“In the Time of the Martians”: An Excerpt

Before I get to the excerpt, a little backstory on how “In the Time of the Martians” came about. I entered the world of media tie-in writing in 2004, when my Star Trek story “Full Circle” was published in Strange New Worlds VII. Media tie-in writing is, of course, writing based on characters and stories from other media, such as short stories and novels adapted from or inspired by Star Trek episodes and movies. I eventually published two more short stories as well as two short novels in Simon & Schuster’s Star Trek line. Along the way, I became a member of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW).

TiedCoverNewNameLast year, IAMTW put out a call to its members for contributions to a charity anthology, Turning the Tied, with all proceeds going to the World Literacy Foundation. Stories would feature characters in the public domain, including such varied icons as Sherlock Holmes, John Carter of Mars, Hopalong Cassidy, Mulan, and the Three Musketeers. Although not what you first think of as tie-ins, creating new stories with preexisting characters is at the heart of tie-in writing.

When I expressed an interest in contributing, I was sent a list of the characters being used by other writers. Many characters had already been claimed, including those from two of my favorite novels, Frankenstein and Dracula. But I noticed that there was nothing on the list from the works of H. G. Wells (although I think there’s now one other Wells contribution that came after me). Since The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Time Machine were all past copyright, I decided that I wanted to use one of them . . . or maybe all three. I soon had an idea that I could pitch in a simple sentence: the Invisible Man and the Time Traveller versus the Martians.

I’d read The War of the Worlds before, but I’d never actually read The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, I’d only seen various movie versions. As I did the reading, I decided to treat the three books as canonical and, with a minimum of retconning, create a new adventure that could take place within the established events but leave the original novels’ continuity essentially as is. It was a fun challenge. I used The Time Machine as my primary text, inserting Griffin, the invisible man, into that story as one of the time traveller’s friends who comes to dinner and is shown the time machine. Griffin, who is not a nice guy, creates a situation where they travel into the future and end up in the middle of the Martian invasion . . . and then things get even more timey-wimey.

Wells did not name the lead character of The Time Machine, referring to him only as the Time Traveller. A couple of my favorite Time Machine movies simply named the character after Wells himself. My name for the character—Malcolm Taylor—tips the hat to those films. Malcolm refers to Malcolm McDowell, who starred in Time After Time, which pits Wells against David Warner’s Jack the Ripper in 1979 San Francisco. (Star Trek aside: Warner played Klingon chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, directed by Nicholas Meyer, who also directed Time after Time. McDowell was Soran in Star Trek Generations, achieving infamy as the man who killed Captain Kirk.) Taylor calls out Rod Taylor, who starred in George Pal’s classic 1960 adaptation of The Time Machine. And now, on to the excerpt, from the opening scene of the story . . .

In the Time of the Martians

Malcolm Taylor stood upon his threshold bidding a subdued good night to his departing dinner guests. Hillyer had appeared nearly convinced by his grim story of the future—all about young Weena, the Eloi, the Morlocks, and then escaping far beyond, to when the Earth itself was in its very death throes—but the rest clearly doubted his sincerity if not his sanity, even those who had attended the previous Thursday’s demonstration of the miniature time machine.
      As his friends gave their final waves and made their way to the station for hansoms, Taylor closed the door and returned to his drawing room. It was nearly one in the morning, but he didn’t feel like sleeping. He tossed another log on the fire, sat, and started making a mental list of the supplies he would take with him when next he used the time machine. He’d been foolish to rush off into the future without so much as a compass, a proper supply of matches, or—
      “Finally, they’re gone.”
      Taylor startled at Griffin’s words; he hadn’t attended dinner, so when had he come in? Turning toward the sound of his unexpected guest’s voice, he said, “After our argument last week, I thought I’d never see you again.”
      “Perhaps you never will,” said Griffin’s voice from thin air, followed by unpleasant laughter.
      Taylor jumped to his feet, staring at the noticeable depression in the seat cushion of the same chair Griffin had sat in the previous Thursday. “By God—!”
      “Steady on, Taylor! We’ve much to discuss, so sit down.” Taylor did as suggested. “Now then,” Griffin continued. “I need a place to stay. There’s been a fire at my previous lodgings.”
      Taylor clenched his teeth. If he’d faced the Morlocks, he could deal with Griffin, visible or not. “How long have you been here?”
      “I arrived at the same time as the journalist, I forget his name. When he stumbled in the dining room? I tripped him! When Hillyer spilled his wine, I had tipped it. When that candle on the mantel wouldn’t stay lit, I had blown it out. Your Mrs. Watchett was the only one who noticed, catching me getting a nibble of the mutton. The look on her face!”
      Taylor frowned. He’d noticed earlier that his housekeeper had gone white as a sheet. He’d told her she looked like she’d seen a ghost, as a figure of speech, but she had forced a laugh and had said it must have been her imagination; she knew his distaste for superstition.
      “So I heard your entire story,” Griffin continued. “And I need your help.”
      “I told you last time I won’t work with you.”
      “So you did. But what I need is an experiment about time itself. Does that interest you?”
      Taylor remained silent.
      A creak from the chair indicated Griffin had leaned forward. “I thought invisibility would lay open the world to me, like a banquet spread for a king. I’d do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But where do I live? Where do I dine? How do I avoid getting run down in the street? The simplest actions call attention to me. The lowest pickpocket has a better chance than an invisible man! I’ve been running, freezing, starving, been shoved, beaten, and chased by dogs.”
      Taylor felt no sympathy for the cruel, selfish man. The way he’d treated the wretched invisible cat he’d brought last week still bothered Taylor. “I don’t see what this has to do with time travel.”

What sort of time-travel trouble is Griffin up to? To find out, you just need to grab a copy of Turning the Tide, available now in both print and ebook from Amazon and Barnes & Noble! Turning the Tide also includes stories by Rigel Ailur, Derek Tyler Attico, Raymond Benson, David Boop, Jennifer Brozek, Max Allan Collins, Greg Cox, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Robert Greenberger, Nancy Holder, Steven Paul Leiva, Jonathan Maberry, Jeff Mariotte, Will McDermott, David McIntee, Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, Marsheila Rockwell, Ben H. Rome, Stephen D. Sullivan, Robert Vardeman, and Tim Waggoner.

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