|Eve Of The War
|The Warriors Of The Imagination
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|Author:||eveofthewar [ Fri Apr 22, 2005 3:55 pm ]|
|Post subject:||The Warriors Of The Imagination|
The impending release of not one but two new versions of H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds shows the continued relevance of this classic 19th-century science fiction story for the 21st century.
This month, Pendragon Pictures U.K. releases a version of the story that follows the Wells plot; in June, the Spielberg-Cruise filmmaking team will release a "reimagining" of the book updated to contemporary America.
The story's rebirth as a film in 2005 seems to indicate that we need artists to imagine catastrophic events for us, and not only in film.
Richard Clarke, the former CIA counterintelligence expert and author of Against All Enemies, has made the news recently for imagining how his fellow Americans might be killed, just as Wells did for Victorian Londoners.
Wells himself said when he wrote the story that he imagined killing his neighbors in all kinds of novel ways.
President Bush inadvertently underlined the defensive uses of the violent imagination when he said, "Our enemies never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
The violent imagination can be used to dream up ways to attack somebody -- or to defend oneself against attack.
The history surrounding Wells' story also has important lessons for today.
The War of the Worlds was originally published in 1898. The year before its publication witnessed a massive celebration in London of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee that brought dignitaries and troops from across the globe. In fact, 1897 is thus often cited as the high-water mark for the British Empire.
Wells' story, which contains references to the dodo, the bison and the inhabitants of Tasmania, reminded his fellow Britons of their mortality in the face of irrational exuberance.
The next year, the Boer War gave a nasty jolt to the British belief in their military force.
In 1899, roughly 80,000 Afrikaner guerrillas handed stinging defeats to British forces until reinforcements arrived in 1900 and turned the tide. The Boer War is considered a model of how an outgunned force can use unconventional tactics to defeat conventional armed forces -- a real-life lesson that paralleled Wells' fictional warning about the limitations of British military technology.
The final blow for British belief in their superiority did not come, of course, until World War I, when many of the exotic weapons that Wells imagined for Martian invaders became reality on the battlefield.
There were no heat rays, but there was poison gas much like the aliens used, and flying machines.
Although Wells wanted his fellow Britons to stop and reflect on their vulnerability, many invasion narratives of the era had the aim of increasing military spending. Clearly, imagining violence against one's fellow citizens can be used for disparate political motives.
Clarke, for instance, recently gave a speech in which he imagined an American future in which some devastating terrorist attacks had taken place.
Clarke in his book and in an essay for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, has demonstrated that he wishes to scare us for our own good, but his is only one of the voices predicting doom.
Political discourse, even as America enjoys unprecedented power in the world, has been dominated by warnings of mushroom clouds, biological warfare and vulnerability to devastating attack from all directions.
As I, like many other Wells scholars, anxiously await the release of these films, I cannot help but wonder what motives have led to these retellings of the story.
Are they dark parables of American vulnerability, as Wells' story was about the British Empire? Will they be used to justify an increase in military spending?
Is the United States of 2005 enjoying a high-water mark like that of the British Empire in 1897, and so do these films presage the ebbing of the tide?
Whatever their import, we need violent imaginations like those of Wells and Clarke to keep us thinking about such issues. Otherwise we may become too complacent and imagine, like the dodo quoted in The War of the Worlds, that we can sleep peacefully tonight and peck the invaders to death in the morning.
STORY HERE (YOU NEED TO REGISTER TO READ)http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/opinion/11461196.htm
|Author:||Alland [ Tue Jun 14, 2005 11:22 pm ]|
Actually, World War I DIDN'T see the first use of aircraft in combat. Italian planes were used as scouts and even impromptu bombers during the Balkan Wars against Turkey right before the First World War began.
|Author:||Lonesome Crow [ Tue Jun 14, 2005 11:30 pm ]|
And if you count ballons, the American civil war. 50 odd years earlier.
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