H.G. Well's 1898 science fiction classic, The War of the Worlds, tapped into society's fears about worldwide security and an impending war in Europe. However, it wasn't until forty years later that The War of the Worlds became infamous. On October 30, 1938, the United States was certain that it was under siege by vicious Martians. Thousands of people called the police, many ran from their homes in terror, and some even sought medical attention for shock and hysteria. Martians weren't really invading: Orson Welles, a famous actor, was performing a radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds that conviced listeners an invasion could happen anytime and anywhere.
This is the granddaddy of all alien invasion stories, first published by H.G. Wells in 1898. The novel begins ominously, as the lone voice of a narrator tells readers that "No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's..."
Things then progress from a series of seemingly mundane reports about odd atmospheric disturbances taking place on Mars to the arrival of Martians just outside of London. At first the Martians seem laughable, hardly able to move in Earth's comparatively heavy gravity even enough to raise themselves out of the pit created when their spaceship landed. But soon the Martians reveal their true nature as death machines 100-feet tall rise up from the pit and begin laying waste to the surrounding land. Wells quickly moves the story from the countryside to the evacuation of London itself and the loss of all hope as England's military suffers defeat after defeat. With horror his narrator describes how the Martians suck the blood from living humans for sustenance, and how it's clear that man is not being conquered so much a corralled. --Craig E. Engler