H.G. Wells’ visionary science fiction works have survived the test of time. The writer behind The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Time Machine is getting a tribute coin from the UK’s Royal Mint. It’s a nice thought, but Wells fans have spotted some potential issues with the design.
The £2 coin references several of Wells’ works with an emphasis on War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man, as depicted by a suit and top hat with no face in between. It’s the War of the Worlds part of the coin that’s the main subject of scrutiny.
The Royal Mint makes the official coins of the UK, but also mints coins for other countries. The Wells tribute coin is part of the mint’s Annual Sets series of commemorative coins.
In The War of the Worlds, the narrator describes an invading Martian fighting machine as “a monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal…”.
The coin nails the striding, monstrousness and glittering metal parts, but it depicts a quadrapod and not a tripod. Wells fans were quick to call this out online. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. The Martian Fighting Machine is a tripod. Everyone who has the slightest knowledge of the story knows this — it is iconic,” wrote one commenter on the Royal Mint’s Facebook page on Monday.
Designer Chris Costello won a competition to design the coin, saying he wanted “to create something original and contemporary” based on War of the Worlds.
There’s an artistic explanation for the look of the machine. “My design takes inspiration from a variety of machines featured in the book — including tripods and the handling machines which have five jointed legs and multiple appendages,” Costello said in a Royal Mint statement.
The Invisible Man on the coin also raised some eyebrows thanks to the top hat. In the book, Wells described the invisible man’s headwear as a soft felt hat that hid every inch of his face.
H.G. Wells Society Vice President Adam Roberts, who wrote a biography of Wells, mentioned both discrepancies in a tweet and in an interview with CNN.
Costello posted a statement on his website saying that several styles of hats were discussed, but that the top hat won out as a iconic fashion statement from the Victorian era.
Wrote Costello, “The final design combines multiple stories into one stylized and unified composition that is emblematic of all of H.G. Well’s work and fits the unique canvas of a coin.”