Category Archives: 2. Ass 5 Research Notes

Old Postcards of Woking

Old Postcards of Woking

 Having acquired several postcards of Silent Pool for Assignment 3, I was very interested to see some of Woking.  The ones on eBay were later than the late 1890s but I think they are a good representation of Horsell Common and the buildings in Woking in the early 1900s. They helped me to picture the buildings as they would have been seen by H.G. Wells.

Another reason I acquired them to begin with was that I had an idea that at some point I might incorporate them with photographs of the buildings as they are today.  However, since reminding myself of the many areas near to Woking covered in the book “War of the Worlds”, I decided that it’s better to concentrate just on Horsell Common at the moment – the first chapter in my own story perhaps.

 

In order, these are

  1. A scene from the Common, consoling someone who was making slow progress in hospital in Devon. 1906
  2. View from the Canal, informing that a book was being sent. 1908
  3. In the Pine Woods, Woking but posted from Chichester, spending a few days ‘here’and having a good time. Date obscured.
  4. Horsell Village. 1904?
  5. Chertsey Road, Woking (not far from Maybury Road). Sending an invitation to tea when the writer is back home. 1908?
  6. Woking Crematorium. Arrived home safely. 1906
  7. Municipal Building and Wesleyan Church 1907

As I discovered before, most of the messages on the back of the postcards above have no connection with the scenes depicted showing how they were used as brief letter cards as opposed to tourist postcards.  I was surprised to see a postcard of the Crematorium – especially one saying they had arrived home safely.

  1. Inkerman Barracks – Originally constructed in 1869 as a prison for disabled convicts and known as the Woking Convict Prison. Converted in Barracks in 1882.
  2. Christchurch, Woking – The London Necropolis Railway had begun to sell of a lot of land, and a section of this was reserved “for a church, vicarage and burial ground”, also a plot of land had already been acquired in 1861. A new building was agreed in 1885, work began in 1887 and the church was completed in 1908
  3. The Mosque, Woking. Built in 1889.

Old photographs are hard to come by. In terms of the “War of the Worlds”, local historian Ian Wakeford produced a series of guided walks around the Woking area to help celebrate the 150th year of H. G. Wells’s birth, together with pages designed to complement the walk . Each page looked at a different chapter of the book and was illustrated with some of the original drawings from Pearsons Magazine (which serialized the story before it was released in book form) together with some contemporary photographs and maps to show the Woking that Wells would have known These pages can be accessed here

Also on 23rd September 2016 a ‘recap’ was staged, utilising  the illustrations by Henrique Alvim Correa and the radio dialogue by Orson Welles, when the Surrey Advertiser produced ‘live’ coverage of an adaptation written by Ian Wakeford  (with Stuart Richards, James Chapel and Andre Langlois). See here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946)

 

H.G. Wells was the fourth and last child of Joseph Wells (a shopkeeper and professional cricketer) and Sarah Neal.   His early education was patchy as was his early working life but, at the age of 18 he won a scholarship to study biology at the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science) in South Kensington. He left before graduating to return to teaching, beginning also to focus intensively on writing.  He was a prolific writer in many genres but is probably best known for his science fiction novels; seriously establishing himself as a writer with the publication of The Time Machinein 1895, completed during the short period when he lived in Woking. I will reference the following books where relevant:-

Several biographies have been written of H. G. Wells, but the one I obtained is by Michael Sherborne (2010) H. G. Wells: Another Kind of Life. London & Chicago. Peter Owen.  Sherborne did comprehensive research and the book is full of detailed accounts of Wells’s activities, writings and thoughts. In fact, there was so much detail that I found it hard to distinguish between what was of most and least importance. Michael Sherborne obviously found his subject to be highly fascinating whatever he was engaged in.

 

H. G. Wells wrote several autobiographies. The one I obtained as a Kindle version is Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866) (1934) which takes him to 1900.

I also have a Critical Edition of “War of the Worlds” with Introduction and Notes by David Y. Hughes and Harry M. Geduld (1993) USA. Indiana University Press.

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I am concentrating here on the events leading up to his arrival and during his stay in Woking to gain a picture of his perceptions of the Town. At that point he was separated from his first wife, with a divorce pending, and living in lodgings in London with his lover, Amy Catherine Robbins (who he called Jane) [1] Michael Sherborne comments on this, “It is tempting to interpret her subsequent life as the suppression of an independent woman by a domineering man, particularly since Wells deprived her even of her preferred name, replacing ‘Catherine” with the plain monosyllable ‘Jane’.  However, Sherborne suggests that Jane concluded that being the mainstay of a successful man was her best chance to get what she wanted from life as well as having a genuine belief that Wells was remarkably gifted and she could achieve more by assisting him than she could on her own. He doesn’t provide a reference for that though, although he does later speculate that there might have been an element of collaboration in view of Wells’s prolific literary output. (M. Sherborne 2010:116)

Whilst finances had improved, the London air was affecting his generally poor health even more and Wells decided he wanted to find “a little house in the country where I could follow up with another book the success that I felt was coming to the Time Machine. (Page 502 of 769. Location 6701 of 10292).  Therefore, they borrowed a hundred pounds through a mortgage on Jane’s mother’s house and “… we furnished a small resolute semi-detached villa with a minute greenhouse in the Maybury Road facing the railway line, where all night long the goods trains shunted and bumped and clattered – without serious effect upon our healthy slumbers”.

Wells viewed the move to Woking in May 1895 as a cheerful adventure, commenting that “Woking was the site of the first crematorium but few of our friends made more than five or six jokes about it”.   One thing that Wells doesn’t mention is that some of the trains on the railway line opposite might have been carrying the deceased and the bereaved in their first, second or third carriages on the way to Brookwood Cemetery!

He seemed to like it in Woking – “Close at hand in those days was a pretty and rarely used canal amidst pine-woods, a weedy canal, beset with loose-strife, spiraea, forget-me-nots and yellow water lilies, upon which one could be happy for hours in a hired canoe, and in all directions stretched open and undeveloped heathland, so that we could walk and presently learn to ride bicycles and restore our broken contact with the open air”.  Wells wrote about the dangers of the primitive bicycle (an experience he used in one of his later books).  Also, “Later on I wheeled about the district marking down suitable places and people for destruction by my Martians”(See below) .  As they became more proficient the couple cycled further , wandering about the south of England.  Wells also enjoyed drawing and he includes here what he termed a ‘Picshua’ of “Cycling and also of Jane “Engaging A Servant”.

He and Jane were married (27th October 1895) during their stay in Woking, despite the fact that they both believed in ‘free love’ . They had found that servants became impertinent and neighbours curt or insulting when learning of their unmarried state and didn’t want this friction to continue. (M. Sherborne 2010:110).  They lived happily, increasing their circle of acquaintances and friends, until Jane’s mother became ill and they decided that should move to a larger house at Worcester Park so that Mrs Robbins could live with them.

The War of the Worlds (1898)

The idea for the book emanated from a discussion Well’s had with his older brother, Frank, as they were out walking and, indeed, he dedicated the book to Frank.  They had been discussing the terrible effects on the indigenous Tasmanian population following the building of the first white settlement there in 1803. The Tasmanian Aboriginal people were treated as sub-humans and attempts to resist were met with the superior weaponry and force of the Europeans.  Between 1831 and 1835, ostensibly in a final effort at conciliation and to prevent the extermination of approximately 200 Tasmanian Aboriginal people, they were removed to Flinders Island where most of them soon died, due to destruction of their traditional way of life, attempts to ‘civilize’ them and effects of alien diseases. In the discussion Frank remarked, “Suppose some beings from another planet were to drop out of the sky suddenly, and begin laying about them here!”

Hughes and Geduld describe the plot of the book as “apocalyptic” in its unveiling of, “… a predestined future cataclysm of extra-human proportions which destroys the world as we know it but eventuates in the triumph of good over evil.  Wells invokes three responses to these events – the scriptural response of the curate; the narrator’s moral and intellectual experimentalism and the artilleryman’s survivalist-authoritarian response and, overall, the book is, (… an exploratory document whose readers must bridge into the world that is dawning after the invasion” (Hughes & Geduld 1993:09).  There is the ‘ranting curate’ (Wells was anti-religion; the narrator who bridges between the Scriptural and scientific world views and the artilleryman who believes that civilization and progress is over and “we’ve got to fix ourselves up according to the new state of affairs”.

Mars and the Martians also offer a preview of Earth’s fate with their dying world and violent aggression – a very contemporary issue in view of Climate change.  I know it’s an exciting prospect, but I do find it hard at present to avoid conflating the current drive to explore new planets with the destruction that was wreaked on the Tasmanian Aboriginal People and those in other Countries.

 

 

Mars

True color image of Mars taken by the OSIRIS instrument on the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft during its February 2007 flyby of the planet

 

Mars is the second-smallest plant in the Solar System, the fourth planet from the Sun and named after the Roman God of war. It can easily be seen from Earth with the naked eye as can its reddish appearance due to the iron oxide prevalent on its surface so is often referred to as the ‘Red Planet’. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere and surface features reminiscent of the impact craters of the Moon and the deserts, valleys and polar ice caps of Earth. Its rotational period and rotational axis and, therefore, days and seasons are comparable to those of Earth – this article here  contains images of a Martian winter  captured by the HiRise camera of NASA’s Mars Reconaissance orbiter such as a dusting of whitish-ice speckling basalt sand in the northern polar region  and frozen carbon dioxide on the  South polar ice caps which reveals darker material below the surface as it melts..

If there was such a being what would a Martian look like

The idea of intelligent life on Mars was supported by the astrophysicist Percival Lovell in the late 1800s with his concept on the Martian Canals and science fiction writers took this idea from there, the most famous being the Martians in H.G.Wells novel War of the Worlds (1898). This site provides information on ideas on Martians in the 20th Century.  .  One version of H.G. Well’s book contains illustrations by Henrique Alvim Corrêa (1876 – 1910), a Brazilian artist who specialised in military and science fiction illustration.

The video below contains footage of every time the Martians appear in a 2005 movie version of H.G. Well’s book . (one of several movie versions, not to mention TV series and a radio play by Orson Welles too).

Human Exploration of Mars

 There are ongoing investigations assessing the past habitability potential of Mars, as well as the possibly of existing life, with future astrobiology mission being planned, including Mars 2020.

 

Mars differs from Earth in having weaker gravity, intense radiation and a total lack of micobial life (so far as we know).  Because of this any colonist would go through some dramatic evolutionary changes. The initial number is likely to be small and not representative of the larger population on Earth, in which case their traits would be passed on to their children making them become distinct from people on Earth. More pronounced effects would occur along the generations. Scott Solomon suggests people could end up with naturally thicker bones to compensate for the low gravity; there would be genetic variations to protect from radiation damage.  On Earth this is connected with production of eumelanin so those with more of this in their skin could better tolerate the radiation on Marsh, leading to Martians with darker skin than anyone on Earth. There could be new skin pigments though produced from Carotenoids. Natural selection would favour those less affected by impairments to the brain from radiation and so on.  (S. Solomon, 2016).

References

Amos, M  HG Wells War of the Worlds Martian Walker (2015) [user-generated content online] Creat. Amos, M. 13 September 2015 At:  https://youtu.be/BpdgIjTKTSk  [Accessed on 25 January 2020]

ESA – European Space Agency & Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research for OSIRIS Team ESA/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA [CC BY-SA 3.0-IGO

(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0-igo)]

http://www.physics-astronomy.com/2014/05/what-we-think-martians-look-like-photos.html

https://www.nasa.gov/mars2020

https://www.wired.com/story/space-photos-of-the-week-postcards-from-a-martian-winter/

Solomon, S (2016) the Martians Are Coming – and They’re Human, [online] http://nautil.us/issue/41/selection/the-martians-are-comingand-theyre-human [Accessed on 25 January 2020]

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future

Tom Lombard (2015) Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future. Journal of Futures Studies, December 2015, 20(2): 5-24

 

At the beginning of the above paper Tom Lombardo writes of the effect on him of being drawn into future worlds through the movies when he was growing up in the 1950s – ‘The War of the Worlds  engaged all the dimensions of my conscious mind exemplifying the “total person immersion” that science fiction can generate.’ He believes that science fiction speaks to the whole person, therefore ‘stimulating and enhancing holistic future consciousness.’ and that for many people science fiction has become a total way of life. Its narrative form is a large part of its psychological power together with the fact that its primary focus has been on the possibilities of tomorrow so that we are drawn into a “rich vicarious experience of the future through its vivid and memorable characters” living the story through them.

Lombardo believes that science fiction is not just about the future of technology and science but explores all dimensions of the future from numerous perspectives and so it is about “the future of everything”, even the future of the universe.  Amongst his examples he points towards “Surface Tension” (1952) by James Blish.  This story is about tiny humanoid creatures who live in a puddle which as far as they know is the entire universe.  Some want to blast through the surface of the puddle with a constructed rocket whereas others think it is far too dangerous. Those who leave look up and see ‘the brilliant panorama of the night sky’ (p.5).  The story is an allegory and the title also refers to the constraints within our minds.  Reading about it reminded me of “Plato’s Cave”.

Lombardo also looks at the connection between myth and science fiction, using Joseph Campbell’s writings on Myth as his reference point, e.g. “Mythology is ….. the song of the imagination …” and one of the functions of myth is to open the world to the dimension of mystery – so keeping our minds, ‘ … open, through awe and wonder, to the realms of the possible, the undiscovered, the amazing, and the transcendent” as well as offering life models –  which leads to the ‘archetype’.  Lombardo proposes a long set of characteristic features and values of myth which generate holistic consciousness, including holistic future consciousness if it contains pivotal futurist themes. He believes that much of science fiction also shares all or at least some of those features and provides examples such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind with beings from a higher realm and 2001: A Space Odysseywhich embodies the mythic theme of death and resurrection.  The major difference Lombardo perceives is that science fiction is informed by what is scientifically plausible (although often challenging the boundary), rather than being based on ancient and often supernatural theories of reality.

There is a continuum within science fiction though allowing for pure fantasy and high-tech or blends of both.  Science fiction also grapples with the fear and apprehension that futurist visions can evoke. Lombard looks at the relationship science fiction has with fdutures studies – seeing them as existing on an interactive continuum.  For example H.G. Wells embraced both and sometimes wove the two together. Wells studied human history as a prelude to writing the War of the Worlds (1898) for instance.

Lombardo defines science fiction as the “evolutionary mythology of the future” on the basis that it is a continually evolving genre built upon the heritage of works of the past; from early on it has grappled with understanding evolution and progress with its central contemporary scientific narrative being cosmic evolution. His conclusion is:-

“In summary, science fiction compels us to feel the future as well as to think about it.  Its archetypal mythic, and cosmic qualities, informed and inspired by modern science, technology, and philosophical thinking, provide a medium for the ongoing debate and creation of futurist myths to guide, inspire, and warn us about the multitudinous possibilities of the future – science fiction is about the future for the future” (p. 16)

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I accessed the paper on Academia.edu which led to an exchange of messages between myself and Tom. I told him about my project and that I was seeing how “War of the Worlds” can relate to the current day.  In his response he wrote “The War of the Worlds has been associated with international paranoia (fear of invasion from another country) and as a commentary on Western imperialism – countries with military superiority invading less developed countries to secure land/resources/etc.  It is also an “out of the blue” story – we should always keep in mind that no matter how secure and comfortable we are that something totally unexpected may emerge suddenly that will upset our lives” (T. Lombardo 2019).  Reflecting afterwards the words ‘paranoia’ and ‘fear of invasion’ reminded me that we often project the  urges and aggression we deny in ourselves.

 

Further information about Tom Lombard can be accessed here http://www.centerforfutureconsciousness.com/proresume.htm

 

 

 

References

Lombard, T.  (2015) Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future. Journal of Futures Studies, December 2015, 20(2): 5-24  [Online] at: https://www.academia.edu/26469772/Science_Fiction_The_Evolutionary_Mythology_of_the_Future_-_Final_Version.  (Accessed on 3 December 2019).

http://www.centerforfutureconsciousness.com/proresume.htm