By Charles L. Graves (1856-1944) and E. V. Lucas (1869-1938).
J. W. Arrowsmith.
1898. 140 pages.
Online HERE and HERE.
BOOK I. — The Coming of the Wenuses.
I. "JUST BEFORE THE BATTLE, MOTHER"
II. THE FALLING STAR
III. THE CRINOLINE EXPANDS
IV. HOW I REACHED HOME
BOOK II. — London Under the Wenuses.
I. THE DEATH OF THE EXAMINER
II. THE MAN AT UXBRIDGE ROAD
III. THE TEA-TRAY IN WESTBOURNE GROVE
This is a parody, but parodies don't work unless you're familiar with the work that's being spoofed, in this instance a famous science fiction novel by H. G. Wells. There are countless cultural references in it that almost none of us, more than a century removed, will be able to decode, but there's enough left over for a good laugh or two.
How it starts:
No one would have believed in the first years of the twentieth century that men and modistes on this planet were being watched by intelligences greater than woman's and yet as ambitious as her own.
With infinite complacency maids and matrons went to and fro over London, serene in the assurance of their empire over man. It is possible that the mysticetus does the same. Not one of them gave a thought to Wenus as a source of danger, or thought of it only to dismiss the idea of active rivalry upon it as impossible or improbable.
Yet across the gulf of space astral women, with eyes that are to the eyes of English women as diamonds are to boot-buttons, astral women, with hearts vast and warm and sympathetic, were regarding Butterick's with envy, Peter Robinson's with jealousy, and Whiteley's with insatiable yearning, and slowly and surely maturing their plans for a grand inter-stellar campaign.One reviewer of the time liked it:
Mr. Arrowsmith is to be congratulated upon the volume which he has just added to his shilling "Bristol Library," for it is brimful of laughter and good-nature,—things which are more than ever wanted in "the roaring moon" of east winds and biliousness. It is quite conceivable that a man with "a touch of liver" might put himself right by a good laugh over the Wenuses.
Mr. Graves and Mr. Lucas make no pretence that their book is anything but a parody of Mr. Wells's "War of the Worlds." The inhabitants of Wenus—these Wellerian "W's" are, by the way, the only blunder in technique committed in the book—find that their planet is getting too hot for clothes, and so raid the earth, descending enclosed in gigantic crinolines. They possess an eye-ray which mashes—but we must not go on or we shall spoil an excellent joke. We will, however, quote a few lines to show that we are not exaggerating the laughability of The War of the Wenuses. Here is a delightful parody of Mr. Wells's topographical style:—
Resolving at any cost to reach Campden Hill Gardens by a sufficiently circuitous route, I traversed Kennington Park Road, Newington Butte, Newington Causeway, Blackman Street, and the Borough High Street, to London Bridge. Crossing the bridge, I met a newspaper boy with a bundle of papers, still wet from the press. They were halfpenny copies of the Star, but he charged me a penny for mine. The imposition still rankles. From it I learned that a huge cordon of police, which had been drawn round the Crinoline, had been mashed beyond recognition, and two regiments of Life Guards razed to the ground, by the devastating Glance of the Wenuses.
I passed along King William Street and Prince's Street to Moorgate Street. Here I met another newspaper boy, carrying the Pall Mall Gazette, handed him a threepenny bit; but though I waited for twenty minutes, he offered me no change. This will give some idea of the excitement then beginning to prevail.
The Pall Mall had an article on the situation, which I read as I climbed the City Road to Islington. It stated that Mrs. Pozzuoli, my wife, had constituted herself Commander-in-Chief, and was busy marshalling her forces. I was relieved by the news, for it suggested that my wife was fully occupied. Already a good bulk of nursemaids and cooks, enraged at the destruction of the Scotland Yard and Knightsbridge heroes by the Wenuses' Mash-Glance, had joined her flag. It was, said the Pall Mall, high time that such an attack was undertaken, and since women had been proved to be immune to the Mash-Glance, it was clearly their business to undertake it.
From the literary point of view, the work of Mr. Graves and Mr. Lucas deserves distinct praise. They have imitated, consciously or unconsciously, the manner of the old extravaganzas. That method can best be described by the maxim, "Wherever you can get in a pun, or make a play upon words, do so." If this is done without spirit and good temper, the effect may be disastrous. When, however, it is managed with sufficient daring and taste combined, as it is in the little book before us, the result is excellent.
We can only say again, that he who wants to get a good, honest laugh had better read The War of the Wenuses. In any case, he will be amused, and if he is a deep student of Mr. Wells's romances, he will often be convulsed by the delicious closeness of the parody. — THE SPECTATOR (12 March 1898)Category: Science fiction (parody)
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