Earlier this week Cracked.com's Cezary Jan Strusiewicz wrote about the obscure 1898 newspaper serial novel Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss. This strange piece of Victoriana formed a loose sequel to H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, which had concluded its serial run just six weeks before Serviss' sequel debuted. In the novel, Thomas Edison travels from earth to Mars to get revenge on the Martians for invading earth. I bring this up because Strusiewicz points out a fact I didn't know: Edison's Conquest of Mars presents a full-blown ancient astronaut theory, including many of the claims that would later show up in the work of Zecharia Sitchin. Serviss' book features aliens using humans as slaves, mining for gold across the solar system, aliens building the pyramids and the Sphinx, and interplanetary battles galore.
Here's a taste of what Serviss described:
This rather shocking early ancient astronaut novel anticipated Sitchin and von Daniken by more than sixty years. I can't rule out the possibility that ancient astronaut authors of the twentieth century read the book since it was put out in an edited book form in 1947 and abridged versions were published in 1954, 1969, and 1972. It might have been something Sitchin picked up in New York City, but I don't know. More likely is that modern ancient astronaut writers used the same mixture of Victorian pseudoscience, pyramidiocy, and Theosophical silliness to come up with a nearly identical idea.
I've written a full critical introduction to the novel for its inclusion in my Studies in Ancient Astronautics series. It's volume 3 in the series. I've sent it off to the printers, and it should be available for sale next week. I'll post the link on this linked page when it's ready.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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