A place for me to share my pictures, reports and thoughts on all things Martian - in particular the excellent new miniature Wargame due out in December - All Quiet on the Martian Front.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Firm Pledge (finally!)

Things continue to progress  nicely for the Martian Front Kickstarter over at Alien Dungeon. Lots of new models are being sculpted and sprues designed. All the fantastic images courtesy of Alien Dungeon.

Martian Lobototon gunners

Martian Lobototon slashers
I'm liking the assembly videos too, although the Tripod strength test has to be the most entertaining!

Anyhow, as the Pledge Manager close tomorrow I thought I might share my final choices with you and some ideas I have of how to use them in future games, as well as enquiring as to what you chaps decided on eventually.

Having gone for Full Assault luckily most of the choices I had been considering were made for me in terms of the stretch goals. For example, at that level and above its a case of receiving an extra unit of Field Guns and 3 Hover Drones instead of having to choose one or the other.

The tricky bit came when I had to make decisions between additional American troops like the Baldwin Command tank, extra Roughriders and US Heavy Infantry or BEF forces like the Wicket Tank, Vickers crews and the Lloyd tank. As I'd opted to go for the substantial investment in Thunderchild II, the BEF Land Ironclad, I kind of wanted some BEF forces to round out the Contingent.

However, that would have meant missing out on the free US command tank option, the Heavy Infantry (which I really like the look of) and the Munitions tank (which I figured would be a fairly necessary piece of kit to keep my Field and Mobile Guns in action). On a more real world level, I also figured if I avoided these BEF freebies I'd also avoid the temptation of buying extra BEF stuff on top of the extra US kit I had my eye on!

The lovely flivver models had caught my eyes and I figured my Field Guns might want a tow should the Tripods get too close - Shoot and Scoot WW1 era style! I decided to squeeze a unit of these onto the end of my order.

 Then there were the Martians to consider. I figured thanks to the Full Assault options I had plenty of Assault and Scout Tripods, as well as loads of Drones and Lobototons (Re-animated Human slaves!). I was fairly torn over deciding on something big and nasty like a Dominator or Overseer to stand up to Thunderchild II, or going with a Scientist and a Harvester to give me more flexibility in putting more interesting scenarios together.

I figure two were better one and so went for the Scientist and Harvester - should make for some fun games!

Now I just have to wait for Christmas....

The Rout of Civilisation...

Isn't it typical.

You wait ages for a good game involving HG Wells inspired Martian Tripods invading Earth and two come along at once!

I'm sure you already know about All Quiet on the Martian Front and I've mentioned Fimm McCool's excellent looking boardgame on here as well.

Well now's your chance to get your grubby hands/tentacles on a copy as his Indiegogo campaign is under way - I particularly like the sound of the metal Tripod miniatures should targets be hit early.

I hope to be doing my bit once I've gathered funds together after my excesses with the Martian Front campaign!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Earth Under the Martians

More news on Fimm McCool's exciting Tripods board game - Final playtesting is due to go ahead at the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln this September. 

Check out the fantastic artwork for the box!

Here's looking forward to the kickstarter and launch in October.

Friday, 2 August 2013

The Kraken Wakes

My last post got me thinking about some of the other SF I enjoyed as a kid. John Wyndham has always been a favourite - due in no small part to Day of the Triffids. However it is The Kraken Wakes that has my attention now - and its parallels with War of the Worlds.

The story is one of Alien invasion and attempted colonisation like War of the Worlds - this time our invaders make their landings in the deep ocean trenches of the world and literally fight to secure a beach head against humanity.

I don't know whether this a reference to Wells' story but the Alien craft are initially mistaken for Mars by our protagonists,

“Mars is looking pretty angry tonight, isn’t he? I hope it isn’t an omen,” she said.

I looked where she pointed at a red spot among myriads of white ones, and with some 
surprise. Mars does look red, of course, though I had never seen him look quite as red 
as that - but then, neither were the stars, as seen at home, quite as bright as they were 
here. Being practically in the tropics might account for it.

“Certainly a little inflamed,” I agreed.

We regarded the red point for some moments. Then Phyllis said, “That’s funny. It’s 
seems to be getting bigger.”

I explained that that was obviously an hallucination formed by staring at it. We went 
on staring, and it became quite indisputably bigger. Moreover:

“There’s another one. There can’t be two Marses,” said Phyllis.

And sure enough there was. A smaller red point, a little up from, and to the right of, 
the first. She added, “And another. To the left. See?”

She was right about that, too, and by this time the first one was glowing as the most 
noticeable thing in the sky.

The objects get nearer and crash into the sea,

We watched all three of them slowly getting brighter and also sinking lower in the 
sky until they were little above the horizon line, and reflecting in a pinkish pathway 
across the water toward us.

“Five now,” said Phyllis.

We’ve both been asked many times since to describe them, but perhaps we are not 
gifted with such a precise eye for detail as some others. What we said at the time, and 
what we still say, is that on this occasion there was no real shape visible. The center 
was solidly red, and a kind of fuzz round it was less so. The best suggestion I can 
make is that you imagine a brilliantly red light as seen in a fairly thick fog so that 
there is a strong halation, and you will have something of the effect.

Others besides ourselves were leaning over the rail, and in fairness I should perhaps 
mention that between them they appear to have seen cigar-shapes, cylinders, discs, 
ovoids, and, inevitably, saucers. We did not. What is more, we did not see eight, nine, 
or a dozen. We saw five.

The halation may or may not have been due to some kind of jet drive, but it did not 
indicate any great speed. The things grew in size quite slowly as they approached. 
There was time for people to go back into the saloon and fetch their friends out to see, 
so that presently a line of us leaned all along the rail, looking at them and guessing.
With no idea of scale we could have no judgment of their size or distance; all we 
could be sure of was that they were descending in a long glide which looked as if it 
would take them across our wake.

When the first one hit the water a great burst of steam shot up in a pink plume. Then, 
swiftly, there was a lower, wider spread of steam which had lost the pink tinge, and 
was simply a white cloud in the moonlight. It was beginning to thin out when the 
sound of it reached us in a searing hiss. The water round the spot bubbled and seethed 
and frothed. When the steam drew off, there was nothing to be seen there but a patch 
of turbulence, gradually subsiding.

Then the second of them came in, in just the same way, on almost the same spot. One 
after another all five of them touched down on the water with great whooshes and 
hissings of steam. Then the vapor cleared, showing only a few contiguous patches of 
troubled water.

As more and more of these fireballs descend a pattern becomes obvious - none land on any of the Earth's landmasses. Moreover, they appear to concentrate their landings in and around the deep water areas of the oceans. To cut a long story short the British and Americans send down Bathyspheres to investigate, only to have them destroyed by the aliens. After a nuclear device is exploded in the depths in retaliation, the aliens begin attacking the world's shipping lanes, throwing the world economy into turmoil.

There is worse yet - mysterious sea tanks roll up the beaches of most of the world's continents as the aliens begin harvesting people for some unexplained reason.

Running, or at least hurrying, figures were still scattering over the Square in all 
directions, but no more were emerging from the street. Those who had reached the far 
side turned back to look, hovering close to doorways or alleys into which they could 
jump swiftly if necessary. Half a dozen men with guns or rifles laid themselves down 
on the cobbles, their weapons all aimed at the mouth of the street. Everything was 
much quieter now. Except for a few sounds of sobbing, a tense, expectant silence held 
the whole scene. And then, in the background, one became aware of a grinding, 
scraping noise; not loud, but continuous.

The door of a small house close to the church opened. The priest, in a long black robe,
stepped out. A number of people nearby ran towards him, and then knelt around him. 
He stretched out both arms as though to encompass and guard them all.
The noise from the narrow street sounded like the heavy dragging of metal upon 

Three or four rifles fired suddenly, almost together. Our angle of view still stopped us 
from seeing what they fired at, but they let go a number of rounds each. Then the men 
jumped to their feet and ran further back, almost to the further side of the Square. 
There they turned around, and reloaded.

From the street came a noise of cracking timbers and falling bricks and glass.
Then we had our first sight of a “sea-tank.” A curve of dull, gray metal sliding into 
the Square, carrying away the lower corner of a housefront as it came.

Shots cracked at it from half a dozen different directions. The bullets splattered or 
thudded against it without effect. Slowly, heavily, with an air of inexorability, it came 
on, grinding and scraping across the cobbles. It was inclining slightly to its right, 
away from us and toward the church, carrying away more of the corner house, 
unaffected by the plaster, bricks and beams that fell on it and slithered down its sides.

The Sea Tanks themselves are rather enigmatic and part of why I like this book so much is the fact that what the aliens are, how they operate and what their intentions are are never discussed. There is simply no communication possible or desired between them and the humans.

Imagine an elongated egg which has been halved down its length and set flat side to 
the ground, with the pointed end foremost. Consider this egg to the between thirty and 
thirty-five feet long, of a drab, lusterless lead color, and you’ll have a fair picture of 
the “sea-tank” as we saw it pushing into the Square.

There was no way to see how it was propelled; there may have been rollers beneath, 
but it seemed, and sounded, simply to grate forward on its metal belly with plenty of 
noise, but none of machinery. It did not jerk to turn, as a tank does, but neither did it

The attack on Escondida, the Caribbean town where Mike and Phyllis are staying, has to be the most exciting bit of the novel and the alien's method of attack is certainly a novel and slightly horrifying one!

“Look!” said Phyllis suddenly. “This one is bulging.”

She was pointing at the nearest. The previously smooth fore-and-aft sweep of its top 
was now disfigured at the highest point by a small, domelike excrescence. It was 
lighter colored than the metal beneath; a kind of off-white, semiopaque substance 
which glittered under the floods. It grew as one watched it.

“They’re all doing it,” she added.

There was a single shot. The excrescence quivered, but went on swelling. It was 
growing faster now. It was no longer dome-shaped, but spherical, attached to the 
metal by a neck, inflating like a balloon, and swaying slightly as it distended.

“It’s going to pop, I’m sure it is,” Phyllis said, apprehensively.

“There’s another coming up further down its back,” I said. “ Two more, look.” The first excrescence did not pop. It was already some two foot six in diameter and 
still swelling fast. 

“It must pop soon,” she muttered.

But still it did not. It kept on expanding until it must have been all of five feet in 
diameter. Then it stopped growing. It looked like a huge, repulsive bladder. A tremor 
and a shake passed through it. It shuddered jellywise, became detached, and wobbled 
into the air with the uncertainty of an overblown bubble.
In a lurching, amoebic way it ascended for ten feet or so. There it vacillated, 
steadying into a more stable sphere. Then, suddenly, something happened to it. It did 
not explode. Nor was there any sound. Rather, it seemed to slit open, as if it had been 
burst into instantaneous bloom by a vast number of white cilia which rayed out in all 

These cilia are incredibly sticky and begin to retract, dragging anything back that they have caught.

Outside in the Square there was a pandemonium of shouting and screaming. I risked 
putting my head round the side of the window. The thing that had burst was no longer 
in the air. It was now a round body no more than a couple of feet in diameter 
surrounded by a radiation of cilia. It was drawing these back into itself with whatever 
they had caught, and the tension was keeping it a little off the ground. Some of the 
people it was pulling in were shouting and struggling, others were like inert bundles 
of clothes.

I saw poor Muriel Flynn among them. She was lying on her back, dragged across the 
cobbles by a tentacle caught in her red hair. She had been badly hurt by the fall when 
she was pulled out of her window, and was crying out with terror, too. Leslie dragged 
almost alongside her, but it looked as if the fall had mercifully broken his neck.

Over on the far side I saw a man rush forward and try to pull a screaming woman 
away, but when he touched the cilium that held her, his hand became fastened to it, 
too, and they were dragged along together. As I watched I thanked God I had grabbed 
Phyllis’s arm, and not the cilium itself in trying to free her.

As the circle contracted, the white cilia came closer to one another. The struggling 
people inevitably touched more of them and became more helplessly enmeshed than 
before. They struggled like flies on a flypaper. There was a relentless deliberation 
about it which made it seem horribly as though one watched through the eye of a 
slow-motion camera.

Then I noticed that another of the misshapen bubbles had wobbled into the air, and 
drew back hurriedly before it should burst.

Three more cilia whipped in through the window, lay for moment like white cords on 
the floor, and then began to draw back. When they had vanished across the sill I 
leaned over to look out of the window again. In several places about the Square there 
were converging knots of people struggling helplessly. The first and nearest had 
contracted until its victims were bound together in a tight ball out of which a few 
arms and legs still flailed wildly. Then, as I watched, the whole compact mass tilted 
over and began to roll away across the Square towards the street by which the seatanks had come.

The machines, or whatever the things were, still lay where they had stopped, looking 
like huge gray slugs, each engaged in producing several of its disgusting bubbles at 
different stages.

It seems the Sea Tanks aren't too difficult to destroy and once word gets around the countries that coastline soon organise an effective defence. The mysterious aliens scale back their attacks as it becomes apparent they are no longer netting sufficient humans.

The next phase of the alien plan is the melting of the ice caps. Simple and effective and there's not a damn thing the people of Earth can do about it - apart of some ineffective bombing by the Americans when the mists around the Antarctic clear.

There's a few nice touches here  - the UK Government decamp to Harrogate when London inevitably floods. Of course as the water rises, the rule of law breaks down and eventually the Government is overthrown by armed rebels. Mike and Phyllis are forced to escape a hostile London.

Eventually they receive news that the Japanese have devised a way of combating the "Bathies" as they are known. Using ultrasonics they have managed to clear some of the smaller deep sea trenches, throwing up a lot of organic jelly to the surface. And so we are we left with the Human race, reduced to a fifth of its pre-invasion population and facing an unalterably changed climate, but now with the means to strike back and vanquish the alien invaders.

So what has this got to do with Martians? Well not much on the face of it, apart from it being a story of alien invasion and colonisation. The Aliens appear to arrive in meteor like fireballs, which are somewhat similar to the arrival of the Martians at Horsell Common in their cylinder. As noted previously, the first fireball is mistaken for the planet Mars at first. According to Wikipedia the book was first published in the same year as the 1953 Movie version  of War of the Worlds - did Wyndham present it as a deliberately alternative version of the Invasion story?

The aliens themselves are utterly mysterious. Apart from some theories bandied about by the scientists that they may be from some high pressure world like Jupiter or Neptune and the lumps of jelly that float to the surface after the Japanese use their ultrasonic weapon, we get no information about them at all. They use organic "machines" in the form of the Sea Tanks rather than mechanical tripods.

However, they do capture human prey, although for what purpose we do not know. They alter Earth's climate like the Masters of John Christopher's Tripod series plan to - although whether this is a way of exterminating a large part of the Human population or a means of expanding their habitable zones on Earth, or perhaps even both is again unknown.

My main attraction to the story and, apart from it being a great read, would be to harvest ideas to give the Martians in All Quiet a truly mysterious and alien logic in their grand plans for Earth. Along with John Christopher's Tripod series, which contains some great description of the alien cities and their attitudes to the conquered humans, I reckon there's plenty of material to flesh out my Martians come December!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

News from the Front sir!

Alien Dungeon have posted up some draft versions of possible organisation charts for US, BEF and Martian forces. I think they look rather good, although the best bit is the fact that they only represent an ideal. You can imagine harried commanders throwing together whatever units had survived the last Martian incursion to make up hastily formed battalions, ready for the next attack.

My forces are going to be mostly US army with a "little" contribution from the BEF in the form of Thunderchild II. I'd like to round out my BEF contingent with some infantry and tanks at some point but I reckon Flivvers, a Harvester Tripod and maybe a Scientist for certain scenarios I have in mind will be the priority once the pledge manager is sorted out.

Good to see the Martians operating in multiples of three!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Tripods are coming!

I thought I'd continue my exploration into all things Martian by sharing some of the books I've come to associate with The War of The Worlds. These are novels mainly that I feel continue or give a contrasting take on the themes of that fantastic tale somehow.

First up is the Tripods trilogy by John Christopher - a favourite author of mine, especially for his Sword of the Spirits trilogy.

Its a while since I've read the three books and I'm holding off rereading them until I track down a replacement copy of the The Pool of Fire, which has mysteriously vanished from my book cases. Apparently there was a prequel written, When the Tripods came, which I wasn't aware of.

If you're not familiar with the premise of the trilogy, here's a brief summary -  it is set in a world conquered by the Masters and their Tripods. Human society has reverted to a medieval, agricultural level with little industry, other than that closely controlled by the aliens. Humans are controlled by the masters by being "capped" at the age of 14 - once their brain cases have stopped growing. The cap facilitates some kind of mind control where creativity and curiosity are suppressed, rendering humans docile and willing to serve the tripods.

An illustrated version of the story that was serialised in Boy's Life 1981-2 - another incarnation of the story revealed to me by the interwebz!

The White Mountains kicks off the trilogy with the story of Will, his cousin Henry and French teenager Jean Paul, nicknamed Beanpole. Will is 13 and due to be capped, although a meeting with the strange vagrant (Humans who's minds have been damaged by the capping process), Ozymandias precipitates a journey to find and join the Human Resistance hiding in the titular White Mountains.

The City of Gold and Lead sees Will, Beanpole and new friend, Fritz sent on a dangerous mission to infiltrate a Tripod city to learn what they can of the alien Masters. The aliens select new slaves to serve them through a sporting contest - the artificial gravity and toxic atmosphere inside their pressurised cities means that Humans don't last long in their service and so strong new candidates are often needed. A plan to terraform the Earth so its atmosphere is more like that of the Masters' home planet is discovered by Will and he must escape to get the news to the Resistance in the White Mountains.

The Pool of Fire sees the Resistance going on the offensive. Will and Fritz are sent out to the Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Middle East t start up new resistance cells amongst the uncapped young. The Resistance knows that alcohol has a strong soporific effect on the Masters having ambushed a Tripod. A coordinated attack using this knowledge is launched against the Tripod cities. The saga ends with the Tripod yoke being lifted from Humanity, but old nationalist tensions begin arising in the newly freed word and a peaceful future is left hanging in the balance as war between nations looms large on the horizon.

Comparisons with Wells' Martians are obvious but here is what John Christopher (real name Sam Ayoud)  has said about the inspiration behind his tripods,

It may be hard to believe this, but I’d forgotten Wells’ Tripods until after the book was taken. I then set out consciously to adopt a more logical approach. Wells’ Tripods had been used by ‘spider-like creatures’. I wondered (then – and like anyone who’s tried to make them work on film) how they actually progressed … and for that matter, why. If Wells’ Martians had been copying a body-image they would have used eight-legged crawlers (which would have also been more efficient). From the Tripods I developed the Masters and their triangulated city. I also thought of the stilt-men of the French marshes, and gave them a marshy steamy planet as their point of origin.

The BBC made a series in the 80's - I missed it first time around! 
Not sure where the spider reference comes from, but its clear that for all the similarities, Christopher's Alien Masters are very different to the Wellsian Martians.

Lots of great ideas for scenarios to pinch for All Quiet... from this exciting trilogy though. Firstly we get a great view of the  pressurised domes and pyramidal buildings that make up the Tripod cities - could the Founder Tripods be building something similar in Martian occupied America? A desperate, all or nothing assault by the US on a newly founded and discovered city could be fun - their objective to wreak as much havoc on the city while the Martians attempt to minimise the destruction.

I also like the idea of the Resistance - how long can the free nations hold out before they break down in the face of Martian aggression. What will come after Governments topple - how will Humanity continue the figt against their alien oppressors? Are their pockets of resistance in Martian held territory that need relieving - could they even be the base for desperate missions behind enemy lines?

We already have Slaver Tripods in All Quite... along with their Zombie troopers controlled by the helmet like devices attached to their heads. Might the Martian scientists be close to perfecting a way of transmitting a mind control wave? Another desperate mission to destroy the prototype Mind Control Array should ensure a tense game - especially with a turn limit before it is switched on...

Right then, off to ebay to find copies of The Pool of Fire and When the Tripods Came, as well as the DVD of the BBC series!

Survival Games...

Well who'd have thought I'd ever be comparing H G Wells, Martian Invasion games to buses - you wait ages for one to come around then two appear at once!

As well as looking forward to receiving all the goodies for All Quiet... in December, I was very excited to see what's going on over at Fimm McCool's excellent Games Orkshop. He's only come up with an exciting sounding board game and some rather nice looking Tripod models to go with it!

I won't say too much about it (as Fimm hasn't!!) but it involves a struggle for survival in Martian occupied London, closely following the events from the novel. 

Can't wait to see more updates on this little project! 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Earthmen are from Earth, Martians are from Mars...

Right - finally done with painting entries up for the Lead Painters League over on the LAF - a rather time consuming endeavour!

So where to begin with our Martian Odyssey?

Well it would seem logical to start at the source of the Martian scourge - H G Wells and his hugely influential novel, War of the Worlds. I'm sure if you're reading this you'll be more than familiar with the plot so I think I'll have a start by looking at the themes and tropes that Wells either created or developed from earlier works of fiction and scientific discoveries of the period and why the story has stuck in my and the popular imagination for so long.

First up the Martians themselves!

War of the Worlds was one of the first Alien Invasion stories to be told. As is so often the case with Wells, much of his story telling is a reaction to prevailing social trends and political and technical developments. The story sits within the (at the time) popular trend of Invasion stories, most of which were concerned with the threat an increasingly powerful Germany was becoming.

Only this time it wasn't beastly Huns trying to get a toehold in Blighty - this time it was actual Aliens!

Title page from the 1927 Amazing Stories, by Frank Paul
Kudos to Wells for imagining something a little different to the Humanoid Aliens, or indeed Rubber Forehead Aliens, we often see in other Sci-fi works. Do we detect the influence of Darwin and his recently published theories, so prevalent elsewhere in some of the big themes of the book, in Wells' description of the Martians?

 I think everyone expected to see a man emerge--possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks--like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me--and then another...

... A big greyish 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-coloured 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 tentacular 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 wedgelike 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.

 “War of the Worlds” (1898) by artist Henrique Alvim CorrĂȘa (1876-1910)
This becomes more apparent as the narrator muses over what he observes of the Martians during his incarceration in the ruined house on the way to Leatherhead.

Strange as it may seem to a human being, all the complex apparatus of digestion, which makes up the bulk of our bodies, did not exist in the Martians. They were heads--merely heads. Entrails they had none. They did not eat, much less digest. Instead, they took the fresh, living blood of other creatures, and injected it into their own veins. 

Having evolved past the need of a body the Martians replace these inefficient processes with machinery, 

It is worthy of remark that a certain speculative writer of quasi-scientific repute, writing long before the Martian invasion, did forecast for man a final structure not unlike the actual Martian condition. His prophecy, I remember, appeared in November or December, 1893, in a long-defunct publication, the Pall Mall Budget, and I recall a caricature of it in a pre-Martian periodical called Punch. He pointed out--writing in a foolish, facetious tone--that the perfection of mechanical appliances must ultimately supersede limbs; the perfection of chemical devices, digestion; that such organs as hair, external nose, teeth, ears, and chin were no longer essential parts of the human being, and that the tendency of natural selection would lie in the direction of their steady diminution through the coming ages. The brain alone remained a cardinal necessity. Only one other part of the body had a strong case for survival, and that was the hand, "teacher and agent of the brain." While the rest of the body dwindled, the hands would grow larger.

Martian Machines from the Jeff Wayne inspired computer game
There is many a true word written in jest, and here 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 (the latter giving rise to the two bunches of delicate tentacles at last) 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 think this is partly why War of the Worlds is so satisfying - the Martians aren't just bad guys from space - a faceless unreasoning enemy with no particular reason for their invasion.

Are the Martians any worse than us Humans and our colonial/genocidal ways?

And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. 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. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?

Are their dietary habits any worse than ours?

I think that we should remember how repulsive our carnivorous habits would seem to an intelligent rabbit

And what would we do in their place?

The secular cooling that must someday overtake our planet has already gone far indeed with our neighbour. Its physical condition is still largely a mystery, but we know now that even in its equatorial region the midday temperature barely approaches that of our coldest winter. Its air is much more attenuated than ours, its oceans have shrunk until they cover but a third of its surface, and as its slow seasons change huge snowcaps gather and melt about either pole and periodically inundate its temperate zones. That last stage of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars. The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they 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 grey 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.

Might we even feel a touch of sympathy for the Martians in the end, terrible though they are in purpose and technological might, yet tragically doomed despite their best efforts?

Fantastic illustration by Geoff Taylor - Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds
It was near South Kensington that I first heard the howling. It crept almost imperceptibly upon my senses. It was a sobbing alternation of two notes, "Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," keeping on perpetually. When I passed streets that ran northward it grew in volume, and houses and buildings seemed to deaden and cut it off again. It came in a full tide down Exhibition Road. I stopped, staring towards Kensington Gardens, wondering at this strange, remote wailing. It was as if that mighty desert of houses had found a voice for its fear and solitude...

... As I crossed the bridge, the sound of "Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," ceased. It was, as it were, cut off. The silence came like a thunderclap.

The dusky houses about me stood faint and tall and dim; the trees towards the park were growing black. All about me the red weed clambered among the ruins, writhing to get above me in the dimness. Night, the mother of fear and mystery, was coming upon me. But while that voice sounded the solitude, the desolation, had been endurable; by virtue of it London had still seemed alive, and the sense of life about me had upheld me. Then suddenly a change, the passing of something--I knew not what--and then a stillness that could be felt.

This idea of pitying the Martians reminds me of a John Wyndham story which follows similar themes of a doomed Mars, Sleepers of Mars, but more of that later when I take a look at Mars related fiction.

Besides the Martians are given something of a get out of jail free card in the epilogue - perhaps their invasion of Venus was more successful...

Lessing has advanced excellent reasons for supposing that the Martians have actually succeeded in effecting a landing on the planet Venus. Seven months ago now, Venus and Mars were in alignment with the sun; that is to say, Mars was in opposition from the point of view of an observer on Venus. Subsequently a peculiar luminous and sinuous marking appeared on the unillumined half of the inner planet, and almost simultaneously a faint dark mark of a similar sinuous character was detected upon a photograph of the Martian disk. One needs to see the drawings of these appearances in order to appreciate fully their remarkable resemblance in character.

As well as the Darwinian and Colonial slant you can apply to them, its also interesting to look at the scientific background of the time and how they influenced Wells' creation. I love the fact that he was no doubt inspired by real events at the time. The book starts with the observation made of a great light on the surface of Mars, made from the Lick Observatory by Perrotin of Nice.

Here's the original report

Since the arrangements for circulating telegraphic information on astronomical subjects was inaugurated, Dr. Krueger, who is in charge of the Central Bureau at Kiel, certainly has not favoured his correspondents with a stranger telegram than the one which he flashed over the world on Monday afternoon :-
"Projection lumineuse dans region australe du terminateur de Mars observee par Jarvelle 28 Juillet 16 heures Perrotin"

This relates to an observation made at the famous Nice Observatory, of which M. Perrotin is the Director, by M. Javelle, who is already well known for his careful work. The news therefore must be accepted seriously, and, as it may be imagined, details are anxiously awaited; on Monday and Tuesday nights, unfortunately, the weather in London was not favourable for observation [Observation in London!], so whether the light continues or not is not known.

It would appear that the luminous projection is not a light outside the the disc of Mars, but in the region of the planet not lighted up by the sun at the time of observation. The gibbosity of the planet is pretty considerable at the present time. Had there been evidence that the light was outside the disc, the strange appearance might be due to a comet in the same line of sight as the planet. If we assume the light to be on the planet itself, then it must either have a physical or human origin; so it is to be expected that the old idea that the Martians are signalling to us will be revived. Of physical origins we can only think of Aurora (which is not improbable, only bearing in mind the locality named, but distinctly improbable unless we assume that in Mars the phenomenon is much more intense than with us), a long range of snow-capped hills, and forest fires burning over a large area.

Without favouring the signalling idea before we know more of the observation, it may be stated that a better time for signalling could scarcely be chosen, for Mars being now a morning star, means that the opposition when no part of its dark surface will be visible, is some time off.

The Martians, of course, find it much easier to see the dark side of the Earth than we do to see the dark side of Mars, and whatever may be the explanation of the appearances which three astronomers of reputation have thought proper to telegraph over the world, it is worth noting that forest fires over large areas may be the first distinctive thing observed on either planet from the other besides the fixed surface markings.

Add these observations to Lowell's ideas of a Martian civilisation, discussed in his 1895 book,  Mars. 

To review, now, the chain of reasoning by which we have been led to regard it probable that upon the surface of Mars we see the effects of local intelligence. We find, in the first place, that the broad physical conditions of the planet are not antagonistic to some form of life; secondly, that there is an apparent dearth of water upon the planet's surface,and therefore, if beings of sufficient intelligence inhabited it, they would have to resort to irrigation to support life; thirdly, that there turns out to be a network of markings covering the disk precisely counterparting what a system of irrigation would look like; and, lastly, that there is a set of spots placed where we should expect to find the lands thus artificially fertilized, and behaving as such constructed oases should. All this, of course, may be a set of coincidences, signifying nothing; but the probability points the other way. As to details of explanation, any we may adopt will undoubtedly be found, on closer acquaintance, to vary from the actual Martian state of things; for any Martian life must differ markedly from our own.

The fundamental fact in the matter is the dearth of water. If we keep this in mind, we shall see that many of the objections that spontaneously arise answer themselves. The supposed herculean task of constructing such canals disappears at once; for, if the canals be dug for irrigation purposes, it is evident that what we see, and call by ellipsis the canal, is not really the canal at all, but the strip of fertilized land bordering it,--the thread of water in the midst of it, the canal itself, being far too small to be perceptible. In the case of an irrigation canal seen at a distance, it is always the strip of verdure, not the canal, that is visible, as we see in looking from afar upon irrigated country on the Earth.

The idea that Mars is a place like Earth is accepted - as well as the notion that water is scarce and that the presence of "canals" must point to the presence of intelligent life. 

So to is the idea of Mars as older and thus dying planet - 

Mars being thus old himself, we know that evolution on his surface must be similarly advanced. This only informs us of its condition relative to the planet's capabilities. Of its actual state our data are not definite enough to furnish much deduction. But from the fact that our own development has been comparatively a recent thing, and that a long time would be needed to bring even Mars to his present geological condition, we may judge any life he may support to be not only relatively, but really older than our own. From the little we can see, such appears to be the case. The evidence of handicraft, if such it be, points to a highly intelligent mind behind it. Irrigation, unscientifically conducted would not give us such truly wonderful mathematical fitness in the several parts to the whole as we there behold. A mind of no mean order would seem to have presided over the system we see,--a mind certainly of considerably more comprehensiveness than that which presides over the various departments of our own public works. Party politics, at all events, have had no part in them; for the system is planet wide. Quite possibly, such Martian folk are possessed of inventions of which we have not dreamed, and with them electrophones and kinetoscopes are things of a bygone past, preserved with veneration in museums as relics of the clumsy contrivances of the simple childhood of the race. Certainly what we see hints at the existence of beings who are in advance of, not behind us, in the journey of life.

In fact one can see all these ideas come together in Wells' essay, Intelligence on Mars, that was published in 1896. These ideas would of course appear in War of the Worlds in 1897.

Right enough of the pseudo-inellectual stuff - lets look at some monsters!

There have been many interpretations of the Martians over the years. Here's some of my favourites and some that are downright strange!

Being a bit of a purist I the closer the beastie is to Wells' description the happier I am.

Jeff Wayne's Musical version - the updated version has some great looking Martians.

Classic illustrations such as this one are also right on the nail in my opinion.

These images taken from the intriguing (I haven't seen it yet) War of the Worlds The True Story film and also look pretty good.

Now I quite like the 1953 American film version but obviously the design of the Martians and their machines are very different. Quite liked the composite eye idea though!

The recent Tom Cruise version was also pretty good but for me the Aliens looked like they were straight out of Independence Day. Pretty creepy mind...

Harryhausen had a bash too

Then there was the 80's TV series which kind of followed on from the 1953 film

I'm sure there are other famous depictions of the Martians that I've forgotten - do let me know if you can think of any!

Now for some of the stranger offerings -

Martian from the "sequel", Edison's Conquest of Space

and some of the stranger book cover designs found in this excellent collection, courtesy of Dr Zeus

While I'm on the subject - I never knew Tintin and Superman got stuck in as well!

... but I think I'll leave looking at adaptations for another post!

As for the upcoming All Quiet from the Martian Front game from Alien Dungeon - what can we expect from the Invaders from the Red Planet?

Well obviously they've made it back to Earth so Mars isn't quite on its last legs!

There are some interesting looking units, beyond the various Fighting Machines, that have been featured so far which signal the Martians' intentions towards Humanity quite well...

The Harvester - not the English Pub chain but used for a very similar purpose!

This Machine is used to gather human captives to be ground into the nourishing pulp the Martians need for sustenance. Sometimes a worse fate awaits those unlucky enough to fall into Martian hands. Experimentation or selection for conversion into Zombie troopers are sure to prove equally horrifying experiences!

The Scientist - not much is known yet of these inscrutable machines. 

Quote from Alien Dungeon - Very rare to be seen by soldiers, the strange Martian Machine commonly called the “Scientist Tripod” is not a weapon of war specifically.  It's purpose seems to be one of exploration and, in some cases, experimentation.  These machines are lower to the ground and of the same size as the Martian Slaver Tripods.  They are always accompanied by a swarm of Drones both for protection and as assistance in their mysterious missions.  On the occasions when new Martian Machines make their first appearance, it is common for a Scientist Tripod to be close at hand.

The Slaver - able to control the hosts of robotic drones and converted Human Zombie Troopers by means as yet unkown...

Founder Tripod - Huge and bulky and always accompanied by Assault Tripods due to its lack of weaponry.  There is still some debate as to whether these machines carry a single Martian "Mother" or clutches of juveniles in order to set up new colonies.

And my favourite - the Red Martian!