Global Dispatches and Extraordinary Gentlemen
A Wellsian tripod battles Tharks, as illustrated by Kevin O'Neill
"And slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us."
Ah, War of the Worlds. The book that put alien invasions on the map. I think it must be my favorite book, at least, I'm always hungry for more of it, and often wish Wells had written a sequel. That wasn't his style, of course, he mostly wrote stories to make a point, although he did write a psuedo-prequel in "The Crystal Egg".
To satiate my War of the Worlds craving I've collected a number of books written by authors who don't mind expanding the narrative for its own sake. Some of them are pastiches, such as C.A. Powell's "The Last Days of Thunder Child", and others reimagine the story crossed over with Well's other works, as in Kevin J. Anderson's "The Martian War". "Old Mars" features a wonderful story called "Queen of the Nights Aria" by Ian McDonald, which tells the story of a british counter-invasion of Mars while making a comment on the modern conflict in the middle east- a notion very much in the spirit of the original book.
By far my favorite companion piece to Well's seminal novel is "War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches", an anthology edited again by Kevin J. Anderson. The collection revolves around the premise that the Martian Invasion inflicted itself on the entire world, and not England alone, and so includes perspectives from all over our planet. There really are just a smattering of splendid tales in this book, from "Night of the Cooters" by Howard Waldrop (which details the invasion of Texas), to "Foreign Devils" by Walter Jon Williams (depicting a Boxer Rebellion interrupted by Martian tripods), to "After a Lean Winter" by Dave Wolverton (describing a protracted and desperate fight for survival against a more successful Martian Invasion in the far north). Even Mark Twain and Albert Einstein get to have adventures amidst the chaos. Of all the stories collected, I found only Jules Verne's outing to be a bit lackluster, and that only because the authors blatantly contradicts the source material in describing their Martians, putting the story at odds with the rest of the anthology.
One tale, however, stands out for abandoning Earth entirely and providing us with John Carter's account of the early days of the interplanetary clash. It's called "Mars: The Home Front" by George Alec Effinger, and it's a fun one.
Without giving anything away, suffice it to say that the story begins with Dejah Thoris being put in peril, as she so often is, and Carter rushing off to rescue her. Carter goes on to describe the beginnings of a conflict between the forces of Barsoom and Well's Martians, which he calls "Sarmaks."
What an idea! A story pitting Burroughsians against Wellsians for the fate of two worlds- that's enough to make a fan like me salivate. Unfortunately, the story cuts short of the actual conflict, but we aren't left entirely wanting. The story fed provide a bit of action, and more importantly, is continued elsewhere. I now come to Alan Moore's classic graphic novel, "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."
First, let me say that, should any children happen upon this article, the aforementioned publication isn't at all suitable for minors. With that out of the way, Volume 2 opens with a Mars menagerie. A force of Tharks and Hithers led by John Carter and Gulliver Jones, aided by a group of Sorns, march on Well's Martians in a vicious final battle that spurs the tripod attack on Earth. What's more, Gulliver briefly implies that something dark happened to Dejah Thoris, connecting the comic to "Homefront." It's possible, if one wants, to look at Effinger's story as the beginning of the war for Mars, and Moore's as the end, with only the middle left to our imagination.
If only someone would fill in the rest...