Saturday, October 30, 2010

War of the Worlds talk show this evening.

I'll be guesting on Kate Valentine's Viewpoints show this evening. The show goes out at midnight New York Time on  WYNM am 970 The Apple. Viewpoints is primarily a UFO show, but there's a clear connection with The War of the Worlds, and this will be a good opportunity to discuss how panic radio broadcasts, UFOs and the planet Mars have become interconnected.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Concrete case of panic

The 1938 War of the Worlds radio panic, the anniversary of which we are about to celebrate, was largely focused on the East Coast of America, but the West Coast can boast at least one celebrated example, when an entire town lost its head. It was 5pm when the broadcast was heard in the little town of Concrete, Skagit County, Washington. It was all down to an unfortunate quirk of fate, when a lightening strike knocked out the power in the town just as the Martians were laying waste to New Jersey. Thinking the worst, that a Martian Tripod was attacking, the residents took fright. Feliks Banel of KUOW radio has the full story, including an amazing interview with a resident who remembers that dark and stormy night. Definitely worth a listen.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting beneath the skin of a Martian

The movie site Ain't it Cool News has been running a fascinating series of behind the scenes photographs in recent months, and today they've turned up an amazing image from George Pal's War of the Worlds movie. The Martians in Pal's movie something of a failure. They're seldom seen, not so much to build suspense, but because the suit was so poorly constructed that it fell apart at the drop of a hat, but how cool is it to see this image? A word of warning, the language on Ain't it Cool can get a bit close to the knuckle, so the easily offended should beware.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Broadcast by Eric Hobbs

I always love it when people shine a new light on the story of the 1938 broadcast, but was particularly delighted to chance upon The Broadcast, a first time work from Eric Hobbs. This graphic novel looks to be a really fine debut with nuanced writing and a particularly interesting style of art, which at first glance looks unfinished and rough, but there’s a subtle sophistication here that creeps up on you page by page until you are totally immersed in the story. I've only had a chance so far to read the first 21 pages online, which Eric has generously provided on his website, but this is going on my Christmas list. I'm still smiling as I write this from the final panel in the preview, which shows Orson Welles crossing out the name of Howard Koch as writer on the script and replacing it with his own. Eric certainly has Orson exactly right there. You can buy The Broadcast on Amazon now.

Coffee and scares at Grover's Mill

The Grover's Mill Coffee Company, whose namesake is of course the Grover's Mill where Orson Welles set his 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast, is recreating the show on the nights of Friday October 29th and Saturday October 30th.  Actor Michael Jarmus will be hosting what sounds like an excellent evenings entertainment. More details and directions can be found at the Grover's Mill Coffee Company website.

Am I the only one to see the flaw in this?

Zombies are flavour of the moment right now, and The Walking Dead is the latest take on the theme, though for the first time ever, the Zombies are going to be lurching onto our TV Screens. To promote the new series from AMC and Fox, Zombies in full make up will be appearing tomorrow in dozens of cities across the world, including New York and London. I just hope that those behind this stunt are taking precautions to ensure people are aware that this is just publicity for a TV series. It would be dangerous in the extreme to assume that everyone will instantly get the joke. They didn't in 1938 when Orson Welles unleashed his Martian invasion, and they didn't this year in Georgia when a TV station faked a 2nd Russian invasion, nor a month later in Jordan when a newspaper reported on an alien invasion! This could get real ugly, and I'm not just talking about the Zombies.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tom Bosley (1927-2010)

Sad news that Tom Bosley has passed away at the age of 83. Tom was of course best known as the long suffering father of Howard and Joanie Cunningham in Happy Days, but he also featured in the 1975 TV movie The Night that Panicked America, which told to great effect the story of the 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast. Tom played the rather anonymous sounding Norman Smith, a rattled CBS producer trying to deal with the maverick force that was Welles, but it is fairly certain to me that he is actually taking the role of Davidson Taylor, the CBS producer actually present that night.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New H.G Wells material released by BBC

The first episode of a new adaptation of First Men in the Moon will air tonight at 9pm on BBC 4 and to coincide with the broadcast, the BBC have released a number of recordings made by H. G Wells between 1931 and 1943. There are some fascinating pieces here, including a 1943 attack on the state of British newspapers that includes an intriguing suggestion that news be disseminated by telephone as a way of bypassing what he saw as the censorship of newsprint. It's very easy to think of this as the Internet in principle. Were Wells alive today, I think it certain he would be blogging. You can also find some letters written by Wells on the BBC Archive pages. Definitely worth a look. The trailer for First Men in the Moon also looks very good, though isn't that the theme music from the recent Sherlock Holmes movie?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Jeff Wayne interview

Radio Teesdale in the UK, a radio station run by volunteers, has scored a scoop with a very interesting interview with Mr War of the Worlds himself, Jeff Wayne. Wayne talks for 20 minutes about his life and interest in The War of the Worlds. It's well worth a listen. A short version can be found right now on the radio Teesdale website, but the full show including music from Wayne's seminal musical version of The War of the Worlds goes out Monday 19th at 9pm GMT on For those in the UK, the station is on 102.1 and 105.5fm.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Tampa to be invaded

The Stagework Theatre in Tampa is presenting their own version of the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast between October 7th and 16th. Sounds like an interesting variation on the theme, with several other panic broadcasts apparently influencing the production. Given the forthcoming anniversary of the 1938 broadcast, you can expect a flood of similar productions across the world. For further information on the Tampa production, visit the Stagework Theatre website. There's also a short interview with the director Karla Hartley at the WUSF website.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

NASA Mars Rover rolls out

Despite the confusion that seems to afflict NASA with its plans for a manned mission to Mars, it's encouraging to see that work continues on component elements, none more so important as how to get astronauts around on the surface. So great to see a very interesting video on the BBC website, a guided tour of the interior of a remarkable two man rover. Astronauts would be able to spend up to 2 weeks aboard at a time, in surprisingly comfortable surroundings. Amusing to see that modern touch screens have been abandoned as too difficult to use in bumpy conditions. Bit of a blow there for every science fiction film and TV series that has featured touch screen interfaces. Buttons are the future! See the full video at the BBC website.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

War of the Worlds Season 2 at last!

It's taken the best part of 5 years since the release of season 1 on DVD, but at long last we're going to get the conclusion to the War of the Worlds TV series. Dating back to 1988, the series ran a scant 2 years and starred Jared Martin as maverick scientist Harrison Blackwood, battling aliens and penny pinching government bureaucracy. The first season featured some inspired episodes, particularly one set in Grover's Mill, where Orson Welles set his 1938 invasion, but the second season lurched off in strange directions. Suddenly the series is set in the future rather than the present day and the original alien invaders are themselves kicked out of frame by a new set of aliens. Earth is portrayed in a dire environmental state, with social order breaking down and the characters we came to love in the first season are either killed off or their personalities rewritten. Blame a new creative team who apparently barely bothered to take much notice of the first season. I still recall there were some good episodes, and it's good to get to see the 2nd season on DVD so I'll be in line to get one, but if you've only ever seen Season 1, be prepared for a shock. Release date in the USA is set for October 26th. There's a pre-order page on Amazon, but it lists C. Thomas Howell as the star, which means the Amazon editorial team are mixing it up with the recent direct to video War of the Worlds movies from The Asylum film studio.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Monster "War of the Worlds" storm smothers beach

A video of a monster storm cloud described as something out of The War of the Worlds has gone viral, and deservedly so. It's a truly stupendous looking event, rolling in across a Helsinki beach in a matter of minutes, sending people fleeing for shelter. As it happens, a previous War of the Worlds radio panic was made worse when the radio station described the invaders as advancing on the capital inside a huge cloud. People saw ordinary storm clouds in the sky and panicked. Fortunately there was (apparently) no alien spaceship inside the Helsinki cloud, but as an example of freak weather, this is certainly out of this world.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Battle: Los Angeles has War of the Worlds vibe

I'm getting a distinct War of the Worlds vibe from the forthcoming movie Battle: Los Angeles. There's not a lot known yet about the film as only a few seconds of footage have been officially released, but the poster campaign is inspired. I particularly like the reference to the "The Great Los Angeles Air Raid" of 1942, when jumpy anti aircraft crews opened up on a phalanx of mystery lights that buzzed the city. Was it an off course flock of geese, or could it have been a fleet of flying saucers? Battle: Los Angeles goes for the latter, suggesting that the "Air Raid" was just the tip of the iceberg, and now in modern times, the aliens are back in force, and they're definitely not friendly.

Here's the worlds shortest trailer, clocking in at 2 seconds. Not sure if this is official or something grabbed at the recent Comic-Con.

And here's that fantastic poster.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Gulliver of Mars: Beyond the War of the Worlds

A new comic book that blends the Martian adventurer Lt. Gulliver Jones with the Mars of H.G Wells is on the way. Writer Mark Ellis and artist Preston Asevedo look to be on to a winner with this intriguing mash up. Gulliver Jones is the original Martian hero, predating the more famous John Carter by a number of years. In bringing the two books together, Ellis is imagining a post invasion earth traumatised by the Martian onslaught, a situation he postulates would, "make the fear the US experienced in the wake of 9/ll seem like concern over a hangnail." Jones is back on earth when we rejoin him, a hero of the war against the Martians, and now ready to take command of a new space vessel based on Martian technology that has been reverse engineered by none other than Nikola Tesla. Nice to see Tesla get a shot at taking on the Martians, as his great rival Thomas Edison had a similar opportunity in the 1898 newspaper serial Edison's Conquest Of Mars. You can find some fantastic art from Gulliver of Mars: Beyond the War of the Worlds here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reanimated Zombie Invasion satire echoes War of the Worlds gullibility

Sometimes you can only despair at what mascarades as sane and rational thought in the modern world. Three years ago, the satirical website The Onion produced a very clever fake video purporting to show a congressman reading out a heavily censored bill outlining American government plans to combat a Zombie outbreak. Now that same video has resurfaced and has been taken seriously by certain right wing elements of the blogosphere, who have repackaged it as a red flag warning that Obama is planning martial law. The mind simply boggles. If a three year old video can "accidentally" be re-animated (pardon the Zombie pun) then imagine what a really serious attempt at fooling the public could do? Here's the video.

Friday, June 04, 2010

520 day mission to Mars begins. Piece of string identified as key component.

The Mars 500 Mission has "Blasted Off", though the astronauts are really going nowhere. The mission will simulate a return voyage to Mars, with the 6 person crew sealed inside cramped compartments in a Moscow suburb. The idea is to examine the pressures likely to be faced by real astronauts, who will spend years away from earth should we ever get to the point of sending an actual crewed ship to Mars. The astronauts trooped on board this morning and the door was ceremoniously closed, though I couldn't help notice that the door was "sealed" with a tatty looking bit of string - trust the Russians to keep things cheap and cheerful, but then if I was going to Mars, I'd be far happier travelling in a Russian built ship than the incredibly complex machines the American's favour. You can watch the "launch" video on the Guardian website.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

War of the Worlds inspired art on show in Buffalo.

A Buffalo arts exhibition has an unusual piece of work on display, a collapsed tower inspired by the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast. Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center is hosting the installation by Sam Van Aken until June 4th. The tower is a reference to the water tower that legend says was fired upon by panicked residents of Grover's Mill. Believing Martian Tripod war machines were at large, they are said to have mistaken the water tower for a Tripod and opened fire. The tower can still be found at Grover's Mill. Aken's installation also includes a fake radio broadcast playing on a loop, rather neatly referencing the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland, and telling of panic stricken residents of Buffalo fleeing the effects. Buffalo of course is no stranger to this sort of thing, having been rocked before by a fake War of the Worlds radio broadcast. You can read more about the show at the Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center website, and there are some nice pictures to be found at the Art Voice website.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

James Cameron in 3D mission to Mars

Avatar director James Cameron is working with Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop a 3D camera for NASA's forthcoming Mars Science Laboratory (known as Curiosity). NASA has planned a 3D camera for the mission but has scrapped it due to budget overruns. Cameron personally petitioned NASA administrator Charles Bolden for the restoration of the camera, arguing that a 3D camera would chime with the public. Bolden agreed and the camera is now back in place for 2011 mission, though it will be a race against time to have it ready in time. The camera could shoot up to 10 frames per second, raising the exciting possibility of seeing our first movies from Mars.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hawking fears a real life Independence Day. Earth women beware!

Promoting his forthcoming TV series, renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has voiced concerns that we might face an Independence Day style onslaught from aliens out to steal our resources. Sorry Stephen, I think that's about as likely as them coming to steal our women. Have you been watching Independence Day, which was wrong from beginning to end? Any aliens with the technology to travel the stars have no need of going to the bother of invading a populated planet for resources. As has become perfectly clear in recent years, our galaxy, indeed our local solar system, teems with materials that are unclaimed and free to exploit. Much easier to target uninhabited planets or indeed asteroids. The old idea of aliens stealing our water is a classic of the genre, but pretty dumb when you consider how much free water is out there. Don't get me wrong, the idea of alien invasion is a fun one, but we've got very little to worry about on this score, with one exception. If the aliens are like us, there might be purely xenophobic reasons for them to attack!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Here we go again: Aliens invade Jordan.

I'm never really sure if I should feel happy and vindicated when people panic over fake alien invaders, or if I should be worried for our safety and sanity as a species. I've argued for a long time that the world remains worryingly susceptible to fakery akin to the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast, and lo and behold, here we go again. What's really interesting here is that to my knowledge, it's the first time someone has pulled this kind of hoax in the Middle East, so kudos of a kind to the Al-Ghad newspaper in Jordan, who scored a fabulous own goal by running an April Fools joke on their front page in a county where the concept of an April Fool is little known or appreciated.

I actually thought this story might in itself be an April Fool. It seems absurd to think that a newspaper article could trigger concern so strong that the local mayor Mr Mleihan commented to the Associated Press, "Students didn't go to school, their parents were frightened and I almost evacuated the town's 13,000 residents", but it looks to be the real thing. Apparently, the local security forces even combed the desert looking for the aliens, after the newspaper reported that 3m (10ft) tall creatures had landed in the desert town of Jafr, in eastern Jordan. Looking at the online edition of Al-Ghad newspaper today, the letters page does indeed carry some corroboration of the event.

The problem is of course that it seems very unlikely that many people in Jordan had ever heard of the Orson Welles broadcast, so were ill prepared to process what they were reading. It's easy to mock, but this just proves that there must be plenty of countries out there where this sort of hoax could have serious consequences. Imagine if it had been done on the radio!!

I'd love to see a copy of the April 1st front page, so if anyone out there has the facility to provide a scan, send it over and I'll post it here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Martian Ghosts: Fake invasion story panics Georgia

The grinning ghost of Orson Welles was haunting the streets of Tbilisi last night, when a Georgian television station caused a panic by broadcasting the news that the Russians had invaded the capital. The Imedi station caused a meltdown in the mobile phone network and people were reported to have fled into the streets when it aired a hoax news story, claiming that Russian tanks were advancing and that president Mikheil Saakashvili had been killed. The station went on the defensive in the aftermath, claiming that they had made it quite clear that the broadcast was a simulation of what might happen should the Russians invade again, but as has happened so often before, it seems not enough people were paying attention to the disclaimers. I've argued in a chapter of my book Waging the War of the Worlds that a new panic similar to the 1938 Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast could happen again, and here's the proof. You can watch some of the broadcast on the BBC website.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Moment a Martian was captured - historic photographs unearthed

I've mentioned the work of Neil Hughes before in this blog, when he unveiled a superb model of a Martian Tripod, but he's not been resting on his laurels, and now comes word of his latest War of the Worlds inspired creation, a captured Martian! I'm a big fan of Neil's work and the obvious love he has for the War of the Worlds, so great to hear that his latest design will be available from Eureka Miniatures soon. Here's a picture of Neil's Martian, and for more info and pictures you can check out his blog.

Friday, February 26, 2010

It came from Mars, lands at Ann Arbor

It came from Mars is a new play staging now at the Performance Network Theatre in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It's described as "An off-the-wall story about a group of radio actors terrified by Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast. Passions ignite and secret identities are revealed when a washed-up director, his diva ex-wife, a wanna-be war hero and a German sound effects wiz think they are about to be annihilated by men from Mars." Sounds like a lot of fun. Full details can be found on the Performance Network Theatre website.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Space Shuttle in Central American scare

Concerned citizens of El Salvador had a scare on Sunday, when the returning Space Shuttle made an unexpected detour over their country. Avoiding bad weather, the shuttle caused a sonic boom over the country, sending people into the streets and setting dogs barking. According to Information Week, "Endeavour's sonic boom over El Salvador caused a stir not unlike what occurred in the wake of Orson Welles' infamous War Of The Worlds radio broadcast." Well, not quite the same, as calm was quickly restored, but apparently the story was headline news in the region the next day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mars- The Movie - trailer worth checking out

This looks pretty interesting. To quote from the blurb "MARS is a uniquely animated romantic comedy about astronauts and robots falling in love on their way to the red planet. Told in the playful style of a graphic novel, MARS is equal parts character driven story, homage to our galactic neighbor, and exploration of why we explore." The trailer is certainly very odd but strangely compelling. The style is very much influenced, or so it seems to me, by the director Richard Linklater, who pioneered this sort of rotoscoped animation. Definitely well worth a look.

MARS - The Movie [HD Trailer] from Geoff Marslett on Vimeo.

War of the Worlds mock documentary on the way

Back in 2005, Steven Spielberg turned his attention to a big budget remake of The War of the Worlds. At the same time, another director was aiming to produce a version of the story, set not in modern times (as Spielberg elected) but in its original Victorian setting. Hopes were high, but the end result was rightly considered a critical disaster. Now an interesting story has cropped up on the Mukilteo Beacon website, which reveals the full story behind director Timothy Hines' attempt to film The War of the Worlds and the fascinating news that he is putting together a new film, which will weave in some of the original footage he shot into a documentary style format. This could actually work. No one can deny that Hines wanted to make a great movie, but circumstances and limited resources conspired against him. I for one am more than willing to give him another chance and hope this intriguing project goes well.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The great trek is over: Spirit officially mired.

Sad news indeed. After an extraordinary 6-year mission, the Spirit rover on Mars has been officially re-designated by NASA as a Stationary Research Platform. This decision follows months of effort by engineers to find a way of freeing the rover from a sand trap that had left its wheels spinning. But the science is not over for Spirit and it will continue to gather data, confounding estimates that on landing on Mars, it would only last 3 months. Over 6 years later and it is still functioning, plus of course its sister probe Opportunity is still operating after a similar period of activity.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Beware aliens warns top scientist

Simon Conway Morris, professor of evolutionary paleobilogy at Cambridge University will tell a Royal Society lecture today that we should be wary of any encounters with aliens. Morris contends that any evolutionary process likely to create intelligent life will bring about beings with all the same negative attributes as humans. While they might come in peace, they are just as likely to be searching for living space, fuel or water. Personally, I think he might well be right in principle, but I feel there is one serious flaw in this kind of argument. While aliens could indeed be rather nasty, invading an inhabited planet would be a huge undertaking. Just look at the mess we made of Iraq. Subjugating an entire would be infinitely more difficult, and it's just not worth the bother. Water and fuel can be found in vast amounts on uninhabited worlds, free for the taking, and any species able to cross interstellar space with an invasion fleet of sufficient size to occupy the earth could just as easily spend their money on terraforming projects or space colonies. I think John Carpenter came up with a more plausible scenario in his film They Live, in which the aliens are revealed to be capitalist exploiters, stripping the world of it's wealth by stealth.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Killraven returning in Marvel Zombies 5

Zombies seem to be flavour of the moment right now, so hardly surprising to find The War of the Worlds getting an undead makeover from Marvel Comics. I must confess I've never seen an issue of Marvel Zombies or even have a very clear idea of what it's all about, but issue 5 due out soon apparently returns to the world of Killraven, the resistance fighter created in the 1970's who battles a 2nd Martian invasion of Earth. Writer Fred Van Lente has been talking up the series at the Marvel website: "We've got zombies in the Old West, we've got zombies in Killraven's War of the Worlds, we've got zombies in Camelot," he exclaims. "I like the storytelling challenge of taking a straight-forward genre and twisting it into pretzels. It's also fun to come up with new ways to eviscerate zombies."

John Carter of Mars begins shooting

There's no specific information on precisely what they are shooting, but an official press release from Disney has announced that Pixar's John Carter of Mars movie has begun principal photography in London. I have high hopes for this movie given the involvement in Pixar, though this is a major departure for the studio, marking it's first foray into live action. Can the Pixar magic transfer from animation to live action? Hopefully in a few months we'll start to see some images emerge and start to make that judgement, but there's certainly plenty of talent behind and in front of the lens. In related news, Spy Kids' Daryl Sabara and There Will Be Blood's Ciaran Hinds have joined the cast, with Sabara playing Edgar Rice Burroughs.