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No-one would have believed in the last years of the twentieth century that by now I would be sequelising Wells once again...

It’s now over twenty years since I published The Time Ships (1995), a sequel to Wells’s The Time Machine. I was inspired by a lingering memory from my young-reader days of being frustrated at the tantalising ending of Wells’s great book – what happened to the Time Traveller after he left for the future a second time? In fact I spent some time looking for a sequel Wells never wrote. And as 1995 approached, the centenary of The Time Machine, it occurred to me that it would be a good moment to try my hand at my own sequel. I figured I couldn’t be the only frustrated follower of the Time Traveller. One of my personal criteria when considering book projects is: would this appeal to me, if I saw it on the bookstore shelves? Time Ships certainly would have.

The Time Ships did well all those years ago, and at the time I was keen to do more, following the centenaries of Wells’s later books. But Malcolm Edwards, who had bought The Time Ships, wisely advised me not to just then, but to establish my own voice. However, it was Malcolm, now with Orion UK, who more recently pointed out that 2017 was not only going to be an anniversary year for The War of the Worlds, but also Wells was coming out of copyright in the UK . . . So opportunity knocked, and, belatedly, I began work on The Massacre of Mankind.

I've stayed in touch with the Wellsians – the international community of Wells scholars - since The Time Ships, which they received very well when I presented a paper on the book at an academic conference to celebrate The Time Machine in 1995. So I know a lot more about Wells now than I did 20 years ago. In fact, these days I'm a VP of the HG Wells Society. This year, for Wells' 150th birthday, we held two events in Woking, the setting for The War of the Worlds. The first was an international conference where I was one of two keynote speakers, and the second a terrific event, an unveiling of a new statue of Wells, attended by many of his descendants, whom I got to address and meet. Given the copyright change the Wells estate didn't have to endorse Massacre (as they had The Time Ships) but they did anyhow through good will.

I hope I’ve developed my sequel developed mostly from themes in Wells's book – essentially mankind’s new place in a crowded and complex cosmos. But it’s also informed by the World War I centenary years we're going through. Wells’s book famously contains prophecies, or warnings, of the great mechanised wars of the twentieth century – and there are occasional hints of an awareness of contemporary tensions between Britain and Germany. But, studying the book, I was struck how carefully a very young Wells had delved into the characterisation of his narrator to predict another horror of our age: shell shock.

Massacre was very enjoyable to work on, including an Art Deco age orgy of Martian destruction around the planet. I did largely try to send the Martians to locations I’ve actually visited, such as New York and Berlin – which is why, at midnight on Saturday 20th May, 1922, the cylinders fall on the beautiful city of Melbourne …

  • The Massacre of Mankind - Stephen Baxter

    The authorised sequel to WAR OF THE WORLDS, written by one of the world's greatest SF authors.

  • The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells

    The classic tale of an alien invasion of Earth from the pen of the father of modern SF.

Thomas Saras

Thomas Saras

Brand Manager and Head of the Realm at Hachette Australia Books. Mutant power: Aggressive humour. Lifelong Trekkie (I don’t find that offensive) comic book reader and former proud bookseller. Likes: Literary, contemporary and speculative fiction. Dislikes: Haters. Ideal date: My birthday.

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