After the Martians – the Cast of Characters

Today I’ll introduce you to the four major characters in my new book, “After the Martians.” The alternate World War I of my story has brought them together in and near the Black Forest of Western Germany in 1917, some 16 years after the Martians’ failed attempt to conquer the Earth.

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In order of their introduction in the story, let’s meet them.

  • Private Johnny Branch is seventeen, an American from Wyoming. The hero of my story, he’s enthusiastic about getting to fight in the war, and thrilled to be driving a Martian fighting machine, a tripod. He grew up listening to, and reading about, the Martian War. Like boys across the nation, he built rudimentary models of the fighting machines and waged little battles with toy tin soldiers, pretending to be Teddy Roosevelt in the Battle for Washington, D.C.
  • Second Lieutenant Henry Wagner is about twenty-three, and commands the fighting machine driven by Johnny. Their machine is part of Crazyhorse Troop, Tiger Squadron, Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. He’s from Norristown, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. He’s been in the war since the beginning and is now seasoned by battle, and quite skeptical about the war. He looks forward to the end of the war, when people can develop peaceful uses for Martian technology.
  • Frank Robertson is a photographer for “The American Magazine,” initially assigned to send back pictures to give the public a sense of the life of a doughboy. As the war has gone on and casualties have mounted, his editor tells him to snap some shots of American heroism and gallantry in battle, to keep up the patriotic spirit. However, it’s hard to get close to the action in a modern war, with Martian heat rays and poisonous black smoke.
  • Hilde Gottschall is an old German woman living in a wooden cabin on Feldberg Mountain. She lost her husband in the Martian War and her son in the Great War. After the death of her daughter-in-law, she lives alone with her infant grandson, Andreas Gottschall, whom she calls her Schätzchen (darling). She is cynical and angry about all wars.

In addition, there are a couple of minor characters with bit parts, but those four are the major ones. Each of the latter three influence Johnny in various ways as he matures toward full adulthood.

On a separate note, I’m hoping to speak on a panel or two at BALTICONBALTICON50_banner_1, the science fiction convention in Baltimore, next weekend. At a minimum, I’ll be signing my books on Saturday from 1:30 to 2:30, and I’ll be reading from one of my books on Sunday from 7:00 pm to 7:50.

I’ll post my complete schedule when it’s approved. If you’ll be in the area, you can meet, in person—

Poseidon’s Scribe

World War One—After the Martians

One century ago, war raged across Europe. They called it the Great War then. The year 2018 will mark a hundred years since the ending of that massive conflict. Today I thought we’d examine an alternate history scenario. How might WW I have been different if H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds had really occurred in 1901? My recently launched book, “AftertheMartians72dAfter the Martians,” explores this scenario.

First, some background. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna created a sustainable peace across Europe. Half a century later, that peace had frayed. Five nations then dominated the mainland continent and vied with each other for supremacy—Austria, Denmark, France, Russia, and Germany (under Prussian leadership).

Otto_Fürst_von_Bismarck
Chancellor Otto von Bismarck

Enter Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany, who combined the ‘balance of power’ concept with a pragmatic or ‘realpolitik’ approach to foreign policy. He ensured Germany maintained a changing web of alliances with two of the other powers, while engineering a series of short wars designed to unite and strengthen the German states while weakening enemies. After each war, he’d shift the alliances, always maintaining three on his side against two on the other.

This strategy sustained a workable balance until Bismarck’s resignation in 1890, after which he predicted, “One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.”

After that time, the European powers armed themselves against each other and tensions increased—the so-called “powder keg.” Without any minor wars to relieve this tension, the strain increased such that even a small event could trigger a major war. That’s what Bismarck had foreseen.

So far, that’s an interpretation of how things actually happened. Let’s insert a fictional twist. Assume the attack of The War of the Worlds really occurred, in 1901. In H.G. Wells’ novel, the Martians only invaded Great Britain, but it makes no sense for a superior alien race to restrict their assault to just one country, so we’ll suppose the Martians spread their forces more widely across the globe.

In time, the Earth’s bacteria sickened and killed the alien aggressors, but only after they’d wiped out a significant portion of the world’s population. Human weaponry of 1901 had been almost useless against the Martians, so our war machines lay in ruin. However, the aliens had left behind their tripod fighting machines, heat rays, “black smoke” poison gas, and some flying machines.

The nations of Europe, then, would have faced two choices. Stunned by the devastation of the Martian War and fearful of another attack from that planet, they could have joined forces and combined their energies to prepare for another assault by a common enemy. Or they could have examined the advanced Martian military technology and used it to refill the powder keg.

After the Martians assumes, as backstory, that the latter occurred. I postulate that the same triggering event—the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand—lit the fuse and set off the Great War.

Using the weaponry of Mars, WW I would have gone quite differently. Trenches would be useless against one hundred foot tall walking tripods with heat rays. Each side would have gone underground, using the Martian “assembly machines” to construct huge subterranean bunkers with hidden surface entrances.

Moreover, the heat rays and black smoke would have killed off the plant and animal life on every battlefield. There would have been vast areas of bare dirt. The combatants would have spared only the mountainous zones, since it would have been difficult to maneuver the tall three-legged fighting machines on sloped ground.

This is the (alternate) reality faced by my character Johnny Branch in my new book. As you mark the centennial of the real WW I, consider reading “After the Martians,” by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

H.G. Wells’ Fighting Machines — After the Martians

My upcoming story, “After the Martians”—to be released this month—features the fighting machines, or tripods, of H.G. Wells’ book The War of the Worlds. In that book, the Martians assembled the machines after their arrival on Earth, and they caused considerable destruction. At the end of the novel, the Martians all died from our terrestrial bacteria.

AftertheMartians72d“After the Martians” takes place in the world of Wells’ story, but sixteen years have passed since the alien attack. In my tale, humans make use of the Martian technology, especially the fighting machines, to fight World War I.

Wells depicted a fighting machine as being three-legged and about one hundred feet tall. He did not describe the carapace or main body of the machine, except to say that several flexible tentacles protruded from it. Two of these tentacles held a box with a lens from which shot the devastating heat ray. The tripod’s other weapon was a poisonous black gas.

Such a machine would have terrified the readers of 1897. Since then, the tripod from The War of the Worlds has become a science fiction icon, inspiring the walking weapons of Star Wars, the AT-AT and AT-ST.  Combining huge size with the human attribute of walking somehow adds to the horror.

In The War of the Worlds, we see the fighting machines from the inferior vantage point of puny human victims on the ground. In “After the Martians,” I take readers inside the carapace as human pilots control the alien machines to battle other tripods.

I enlisted the aid of a close acquaintance to make a wonderful 3D printed version of the fighting machine. (Frequent readers will recall my 3D printed Ring of Gyges from my story “Ripper’s Ring.”) For the tripod, she used a Printrbot brand printer, the Simple (Maker) Edition, and PLA filament.

3D printed tripod 13D printed tripod 23D printed tripod 3

The .stl files you need to print the fighting machine yourself are on the Thingiverse site, and the design is by FuzzySadist (William Myers). I added the wire tentacles, and painted the machine to be generally consistent with my story’s description.

Very soon, I’ll give you details on how you can get your own copy of “After the Martians,” by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

New Book Alert – After the Martians

That’s right. I’m announcing the upcoming launch of a new book in the What Man Hath Wrought series. It’s called “After the Martians,” and the cover is sensational.

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Here’s the blurb for the book, an alternate history occurring after the events of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds:

In 1901 the Martians attacked Earth, but tiny bacteria vanquished them. Their advanced weaponry lay everywhere—giant three-legged fighting machines, heat rays, and poison gas. Now, in 1917, The Great War rages across Europe but each side uses Martian technology. Join Corporal Johnny Branch, a young man from Wyoming, as he pursues his dream to fight for America. Follow magazine photographer Frank Robinson while he roams the front lines, hoping to snap a photo conveying true American valor. Perhaps they’ll discover, as the Martians did before them, that little things can change the world.

Gypsy Shadow Publishing and I are planning for a book launch in early May. You’ll find more news about “After the Martians” here at this website, so check back frequently with—

Poseidon’s Scribe