H.G. Wells' choice of invaders was not as random as Koch's choice of landing sites. Speculation about the planet was just starting to abound when Wells wrote his novel. Noted Italian astronomer Schiaperrelli first observed the canali (or channels) on Mars in 1877. By 1901, American astronomer Percival Lowell had translated canali to "canals" and peopled the planet with life forms who created the "canals" for irrigation. The fear of the "other" affects many people in some form, and if the "other" is alien in appearance and home planet, the fear seems to multiply. Listeners that night would be extremely familiar with the debates concerning life from other planets, and more specifically, on Mars.
Americans were constantly updated in the quest to understand our closest neighbor (barring the moon). Reports of astronomical findings topped every newspaper. Astronomers following in Lowell's footsteps discovered an atmosphere and cloud formations. Radio announcers stood by while Dr. Clyde Fisher attempted to bounce radio waves off the surface of Mars. Just three days before the broadcast, newspapers reported the findings of Swedish astronomer Knut Lundmark that there was indeed life on Mars.
For those listeners who managed to avoid the scientific news about the populations of various known and unknown planets, the various media supplied equal attention to our heavenly neighbors. Science fiction novels, comic strips, movies, magazines, and radio programs gained in popularity with inventions such as the "gyro-cosmic relativator" being talked of left and right. 1938 saw Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars in the theatres, and Buck Rogers on the air. Nothing truly seemed impossible in a world of rapidly advancing technology.
Although the possible physical make-up of any extraterrestrial cousins excited great debate, it was never entertained that the visitors would have friendly designs on the planet of Earth. Buck Rogers had to defeat the Tiger Men of Mars. All of the covers on the science fiction pulps portrayed humans in the act of self-preservation. The alien creatures are never soft and cuddly, but rather vicious and slithery.
With the media attention given to scientific, techonological, and fictional advances in the realms of space, listeners could not simply discount the events being broadcast through their radios. The only difference in this battle was the lack of an interplanetary hero to defeat the enemy and prove once again that humanity reigns supreme. For Wells and Welles' aliens, the planetary hero was the lowly unfamiliar Earth bacteria.
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