constitute why some people have a fear of Science Fiction because it sneaks out the unknown which can often confound and bewilder the unenlightened. Whether that makes us smarter or not, I'll leave you to decide.
This book deserves your attention and a place on your bookshelf if for no other reason than showing Science Fiction can rock the world no matter the form it can take.
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