Notes Towards Day 26 (Thurs, Apr. 19): Warring Worlds?

Anne Dalke's picture




I. coursekeeping

by 8 p.m. tomorrow: post your third web event on Serendip

for Tuesday,
listen to the sound recording of 1938 War of the Worlds;
reproduced Radio Spirits, Inc and Norman Rudman, 1998; available
in seven segments on youtube, or streaming/downloadable as an mp3 file

--and think about the genre of the radio play (how does having only
AURAL input alter what you do while you are hearing the story?
froggies315: helping out w/ this discussion?)

for next Thursday, prepare your portion of the "teach-in":
sign up now so I know what groups we've got/can tell you
how much time each of you will each have (do you need
some time to "mingle" first...?)

after that!....on the course home page,
you'll find links to the checklist/final portfolio of all your course requirements
(taking some time to review these now....)

II. a few afterthoughts re: Tuesday's discussion of Adaptation:

Alicia: I believe that no movie that is based on a book will ever be
faithful to the book in its entirety because the creative team working
on the movie will heighten a particular aspect(s) for the sake of entertainment.

vspaeth
: I really didn't like the movie Adaptation.  Not because of the way
it was made or the circular movement of it.  No, I didn't like it because they
represented a very real woman, Susan Orlean, as a drug addicted,
violent, ragged character....I was shocked.  I couldn't wrap my head around
the fact that she had seen this movie and didn't sue everyone involved....
I don't think they represented her at all.

Ayla: I thought our discussion of Adaptation was an important one to have
since we compared the movie to the book and talked about what the movie
was about and it's value etc.  However, I was so disappointed with what was
not said - or rather what there wasn't time for....the example that stands out
to me the most is that Charlie kept saying he wanted to show people that
flowers were pretty.  In the movie, Charlie "writes in" a scene [where] John says
(something along the lines of), "People are always leeching off me.  Get your
own passion!  Stupid bitch."  When Orlean sees the ghost orchid, she says,
"It's just a flower."  She couldn't adopt anyone's passion or fascination with
orchids because it wasn't hers.  This scene parallels Charlie's inability to
make a movie that 'shows people that flowers are pretty.'  This is precisely
because even if he had made a movie that exhibited flowers, he would not
have succeeded.  He would not be able to force his audience adopt an
appreciation for flowers.

what else...?

III. turning to H.G. Well's "scientific romance"....
have you read anything by H.G. Wells before?
describe your experiences of reading this story:
what surprised/intrigued/puzzled/pleased you?
(taking a leaf from Ayla:) what does it accomplish?

multiple adaptations:
Independence Day,
Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!
The X-Files
the xbox video game series Halo
Alan Moore's graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume II
the end of the first issue of Marvel Zombies 5....

the one we'll be listening to for Tuesday is a radio performance...
so (thought experiment!): how would you turn
"The War of the Worlds" into a contemporary radio show?
how much of the original cultural setting would you keep?
what dimensions of the story seem to you still important/lasting?
(remember the essay by Gary Bortolotti and Linda Hutcheon,
"On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse,"
which I quoted on Tuesday: "think about the broader questions
of why and how certain stories are told and retold....")
why re-tell this story today? and how?

IV. Anne's reading notes/stopping points for discussion

intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes…


before we judge them  too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought...Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?

It came to me that I was upon this dark common, helpless, unprotected, and alone. Suddenly, like a thing falling upon me from without, came--fear….The fear I felt was … a panic terror not only of the Martians, but of the dusk and stillness all about me. Such an extraordinary effect in unmanning me it had that I ran weeping silently as a child might do.

…My terror had fallen from me like a garment….A few minutes before, there had only been three real things before me--the immensity of the night and space and nature, my own feebleness and anguish, and the near approach of death. Now it was as if something turned over, and the point of view altered abruptly. There was no sensible transition from one state of mind to the other. I was immediately the self of every day again--a decent, ordinary citizen. The silent common, the impulse of my flight, the starting flames, were as if they had been in a dream. I asked myself had these latter things indeed happened? I could not credit it….

Perhaps I am a man of exceptional moods. I do not know how far my experience is common. At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all. This feeling was very strong upon me that night. Here was another side to my dream….

my reasoning was dead against the chances of the invaders….In the centre, sticking into the skin of our old planet Earth like a poisoned dart, was this cylinder. But the poison was scarcely working yet. …Beyond was a fringe of excitement, and farther than that fringe the inflammation had not crept as yet. In the rest of the world the stream of life still flowed as it had flowed for immemorial years. The fever of war that would presently clog vein and artery, deaden nerve and destroy brain, had still to develop.

…."It's a pity they make themselves so unapproachable," he said. "It would be curious to know how they live on another planet; we might learn a thing or two."

….I must confess the sight of all this armament, all this preparation, greatly excited me. My imagination became belligerent, and defeated the invaders in a dozen striking ways; something of my schoolboy dreams of battle and heroism came back. It hardly seemed a fair fight to me at that time. They seemed very helpless in that pit of theirs.

…And this was the little world in which I had been living securely for years, this fiery chaos!

[artillery man, curate, and brother, a medical student…]

"What do these things mean?…Why are these things permitted? What sins have we done?….This must be the beginning of the end…The great and terrible day of the Lord!"

"God … is not an insurance agent."

The habit of personal security…is …deeply fixed in the Londoner's mind….

No doubt the thought that was uppermost in a thousand of those vigilant minds, even as it was uppermost in mine, was the riddle--how much they understood of us. Did they grasp that we in our millions were organized, disciplined, working together?

….in the Martians we have beyond dispute the actual accomplishment of such a suppression of the animal side of the organism by the intelligence. To me it is quite credible that the Martians may be descended from beings not unlike ourselves, by a gradual development of brain and hands …at the expense of the rest of the body. Without the body the brain would, of course, become a mere selfish intelligence, without any of the emotional substratum of the human being.

…I found about me the landscape, weird and lurid, of another planet. For that moment I touched an emotion beyond the common range of men, yet one that the poor brutes we dominate know only too well. I felt as a rabbit might feel returning to his burrow and suddenly confronted by the work of a dozen busy navvies digging the foundations of a house. I felt the first inkling of … dethronement, a persuasion that I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel. With us it would be as with them, to lurk and watch, to run and hide; the fear and empire of man had passed away.

…I found myself thinking consecutively--a thing I do not remember to have done since my last argument with the curate. During all the intervening time my mental condition had been a hurrying succession of vague emotional states or a sort of stupid receptivity. But in the night my brain, reinforced, I suppose, by the food I had eaten, grew clear again, and I thought.

….the killing of the curate…gave me no sensation of horror or remorse to recall; I saw it simply as a thing done, a memory infinitely disagreeable but quite without the quality of remorse. I saw myself then as I see myself now, driven step by step towards that hasty blow, the creature of a sequence of accidents leading inevitably to that. I felt no condemnation; yet the memory, static, unprogressive, haunted me. In the silence of the night, with that sense of the nearness of God that sometimes comes into the stillness and the darkness, I stood my trial, my only trial, for that moment of wrath and fear. I retraced every step of our conversation …We had been incapable of co-operation--grim chance had taken no heed of that. Had I foreseen, I should have left him ...But I did not foresee; and crime is to foresee and do. And I set this down as I have set all this story down, as it was. There were no witnesses--all these things I might have concealed. But I set it down, and the reader must form his judgment as he will.

….I had uttered prayers, fetish prayers, had prayed as heathens mutter charms when I was in extremity; but now I prayed indeed, pleading steadfastly and sanely, face to face with the darkness of God. Strange night! Strangest in this, that so soon as dawn had come, I, who had talked with God, crept out of the house like a rat leaving its hiding place--a creature scarcely larger, an inferior animal, a thing that for any passing whim of our masters might be hunted and killed. Perhaps they also prayed confidently to God. Surely, if we have learned nothing else, this war has taught us pity--pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion.

"…it is up with humanity…We're beat…We're eatable ants."

"it's the man that keeps on thinking comes through….Life is real again, and the useless and cumbersome and mischievous have to die….But saving the race is nothing in itself….that's only being rats. It's saving our knowledge and adding to it is the thing….We must make great safe places down deep, and get all the books we can; not novels and poetry swipes, but ideas, science books….we must leave the Martians alone. ..We must show them we mean no harm. Yes, I know. But they're intelligent things, and they won't hunt us down if they have all they want, and think we're just harmless vermin."

…scattered about …were the Martians--dead!--slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth….These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning of things--taken toll of our prehuman ancestors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed resisting power; to no germs do we succumb without a struggle, and to many--those that cause putrefaction in dead matter, for instance--our living frames are altogether immune. But there are no bacteria in Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly they drank and fed, our microscopic allies began to work their overthrow….they were irrevocably doomed, dying and rotting even as they went to and fro. It was inevitable. By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain.

….I cannot but regret, now that I am concluding my story, how little I am able to contribute to the discussion of the many debatable questions which are still unsettled….My particular province is speculative philosophy….

whether we expect another invasion or not, our views of the human future must be greatly modified by these events. We have learned now that we cannot regard this planet as being fenced in and a secure abiding place for Man; we can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that may come upon us suddenly out of space. It may be that in the larger design of the universe this invasion from Mars is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed us of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of decadence, the gifts to human science it has brought are enormous, and it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind. It may be that across the immensity of space the Martians have watched the fate of these pioneers of theirs and learned their lesson… Be that as it may, for many years yet there will certainly be no relaxation of the eager scrutiny of the Martian disk, and those fiery darts of the sky, the shooting stars, will bring with them as they fall an unavoidable apprehension to all the sons of men.

The broadening of men's views that has resulted can scarcely be exaggerated. Before the cylinder fell there was a general persuasion that through all the deep of space no life existed beyond the petty surface of our minute sphere. Now we see further…

I must confess the stress and danger of the time have left an abiding sense of doubt and insecurity in my mind….I go to London and see the busy multitudes in Fleet Street and the Strand, and it comes across my mind that they are but the ghosts of the past, haunting the streets that I have seen silent and wretched, going to and fro, phantasms in a dead city, the mockery of life in a galvanised body.