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 Post subject: Did the Flying Machine REALLY Spray Black Smoke?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2006 1:02 am 
Tripod King

Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2005 12:07 am
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This may seem a nitpicking point, but consider: The Martian flying craft didn't even get airborne until after the war was well underway, and then it was only in the experimental stage. After all, its pilot or pilots had to get accustomed to flying the thing on a planet with heavier gravity and heavier air. Would the Martians risk it in combat while its crew was still stumbling around in the air, trying to accustom themselves to radically new flying conditions?

Granted, Earth didn't have any aircraft, but it DID have experience at shooting at aerial targets. During the Franco-Prussian War, the garrison of besieged Paris used balloons to communicate with the outside world, and the Prussians in turn adapted field guns to shoot upwards in an attempt to bring them down. If the Martians were watching during the war, they'd have seen it. That was almost thirty years before the Martian invasion, so for all the Martians knew, the humans might have developed better AA guns. Also remember that when the flying machine first appeared, it was right after the previously invincible Martians had lost at least two out of three Fighting-Machines in battle against ONE British warship, the "Thunder Child". Would the Martians have risked their only flying machine (the narrator only saw one in the London encampment) in battle at that time, with a still-inexperienced crew, at that time? "Who knows what ELSE those humans have to throw at us?"

The Martians didn't need it for this purpose, anyway. The guns used by their Fighting-Machines did the job quite well. The Black Smoke was useless against warships at sea, anyway, as the ships could steam out of its radius before it could affect their crews.

I never even considered the possibility of the flying machine spraying poison gas until I saw it mentioned in this forum. Consider that final sentence in the chapter: "And as it flew, it rained down darkness upon the land." What everyone's forgetting is that that last scene took place shortly after sundown; I always assumed that that last sentence was a fancy way of saying that night fell while the flying machine was buzzing around. What do you think?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2006 1:18 am 
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Martian War Lord

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Well considering the the book is set in the late summer and the sun has only just set, that part of England would still have an hour or an hour and a half of daylight left, so unless it was buzzing about for quite a while... I would go with the Black Smoke theory.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2006 9:15 am 
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Martian War Lord

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I also read on a Geocities site about WOTW that the Flying Machine indeed sprayed the Black Smoke on the fleet...


The Tempest is an advanced assault vehicle, which carries two heavy Heat-Rays and a Canister Launcher.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2006 4:56 pm 
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Tripod King

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It could be either, I've never formed a strong opinion one way or the other. However, there's nothing in the text to about black smoke being sprayed on the fleet. Indeed, the fleet doesn't appear to have done anything much, or had anything much donme to it, before turning around and sailing away.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2006 7:17 pm 
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Martian War Lord

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The nearest I could find in the text was this;

"But the ironclads to seaward were now quite close and standing in towards shore past the steamboat.
The little vessel continued to beat its way seaward, and the ironclads receded slowly towards the coast, which was hidden still by a marbled bank of vapour, part steam, part black gas, eddying and combining in the strangest way. The fleet of refugees was scattering to the northeast; several smacks were sailing between the ironclads and the steamboat. After a time, and before they reached the sinking cloud bank, the warships turned northward, and then abruptly went about and passed into the thickening haze of evening southward."


And it only mentions a bank of vapour hiding the coast.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 6:09 pm 
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Tripod King

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Aye, that's just the cloud of steam, smoke and gas dispersing after the battle.

However, it's still possible that Wells did intend to imply that the Martians were using gas with his ambiguous final sentence from that chapter. Certainly, in the original serialisation the Martians unambiguously did use their flying machine to spread the black powder, but as is well known, Wells substantially changed parts of the text when it was published in novel form.

The relevant passage from the serial runs as follows (from the Epilogue):

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 reconnoitre and spread their black powder... The fact remains that they did not fly fifty miles from London all through the war. 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.

Of course, that doesn't alter the fact that the passage in the novel is very ambiguous, hence the debate, but it does offer another perspective.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 10:58 pm 
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Martian War Lord

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Thanks 'Mc T' Ive never seen the original serialisation. dose it differ much from the novel?


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 11:30 pm 
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Tripod King

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There's a lot of minor tweaking of the prose, but also the Epilogue differs substantially (there's more about the Narrator's descriptions of postwar London and the reconstruction efforts, as well as a chilling remark about a terrible explosion that wrecked North London after experiments with the heat ray-making powder). The biggest difference is that in the serial, after Shepperton the Artilleryman never reappears - there is no Man on Putney Hill, that was a completely new addition to the novel. There's also a gruesome mention in the serial of the Martians having vivisected an eminent surgeon in the pit at Wimbledon (he was found horribly mutilated but still alive fastened to a table), and a comment about the only sport the Martians practised - heat ray matches, zapping hapless human captives.

I hasten to add that I am not in the fortunate position of owning an original set of Pearson's Magazine, but I do have the Castle Books facsimile edition. The full text of the version serialised in Cosmopolitan magazine in the USA in 1898 was, I think, the same text as the Pearson's serial, and was available online but appears to have gone now...


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 11:49 pm 
Tripod King

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Wow! I make a comment about a single passage from the novel, and look at all the interesting items that have turned up.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 11:53 pm 
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Tripod King

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And we still haven't answered your original question! :D


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 12:49 am 
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Martian War Lord

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McTodd wrote:
And we still haven't answered your original question! :D
:D Just a lot of different opinions of Wells' text :lol:
I would like to get my hands on the original, so if anybody knows of an online link to the Cosmopolitan magazine version, please let us know. [-o<


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 12:24 pm 
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Tripod King

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I've had a good look for it and it appears to have gone... :cry:

However, the Castle Books edition ('The Collector's Book of Science Fiction by H G Wells', pub. 1978) is available via such sites as http://www.bookfinder.com or eBay for very reasonable prices. There are booksellers in the US offering it for 58p!!! The postage will massively outweigh that!

It's a must-buy, featuring (admittedly rather murky) reproductions of the serialisations of 'The War of the Worlds', 'The First Men in the Moon', 'The Sleeper Wakes', plus a whole load of short stories, all in their original magazine form.

I got mine years ago, way before the internet, and consequently paid a damn sight more than 58p!!!


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 10:26 pm 
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Martian War Lord

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:D Thanks for the info.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 11:46 am 
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Martian War Lord

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Thanks Mc Todd. I love anything that delves futher into the book. Its a strange one because, Wells may have edited those things out because he decided they didn't happen or because he didn't want to slow things down. Basically there are two versions of War of the Worlds. Both exist as there are now two versions of the Star Wars Trilogy, Three versions of Empire Stikes back. Lucas wants us to ignore the old ones, and Wells probably wants us to ignore the old script too.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 12:38 am 
Tripod King

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Old Wells classics are costly. A few years ago, while shopping on the Internet, I found and bought a hardcover copy of Wells' novel "The War in the Air" (reprinted by T. Nelson & Sons, London). The thing was hardly the size of a pocket dictionary, and cost me over forty dollars in American money. (Don't know the exchange rate with pounds.) It was well worth it to get a great classic like that, though.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 10:32 am 
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Tripod King

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Loz, as with Lonesome, I strongly recommend you look for the Castle Books reprint on t'internet, it can be picked up dead cheaply, and there seem to be an awful lot knocking around!

Alland, you can never tell with book prices. Certainly I've been able to pick stuff up from the net vastly cheaper than the odd OOP book I bought years ago pre-net, using old school book searchers. Usually, dealers on the net are cheaper than shop-bound dealers (there used to be a specialist maritime bookshop in Greenwich, now sadly gone, but his copies of Warship, an annual collection, routinely cost double what I could pay on the net). Buying from dealers' shops is very unpredictable. Around ten years ago, for example, I picked up a first edition of 'The War in the Air' for £30 (around $50 or so) from a shop on Charing Cross Road. Condition, pretty good. Yet the same edition, in other shops around London as I discovered in subsequent weeks of poking around, ranged anywhere from £30 (mine was the cheapest) to £300 for a copy only slightly better than mine! A ten-fold difference! This is the cover, as you can see it's in fairly good, though not perfect, nick:

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Anyway, I digress - to get back to Loz, I recall Charles Keller on the other forum saying that in an early, handwritten, draft of WOTW, there is even a mention of suicide bombers strapping on belts of dynamite and hurling themselves at the Martians!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 5:49 pm 
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Tripod King

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This is what Charles Keller said about the suicide bombers bit in the manuscript:

...the original manuscript adventure about blowing up a Martian with dynamite ...was printed as an appendix in Hughes & Geduld's 1993 annotated edition. Its not like the narrator actually carries out his mission, either. He receives bombs from a provisional government for a suicide mission against the invaders (hmmm, sounds familiar, eh?) but a short time later discovers the Martians already dead. It definately needed to be edited out.

And later, in response to a post that said it gave the story a dramatic touch:

...I wouldn’t say it gave the story a dramatic touch; quite the contrary. It actually cluttered the climax with an adventure that almost shifted the focus away from the discovery of the dead Martians. Even for our flawed and contradictory narrator it was terribly out of character. In short, it’s the kind of maudlin adventure that appeals to Hollywood. If Wells had left that sort of thing in the novel, Hollywood wouldn’t hesitate to do a remake based more closely on the book.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 11:09 pm 
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Martian War Lord

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:shock: A nice load of info there 'Mc T' plenty of stuff to look out for.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 11:14 pm 
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Well, suppose he saw the distant tripod, lit the fuse and charged, only to realise too late that the Martians were already dead?

It would certainly be different, and a rather bright-yet-dismal ending.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 11:44 pm 
Tripod King

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Thank you for that rather depressing suggestion.

Is there no end to the number of accurate predictions H.G. Wells made? Suicide bombers strapping on explosives and attacking a technologically-superior enemy is a theme that could be taken out of our current newspaper headlines. Indeed, you don't even have to go that far in the future; during World War II, there were plenty of instances in the Pacific of Japanese soldiers carrying satchel charges and the like hurling themselves under American tanks. (Unlike their German ally, the Japanese never developed cool tank-killing stuff like Tiger tanks, 88mm guns, or Panzerfaust bazookas.) A clear case of the soldiers of a relatively low-tech army having to resort to suicide tactics to take out the "Fighting-Machines" of their high-tech enemy.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 12:27 am 
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Martian War Lord

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Alland wrote:
Japanese soldiers carrying satchel charges and the like hurling themselves under American tanks.

The Russians tried that against the Germans in WWII but they used dogs.
They trained them by putting the dog's food under their own tanks so the dogs would associate tanks with food, unfortunately the dogs knew the difference between Russian tanks and German tanks so all they did was blow up several of their own tanks. :a037:


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 12:06 am 
Tripod King

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And I'd read that the Russians served the dogs' food under tractors rather than tanks because they needed all their tanks at the front. That's why so few dogs made successful attacks; they couldn't stand up to the noise made by a REAL tank.

Oh, and the modern Soviet military (and its successor today, for all I know) still lets its commando teams use "mine dogs". Instead of tanks, the dogs used by Spetsnaz go for targets like aircraft sitting on the ground (at military airfields, of course) and armored limos carrying VIPs. Behind-the-lines sabotage stuff which would take place right at the start of a war.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 9:55 pm 
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Alland wrote:
Thank you for that rather depressing suggestion.

You're welcome, I have dozens more.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 10:30 am 
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Martian War Lord

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thanx for the info McTodd.

It would have spoiled the story. But a mention of a mission unrelated yto the narrator, where people did suicide mattacks would have added a bit of flavour. just a half parragraph in the epilogue.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 10:30 pm 
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Hello everyone.
Just wanted to add my thoughts. I don't think the object seen was the flying machine. It was six days into the invasion when the narrator's brother escaped from England and no way would the Martians had time to build and fly their craft. Their priorty was to breakout of their beachhead on Horsell Common and establish a colony or at least secure an area from which to launch further operations. Remember they had lost three (possibly four) of their machines, and one had been damaged by the battery at St George's Hill and, I believe, were probably given a good mauling by the Channel Fleet. So the Martians would have probably curtailled any further fories and retreated back to London to consliate and plan their next move. It was during this time that the flying machine was constructed as a weapon to be used.

The flying object could have been a cannister of black smoke. It's implied that the fleet took on the Martians and it's possible that the Martians came off the worst and were forced to retreat. A cannister of black smoke may hae been launched but it either misfired or fractured and that was what was seen from the paddle steamer.

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