War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches and The Fictional World of Archives

Original Anthology Title: War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches

Editor: Kevin J. Anderson

Publisher: New York, NY: Bantam Books, June 1996 (hardcover); June 1997 (paperback)

All quotations are from the US hardcover edition.

This is an outstanding thematic anthology that eeriely portrays the intersection of fiction and reality: British novelist and socialist H.G. Wells, along with his good friend French novelist Jules Verne, collects reports from around the world that document Wells' own and more famous account of the Martian invasion of Earth.

Most are unpublished documents (letters, manuscripts, diaries) and some have come from archives. All are written by contemporaries of H.G. Wells played by various modern science fiction and fantasy authors.

Robert Silverberg's "The Martian Invasion: Journals of Henry James" contains this introduction:

Of all the treasures contained in the coffin-shaped wooden sea chest at Harvard's Widener Library in which those of Henry James's notebooks and journals that survived his death were preserved and in the associated James archives at Harvard, only James's account of his bizarre encounter with the Martian invaders in the summer of 1900 has gone unpublished until now.

Silverberg goes on to excuse Leon Edel and Lyall H. Powers for being unaware of the invasion journal

since they could not have been aware of the existence of the Martian papers, which had (apparently accidentally) been sequestered long ago among a group of documents at Harvard associated with the life of James's sister Alice (1848-1892) and had either gone unnoticed by the biographers of Alice James or else, since the diary obviously had been composed some years after her death, had been dismissed by them as irrelevant to their research.

Another example is Leo Tolstoy's short story "Resurrection" presented by Mark W. Tiedemann. He prefaces and ends the story with letters written in 1943 to and from Karyn Alexander, assistant archivist, Bodleian Library, Oxford University, and Pavel Pobodonostev, deputy archivist, Tolstoy Institute, St. Petersburg University, Tula:

Pav: Here it is, the Document that has everyone all bothered and excited. Before you ask, yes, it is authentic, yes it was in Chertkov's possession at one time, and no, it was not in the Tuckton Vault with the rest of Chertkov's archive of Tolstoyan writings. It was found among some old papers of John Kenworthy, the founder of the Croyden Brotherhood. ...

Perhaps one of the more unusal repositories for one of these found records was the discovery in 1991 by one Nathan Fleece of Emily Dickinson poems "under a hedge" in her backyard. According to one of the numerous footnotes that unhesitatingly pepper Connie Willis' satire of Dickinson's poems,

2The details of the discovery are recounted in Desperation and Discovery: The Unusual Number of Lost Manuscripts Located by Doctoral Candidates, by J. Marple, Reading Railway Press, 1993.

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CONTENTS: The Fictional World of Archives

Submitted by David Mattison, 1999.05.08. Updated 1999.05.08.