The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells is credited as one of the most influential science fiction books ever written, having introduced ideas like super-advanced aliens coming to Earth and said aliens hating the shit out of us and trying to wipe us out. Even though it was published as a novel all the way back in 1898, it's seen as the blueprint for every alien invasion blockbuster released more than a century later. This article isn't about that book.
In the same year, a writer named Garrett P. Serviss crapped out an unauthorized sequel to Wells' book called Edison's Conquest of Mars, in which famed inventor Thomas Edison turns the tables on the aliens from The War of the Worlds by flying to Mars and killing all of them with his revenge boner -- it's the Victorian-era equivalent of shameless straight-to-DVD crapfests like Transmorphers and Titanic II.
Oh, you thought we were joking about the boner part?
Also, it was one of the most revolutionary sci-fi novels ever written.
That's right -- many fundamental elements of science fiction as we know it can be tracked back to this cheap knockoff, not the classic it was ripping off. Like ...
6The First Mention of Ray Guns and Handheld Disintegrators
You can't have a science fiction story without a ray gun of some sort, from Han Solo's Greedo-murdering blaster in Star Wars to Marvin the Martian's beak-displacing gun in the Looney Tunes cartoons. In Star Trek, the phasers (which apparently do everything from stunning people to disintegrating them) are the most used gun in the universe after Captain Kirk's dong.
Surely such an idea must have originated in an era where, at the very least, revolvers were no longer considered cutting-edge technology, right? Wrong: Back in 1898, Edison's Conquest of Mars described the Martians as carrying "hand engines, capable of launching bolts of death of the same character as those which emanated from the knobs of their larger machines." So, rather than coming up with new weapons, Serviss had simply taken the giant mounted heat cannons used by the aliens in The War of the Worlds and made them smaller, accidentally inventing one of the most classic staples of science fiction.
"Making a whole new weapon sounds hard, I'll just revolutionize the genre instead."
In Edison's Conquest, the effect of these rays can reduce the humans to "heaps of cinder" -- but what about flat-out disintegration? This book has that, too ... on the human side. Early on, Edison invents a little portable device with the power to break molecular structures and disperse the atoms of any given object, leaving only an existentially haunting mist behind. The characters even refer to it as a "disintegrator," despite the device being described as something resembling a pocket mirror.
"Hey, does it say 'Patented by Nikola Tesla' on the side?"
Before leaving for Mars, Edison demonstrates the weapon by aiming it at a crow and disintegrating its feathers while leaving the bird unharmed. He of course then kills the bird anyway because, as we never get tired of mentioning, Edison was kind of a dick.
"Hahaha, fuck you, bird. Hahahahaha."