Two planets, Earth and Mars, and two literary geniuses, Germany’s Kurd Lasswitz and Britain’s H.G. Wells laid the foundations of modern science fiction and idea of that became an integral part of popular culture and led to ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the Alien series.
Yet the themes of the two books, both published in 1897, were in stark contrast: Lasswitz’s story, On Two Planets, left a legacy of hope while Wells Martian fantasy, War of the Worlds, left one with a legacy of fear.
Both authors were men of the world and widely familiar with Harvard astronomer Percival Lowell’s (1895) based on Schiaparelli’s observations of “canals” on that sparked a worldwide obsession with the myth of a Martian civilization.
At the end of his life, the physicist and philosopher Lasswitz wrote: “We have not been able to lift our gaze to the starry firmament without thinking, along with Giordano Bruno, that even on those most inaccessible worlds there may exist living, feeling, thinking creatures. It must seem absolutely nonsensical indeed that in the infinity of the cosmos our Earth should have remained the only supporter of intelligent beings.”
On Two Planets tells the story of Martians who have arrived on Earth in advance of a larger Martian expedition, established a solar-power space station hovering above the North Pole, where they constructed a base and are discovered by a German Arctic balloon expedition.
Having learned to master technology to survive the scarcity of water, the Martians of On Two Planets were lured to Earth by curiosity: their more transparent atmosphere allowed their telescopes to detect our cities and technology. After repeated failed attempts to signal us, they discovered how to control gravity and travel to Earth.
Far more advanced technologically and ethically, following their immortal philosopher, Imm, the Martians place Earth under a benign protectorate, but the Earthlings rebel, seize the Polar staion, and negotiate a treaty that limits communication between the two civilization to light signals. Equality is achieved and the story ends with a reign of hope that a new planetary order will lead to a utopia of peace.
Posted by Casey Kazan.
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