TO MARS WITH TESLA (1901) – Written by Weldon J Cobb, To Mars With Tesla (not to be confused with To Hell With Alexander Graham Bell) momentarily turned the”Edisonade” sub-genre of science fiction into a “Tesla-ade.”
Years ago Balladeer’s Blog reviewed Edison’s Conquest of Mars, an 1898 novel depicting the inventor Thomas Edison and several other real-life figures saving Earth from Martian aggression. This 1901 work presents Edison’s rival inventor Nikola Tesla in a tale involving the Red Planet.
NOTE: Do not confuse this novel with the 21st Century adaptation of it by another author.
To Mars With Tesla aka A Trip To Mars was originally serialized in the magazine New Golden Hours from March 30th, 1901 to May 18th, 1901. Nikola Tesla is attempting wireless communication with Mars to see if it bears intelligent life. Assisting him in this endeavor are Professors Weir and Combe as well as a youthful intern called “Young Edison.”
That intern sees most of the action and is supposedly a distant relative of Thomas Edison. Young Edison relays messages between his scientist bosses and this makes him a frequent target of the nefarious schemes of the villainous Heinrickson, a mad tycoon who has evil designs on the planet Mars.
Secondary antagonists include the mad scientist Herschel de Vega, who is constructing a spaceship, and a pair of crooks named Zadir and Hazif, who impersonate Martians as part of their criminal scheme.
The “story” is more of a piling-on of events rather than a carefully constructed arc. Think much later Republic Serials as there are multiple escapes and recaptures, plus death-traps like Heinrickson shooting Young Edison to his presumed death via a giant sling-shot. (If I told you how he survives you wouldn’t believe me.)
Tesla’s war with the bad guys also features huge lighter-than-air vessels, electric ray-guns, personalized flying suits (“They fly now?”) and a super-plane used by the fake Martians. Ultimately de Vega drags a reluctant Tesla and Young Edison along with him as he flies off for Mars.
SPOILERS: It turns out to not really be Mars but just a mammoth crater in America’s desert southwest. Tesla realizes this instantly but the mad de Vega refuses to listen.
Nikola and Edison barely escape this situation with their lives, but once back to safety Tesla sends a “light-ray” message to Mars and uses a supposed radar device to confirm that the message reached the Red Planet. Our heroes then wait in breathless anticipation of a possible reply.
No, there’s no trip to Mars, but To the American Southwest with Tesla wouldn’t make a very exciting title, would it? This book is mostly for very young readers and would probably have been forgotten long ago if not for Tesla’s depiction in this work of fiction. It’s mostly sub-Dime Novel material. +++
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/
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