“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed. . . . Wait a minute! Someone’s crawling. Someone or . . . something. I can see peering out of that black hole two luminous disks . . . are they eyes?”
It’s late October, the year is 1938, and people are scared to death when they hear this comment on the radio made by reporter Carl Philip. Of course, we currently know this description of a Martian invasion was part of the radio drama War of the Worlds. Because director Orson Welles presented the broadcast as a series of simulated news bulletins, certain listeners believed the invasion was real. The result was an outbreak of mass hysteria, with people all over the US fleeing their homes. Some families rushed out of their houses with wet handkerchiefs and towels over their faces to escape from what they believed was to be a gas raid. Others began moving household furniture.
Now, seven decades and exactly 378 films about alien invasion later, we are not as easily spooked. However, the possible existence of extraterrestrial life is still being studied and debated extensively. It was only recently that cosmologist Stephen Hawking warned us not to make contact with civilizations outside our world. “If aliens visit us,” Hawking said, “the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” In addition, last November NASA launched a new mission to Mars: the Mars Science Laboratory. By using a rover carrying the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments ever sent to the martian surface, the scientists involved hope to determine the Red Planet’s “habitability”. So it might be time for those Martians to move some furniture around. Earthlingian Invasion! It may not sell as many movies though.
This editorial was published in our magazine’s “Space Invaders” issue, January 2012