As many of you are aware, I did a post on Nikola Tesla the other day (behold his glory!) and it contained a large and vitriolic section about his nemesis, Thomas Edison. It amused me how many of my readers also do not care for Edison. The comments on that post are great.
So, if you're in the mood for more Edison hatin', here are two more examples of him ruining everything.
"Whatever you treasure, I'm already there, ruining."
Okay, so his whole fame machine had really gotten going by the late 1870s, to the point where people were almost sick of hearing about him. He Bennifer-ed and Brangelina-ed us to the point where some folks were like, "If I hear the name 'Edison' one more time . . . Yes, yes, we get it.You invent EVERYTHING. You're a mental colossus
EVEN THOUGH HE TOTALLY WASN'T. Enough already."
So in 1879, Punch ran a story about Edison's Anti-Gravity Underwear Kite Babies. They 'reported' (keep in mind this was The Onion of the Victorian era, so everything was deeply satirical) that Edison had created a new invention that would change the way we lived forever. These are their illustrations:
"I'm sorry, you want me to WALK around the art gallery? Like one of the plebes who can't afford space-underwear?"
. . . And then the string broke.
(Also, look at how the mother is strapped to the bicycle! And how the dog is dragging the baby. This picture is full of endless delights.)
Worse for child back injuries than a trampoline.
Anyway, you can read more about the specific Punch article here at Ptak Science Books. It's a good read.
But the point is, Edison's name and image were SO prevalent that in 1898, he even managed to ruin one of the Victorian era's most beloved books: H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. Here's how:
The War of the Worlds was written in 1897. The US was notoriously awful for just printing great works from British authors and being like, "What, are you going to cross an ocean to try to get your royalties that we have no intention of paying you? Thanks, Dickens! Thanks, Hardy! Byyyyyye!"
They also used to get around ANY question of paying British authors by basically just plagiarizing their work, changing a few small details, and going, "What? It's original. We don't owe you nothin'".
They did this with The War of the Worlds. Pretty much as soon as it was published, there was already an American author on that shit, thinly re-writing it (by setting it in Boston instead of London) and calling it Fighters From Mars. It was published in 1898, only a few months after Wells' work was finished. This re-write was so popular that it got a 'sequel' from a different author. The sequel was called Edison's Conquest of Mars. I, unfortunately, had to read this book for a 19th-century reading group I'm in. To be honest, it was so bad I didn't finish it, but I got at least halfway through and heard ample discussion from other members about key plot points (or lack thereof). If you want to read it yourself, the text can be found here.
This novel was also written in 1898, just a few months after Fighters From Mars. You know it's going to be shitty because the guy didn't exactly spend much time on it. Not a whole lot of editing going on here.
So take everything you hold sacred about The War of the Worlds and clutch it tight. All of the lovely philosophy about science and its place inside humanity, and what it means to be human–none of that is present in this sequel. The sequel is a giant fan platform to make Edison look AWESOME (the author was a complete fanboy to the point where the Edison character in the story actually looks ridiculous. He can do anything and is totally impervious to any harm, and has amazing good luck, and zero flaws, he's the most boring character put to print).
The premise is that the Martians who attacked Earth in War of the Worlds are dead or have fled back to Mars, but Earth isn't convinced that they're not planning a second attack. So all of the world leaders get together and decide that 'MERICA SHOULD INVADE MARS, YEEEHAAAW! and the rest of the world will foot the bill for soldiers and weapons and spaceships. And, of course, Edison should be the glorious leader who will take a bunch of lesser scientists with him (including Lord Kelvin, who he has a bromance with in the story). Together they will go to Mars and perform mass genocide, and it will be wonderful.
This would actually have made a wonderful revenge action film in the '80s.
The author, unlike H.G. Wells, has absolutely no apparent interest in science, so Edison just kind of disappears for a sentence and when he comes back, he's invented a disintegration ray that turns everything to ash, no big deal, no need to delve into it further than that.
Oh, and he's invented cool rocket ships to go to Mars, and space suits, and oxygen pills, all sorts of weird gadgets, but whatev. You dumb little readers don't need to exercise any curiosity about how such a feat could be accomplished. The author dangles Edison over your head as 'something shiny' to distract you with so you don't have to think too hard about the illogical things he's writing. It doesn't work. Edison, you ain't so shiny.
Look how shiny his phallus-rocket is! Wow! We're impressed!
It's funny how accidentally douche-baggy Edison becomes, even in a story that's trying to celebrate him. When he first invents his disintegration ray, he tests it out by torturing a crow. He disintegrates all of the crow's feathers, and then disintegrates the crow itself. PETA would have a FIELD DAY with Edison if he lived now.
Also, while adventuring out in space, he and his scientists stumble across a solid gold asteroid that the Martians are mining and claim it for themselves. They also discover diamonds on the moon (I'm fairly certain) and decide to take some back and become super-ridiculously rich on Earth. Never mind repaying the nations who spent a whole chapter coming up with millions and millions for your expedition. Nope. Personal gain. It's the way Edison rolls.
When they get to Mars, they discover a beautiful young human slave girl who is the very last of the human slaves the Martians captured when they came to Earth to build the pyramids and the Sphinx (seriously–also, side note: this is the first text which theorizes that aliens built the pyramids. So when you hear someone's eye-rolling conspiracy theories about this, BLAME EDISON).
The funny thing is, the aliens aren't using awesome technology to build the pyramids. They're just . . . doing it by hand.
Anyway, the beautiful Earth-girl, who magically speaks modern English, tells the humans how to beat the Martians, who have a superior force: blow up Mars' polar ice caps and FLOOD MARS.
Who killed the Martian polar bears? Edison.
Anyway, they kill almost everything, and then Edison, because he's a 'good guy', makes a peace treaty with Mars and returns home and everyone loves him forever. The end.
Oh, and another fun fact? The author didn't even get the type of aliens right. In War of the Worlds, the aliens were giant blobs, kind of like jellyfish. In this story, they're humanoid.
"I pay close attention to detail when I write sequels!" said the author.
Just go read this terrible book for yourself. It's worth it for how ridiculous it is, and should only take a couple of hours. It's short and pretty fast-paced, even if it is "walking-on-Legos" painful to read.