The most unearthly creatures

The most unearthly creatures

Warwick Goble

Photomechanical reproduction of a watercolour

5 x 3¼ inches

H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, serialized in Pearson’s Magazine, 4 (July–Dec 1897), 559

Goble follows Wells in creating a truly hideous monster which combines ‘two large dark-coloured eyes’ with octopoid tentacles and pulsating movement (3: 371). Goble imagines Wells’s description with great intensity, endowing the sluggish alien with whip-like, wormy arms. Though described as otherworldly, the creature seems like one of the primitive life-forms of earth, an animal further down the evolutionary chain than man but still his superior. Wells and Goble play with the interlocked ideas of Darwinian evolution and decadent degeneracy. The Martians are mirror-images of humanity – primitives who can still destroy their supposed inferiors, just as British colonialists destroyed the ‘savage’ cultures of Africa.

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Scanned image and text by Simon Cooke.

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