A commission for LavanyaSix: the world, fifty years after the Martian invasion portrayed in George Pal's 1953 modernization of Well's story.
The Martian invasion of 1953 was largely unexpected: although studies of Mars in the 30s and 40s had revealed an atmosphere thicker than in certain other realities, it was still hardly a picnic spot, and the canals were still nonexistent. (Let precious water just evaporate into the air? What absurdity). And the Martian cylinders were launched with paragravity fields, not absurdly gigantic canon, so there was no unusual displays to attract the attention of astronomers.
It was therefore something of a surprise when the first Martian cylinders began to crash to Earth in the summer of ’53, and it was not until it was almost over that a few un-evacuated observatories managed to gather enough observations of incoming cylinders to plot their trajectory back towards Mars: and even then there was some uncertainty as to their origin until the late 50s, when the first space probes launched towards Mars all ceased abruptly to transmit while still over a million miles from the Red Planet. Nowadays, of course, in the year 2003, giant space telescopes placed some 15 million miles out from Mars  allow Earth to observe a variety of Martian activity and the location of their main cities/industrial centers/whatever, although nothing really has been learned that adds to the knowledge gained from their machines.
The last Martians to die did so a couple weeks after the first reports of Martian machines crashing or going out of control came in. The northern Canadian landing, apparently protected from disease to some extent by the arctic climate, may have killed themselves rather than die of disease: in any event, the central “nest” was a half-mile wide pool of lava when Canadian forces came to investigate.
Recovery slowly began. Nearly fifteen million Americans had died and a number of major cities burned and/or reduced to dust, but the US was not quite as badly hurt as the USSR after the expulsion of the Nazis, and although it lacked, say, large scale forced reconstruction labor, its human and material resources remained substantial. The political succession remained intact (Congress and the President having been evacuated to Hawaii, where no Martian cylinders landed) and the sheer size of the nation meant large areas remained untouched by the invasion, which had moved outward from the landing sites in a slow and methodical manner, with no long-distance raiding. Martial law was called off in most of the country after eighteen months, and massive reconstruction loans helped stimulate industry. Most of the ad hoc local government and services which had sprung up after the invasion were happy enough to disband themselves and return to regular life, although a lot of new careers in politics, activism, nursing, etc. were born. Some of the more regrettable things that had happened in the immediate aftermath were covered up by the government as best as they could, such as the zealous actions of various “vigilance” committees in hunting down supposed communist rebels and sometimes “disguised Martians”, or the way many areas, not just in the South, rapidly went from initial human solidarity to “lifeboat rules”, with the blacks first to be chucked overboard.
The most notable social trend was a strong religious revival brought on by the seemingly miraculous nature of humanity’s salvation: one of the scientists involved in the initial struggle became a popular preacher at the church he and his wife had found refuge in on the day the Martians began to die. This was not exclusive to the US: similar revivals took place in Latin America, Britain, and elsewhere; Muslims thanked Allah, Hindus Kali and Siva and Vishnu, and some traditional Africans thanked Sapona, God of infectious disease. (For every reaction, there is a counter-reaction, of course. Some turned to pure nihilism, seeing in the invasion and it’s ending by random microbes a vision of a meaningless universe where survival turned on mere chance and humanity’s long term prospects were “extinction soon or a bit later”).
And of course, in central and eastern Europe, now devastated for the second time in less than a decade, it was a little harder to see the hand of a beneficent God. In the USSR, devastation comparable to that of the Nazis across huge areas of the state nearly broke the regime entirely: this time there was not even a victory to legitimize the rulers. Propaganda tried to sell the downfall of the Martians as due to the Red Army rather than germs, but few were fooled. A number of important government officials hadn’t made it out of Moscow in time, and Beria’s efforts to sell himself as the legitimate heir of Stalin (who had died a few months before the invasion began) did little to rally the country behind him. In the end, the Red Army, if not strong enough to repel Martians, was strong enough to crush rebellion and bring some sort of order to the country, and General Zhukov found himself in the position of prince-maker. He took the opportunity to make sure that from then forwards, the Army would have a great deal more independence from the Party, leading inevitably to three coups in the next four decades and the odd military-bureaucratic structure of the modern Soviet/Russian state.
Eastern Europe was left to go to hell its own way, with far too much on the Soviet Unions’ plate already. Communist regimes managed to hold onto power in Romania (for a little while) and Bulgaria, and in east Germany for a little while, although with the land route to the east cut off (Poland, of course, had its communist rulers hanging from lamp posts not long after the Red Army moved east to help restore order), this proved strictly temporary. Yugoslavia had another civil war, which the Reds won by the skin of their teeth. Ironically, as communism nearly collapsed in the east, it flared up in the west and south: as chaos and famine gripped Europe, with the US unable to do much immediately to help when it couldn’t really feed itself, forces of the far left took over local governments in Austria, France, and Belgium, and took over mainland Greece and Italy outright. The second Paris commune was…messy.
. In Indo-China, Ho Chi Min emerged from the woods where he had hidden out during the invasion, and took control of the country in the total disorganization of the French colonial forces Various local strong men arose in Latin America as weak governments crumbled in the face of the invasion, while much of colonial Africa and parts of the Middle East descended into chaos, as Colonial forces dispersed where not killed by Martians and largely cut off from aid back home lost their authority, but with no local groups ready to take their place. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood seized Alexandria in the wake of some sort of divine action (Cairo was a smudge) and made it the new capital of Egypt, at least until the remains of the secular army rousted them from the city in bloody street-by-street fighting. (There were less Islamic successes than you’d think: secularism was still popular, and being beaten by Martians, which were like a force of nature, was less shameful than being beaten by Jews). Small, crowded Singapore was largely annihilated, and what was left was annexed by Malaysia.
As mentioned, the US was not in any real way ready to provide a post-Martian “Marshall Plan”, nor was any other nation. A few states had not yet felt a Martian attack when the die-off began, but these were all small states: New Zealand, Liberia, Panama... However, there was a recognition that the global disaster required global solutions. At an emergency UN session held in 1954, it was unanimously agreed to create an international relief fund and reconstruction agencies, and to set up the necessary system for a global food bank, special financial cooperative efforts, etc., in a spirit of “all hang together or hang separately.”
Many idealists saw this as the beginnings of a world government: many intellectuals went into high-flung raptures about how the Martians had made us conscious of our common humanity, or, more cynically, on how the existence of a common threat would finally unify mankind. Unfortunately, human beings are rarely so sensible: the major surviving governments were scared badly enough to work together with traditional enemies in case of a future attack, but were no more willing to give up their sovereignty than France had been willing to merge it’s empire with Britain’s in the darkest days of WWII. After all, how could a world government include both democracies and dictatorships such as the USSR and China? And while the necessity of pooling resources and providing mutual assistance to help in economic recovery was widely appreciated, there was no way the “developed” states were going to take much input on how to use their $$ from the poor and backward 2/3 of mankind.
So, what emerged by 1958 was something like a combination of NATO and the EC, comprising the US, most of Europe, Australia-NZ, Japan, and the USSR, closely allied militarily and economically linked. China was included mostly due to sheer bulk and was more loosely tied economically, due to backwardness. Then there was an “outer sphere” of weak, poor small nations expected to provide raw materials and perhaps labor to the Global Assembly - for the common good, of course! (Not that different from OTL, really, aside from the USSR and the US joining forces to keep things orderly). This initially shaky and shambolic structure would evolve over time into the Global Assembly, which would not so much replace the UN as steadily make it increasingly irrelevant.
The US and USSR managed to maintain at least détente, with the US’s quiet support for right-wing European governments squashing local communists politely ignored by the USSR (by 1990 only Italy, a shrunken Yugoslavia, and Albania still had communist governments west of the USSR), and the US returned the favor for not objecting to the Soviet annexation of Bulgaria or trying to reverse the communist takeover of Korea (the North hadn’t taken as much damage from the Martians as the South, simply because the US had already pretty much flattened everything of value in the North). Socialist regimes were allowed to exist in the third world, as long as the USSR kept them reined in and trading with the rest of the globe – “infantile enthusiasm” was increasingly frowned on.
The system as it was remained flawed in a number of ways. The relations between the Big Powers, the Global Security Council (equivalent to the OTL permanent five, but a lot more muscular) and the somewhat less exclusive Council Associates with the small and poor countries that make up the majority of the General Assembly has always remained fraught. In the aftermath of the Martian invasion, extensive areas not yet independent at the arrival of the Martians soon found themselves largely on their own. This, however, did not mean that the major powers, once they had gotten back on their feet, were going to leave them alone. Oh no.
After the invasion England, Portugal, and France had been devastated by the destruction of their capitals and main cities, and were in no shape to regain control of their colonies, and revolutionary leaders tried to take power almost everywhere. The Algerians not-so-politely suggested the few Pieds Noirs still alive after the destruction of Algeria’s largest cities leave. Civil wars broke throughout the Middle East. The chaos level varied, with strong communist groups rapidly restoring functional regimes in Indochina, while in spite of the disintegration of Syria and Iraq some sort of countries still existed in Turkey, Iran, Egypt, while in sub-Saharan Africa the power vacuum was very poorly filled by a mix of local revolutionary movements, army officers, and a few energetic surviving colonial officers with local allies, creating a patchwork of authority which had little relation to former colonial borders. (There were some exceptions, such as Julius Nyere’s success in rallying the various peoples of Tanganyika to reconstruct a functional, if dirt poor, state, but these were, again, exceptions). This situation was not allowed to stand for long.
“For the good of mankind”, order had to be restored, the strategic minerals and oil had to start coming into production again, Africa and the Middle East had to do their bit to help out the human race. The concept of “mandates” was brought out of storage, with state reconstruction given over to “responsible powers” until states could “stand on their own feet.” Many peoples of a dusky hue saw it as little more than a new form of Imperialism with the US as the dominant power, with the USSR and some of the less thoroughly devastated European countries as often silent partners (with the Japanese playing an increasingly important role after 1980), and the “transition to full self-government” looked to cynical third-worlders more like the setting up of a network of puppet and client states, with the important mines and industries remaining largely in foreign control, the Soviets placated with the right to manage various lucrative local operations. Such grumbling was, when not ignored entirely, chastised as undermining the common human struggle against Mars.
Certainly, narrow-minded local dictators could not be allowed to use nationalist propaganda to drive a wedge between locals and the global population, and the Global Assembly maintained certain rights of intervention to overthrow dictators who carried out “anti-human” policies which weakened mankind or which prevented the proper use of whatever resources their countries might happen to have. (The Oil Intervention took place when certain oil rich countries, unhappy with the results of negotiations, tried to unilaterally push up oil prices. It set an important precedent in what would and would not be allowed in the future, and some benchmarks on the difficulties of Middle Eastern occupations).
Cynics again grumble that the GA seemed to find local murder and oppression much less objectionable in governments that followed the line from Auckland (Capital of the Union from ‘60) than otherwise (see, Iraq). Pro-Assembly thinkers pointed out that under Union management, there had been no instances of genocide or mass starvation in Africa, the Middle East, or S. America in nearly half a century. So you want a medal maybe? Reply the third-worlders .
Not that there is much besides grumbling said have-nots can do. Bucking the system is difficult. The large cold war armies do not go away in a society mobilized in case of future attack: they are simply used now for policing the globe. Revolutionary changes of government are tolerated, but only if the new government remains cooperative (or overthrew a regime that had displeased the Global Assembly). Of course, indirect methods are preferred to direct military intervention, which is expensive and increasingly bad for propaganda now that it’s getting so much easier to sneak pics of semi-liquified civilians and so on: embargos and other pressures are almost always used first to try and impose desired behavior. The Fifth Internationale still gives at least lip service to The Revolutions, but they too have largely made their peace with the System, nowadays having a seat in the Groups of Twelve. Aside from the relatively small and weak anarcho-socialists, religious hardliners – Muslim and Christian – are the only people seriously trying to overthrow the _system_ as a whole.
Getting man into space – to strike back, to defend Earth from future invasion, for sheer survival – became a global priority as soon as actual starvation was ended, and possibly sooner in the USSR, although from the first space travel became one of the few truly international efforts. The devastation of the major powers put back a space program compared to OTL, with the first satellite not going into orbit until late ’58, but things accelerated after that. The first man on the Moon (a Russian, having won the low-gravity coin flip) stepped onto the regolith in 1966, and a nuclear-powered manned flight to Venus was in the works in the mid-70s when the Martians preempted it by getting there first. (If the strange plumes of color that stained Venus’s atmosphere for the next few years weren’t a giveaway, the way space probes started vanishing as they approached Venus kinda confirmed things). A mission to the Asteroids was delayed until the late 80s, due to trouble creating a true closed-cycle life support system (it turns out to be harder than Bio-Dome makes it out to be).
When probes stopped blowing up, humanity cautiously returned to Venus, and found it to be, as the first unmanned probes had shown, a hot, toxic, acid-raining hellhole of worn-down continents and vast steaming, murky seas inhabited by morbidly ferocious and insanely fast-growing and reproducing life forms with a deeply alien biology. It however, seemed to have a rather _different_ balance of species, and an even more insane level of biological competition. What slowly came out after the already crumbling Martian protective domes were discovered is that the Martians, having apparently picked Venus as their backup planet, had attempted to change Venus’ atmosphere to deal with Venus’s horrible ecology by poisoning it. All of it. Unfortunately for their plans, Venusian life was even more adoptable than they thought, and a number of species turned out to be immune or able to adapt to the changes in the atmosphere, the loss of thousands of species simply kicking the struggle for survival into overdrive. Venus is too hostile to Martians, and apparently too much for humans, as well (In spite of all precautions, some sort of error led to the entire crew of the second human ship to Venus dying horribly on the way back to Earth), most exploration nowadays being done with remote probes operated from orbit. However, the fact that the Martians tried is an ominous indication that the Martians have learned a lot, if not enough, about dealing with aggressive microlife. (Some say it shows desperation on the part of the Martians, which means they’re in trouble, right? Never mind the tendency of desperate people to do crazy stuff).
In 2003, there’s a lot of stuff in orbit around Earth, but it’s mostly there for military and scientific purposes: actually living space would be insane expensive, and any large rotating habitat would be highly vulnerable in the face of some sort of, say, interplanetary war. There _are_ space colonies, but they’re located far, far away at the L4 and L5 Lagrange points of Earth’s orbit, or snugly deep underground the surface of the Moon and some of the larger metallic asteroids. (In case the worst happens, there are ongoing efforts to make these self-sustaining). There’s a multi-year mission en route to Jupiter to check out the prospects of the outer, less radiation-soaked moons for settlement. (And check out some odd phenomena ongoing on the surface of hyper-volcanic Io. There’s stuff going on that doesn’t seem entirely... natural. It’s not Martians, since a probe flew within a couple hundred thousand miles without getting zapped).
Various forms of nuclear propulsion have been since the 70s the workhorses of long-term space travel, although chemical rockets are still used in one-stage-to-space and the case of probes with no need to get anywhere in a hurry. Orion-type nuclear propulsion systems were slow to catch on due to a perhaps excessive amount of energy focused on duplicating Martian paragravity. But as paragravity remained beyond human ability to duplicate, the possibility of putting a crapload of stuff into space became too tempting, and the first “full scale” test took place in 1983. The main problem with Orion ships is the amount of radioactive crap they put into both the atmosphere and the ionosphere, leading to fallout, damage to satellites not heavily shielded, and messing with communications. Their use is so far limited to cases where a great deal of crap needs to be gotten into space fast, and while their boosters claim that with mass use the cost of the many, many nuclear weapons they use will drop greatly, security-conscious Security Council members are uneasy about that many small nukes floating around. But they’re still building – there may be a day when a great deal of people need to be taken off-planet in a hurry.
FOR PLANETARY DEFENSE
Preventing a second and more successful Martian invasion is the job and most important function of the Global Assembly, and it’s military arm, the Space Defense Force. All member states of the Security Council and the twelve Associates set aside a large chunk of their budget to be pooled for the purpose of developing weapons and defenses against Mars, and to figure out how to bring the fight home to the Martians.
Much of the money goes to researching and trying to duplicate Martian technology, with ten great laboratories around the world specializing in the reverse engineering effort. Although in many cases Martians managed to get their machines to self destruct before they died, often enough they collapsed before they fully understood the gravity of the situation, and there are quite a few Martian war machines to play with, along with two intact landing cylinders and a variety of equipment and machines from the Martian “nests” which rapidly grew up around the landing sites once humans had been driven from the area.
Duplicating Martian technology has proven difficult: in some cases, the technology depends on materials simply unduplicable by Terrestrial tech (even the Professor couldn’t make a high-performance computer out of bamboo, seashells, and coconuts), while in others even the basic principles seem obscure. Martian force-fields, disintegrators, and atomic power generators remain unsolved problems, the third in large part because it uses force-fields for containment. There have been _some_ successes: a number of types of vehicle now travel on “legs” of electromagnetic force. There is now a functional Heat Ray – although admittedly four hundred times as bulky and frankly something of an immovable Rube Goldberg device – and after decades of struggling, Paragravity, the means by which the Martians accelerate their cylinders towards Earth and then crash into it without turning into strawberry jam, seems within sight. (So far they’ve only managed to cut the weight of a 1-ton test block in half with a mass of equipment the size of a city block and with its own small-city-sized dedicated nuclear reactor, but it’s a start.
However, feeble starts at neutralizing gravity neither butter parsnips nor destroy Martian war machines. Post-invasion experimentation demonstrated a Martian shield _could_ be overloaded, although it took over fifty megatons for a single war machine and close to a hundred for multiple Martian machines linking their force domes: and the machines had to be essentially _inside_ the central fireball so there was no way for them to dump heat fast enough. (The largest bomb used during the invasion was a 5 megaton airburst). Force fields protecting cylinders were of comparable strength.
More usefully, it turned out the Martian force-domes were actually domes much of the time: they could turn them into impenetrable cylinders at need, but since the shields stopped matter as well as energy, they couldn’t extend the shields underground and move at the same time: they couldn’t generate a field that entirely enveloped them from _above_ the ground, since that would interrupt the force-beams they used to move and suspend themselves above the ground. As a result, the most important atomic projects have been the development of a variety of “mechanical moles” to burrow below Martian lines and explode when Martian machines pass over them, remotely detonable nuclear mines, and sensors to allow either moles or mines to detect when they were actually under a machine. (Since Martians shields turn automatically and fast from dome to full cylinder when an atomic explosion is detected, setting off an underground bomb should happen as close to the war machine as possible).
Of course, this strategy has its limitations – the exact sensitivity of (unreadable) Martian technology to radiation or ability to detect objects well underground is unknown. The most effective weapon found so far is in fact the Martian disintegrator – it is a field-effect rather than high-density radiation, and penetrates right through the Martian force shield from either side (the heat ray will only penetrate from the inside), which may explain why the Martians limit its use (possibly too much risk of Friendly Fire accidents). Like all Martian machinery, it apparently was controlled by a direct interface between the machinery and the Martian’s nervous systems, and it took years of developing complex jury rigs and work-arounds, often wrecking the control systems entirely, before it became possible to even _fire_ a disintegrator, and there are only a limited number to work with, which are parceled out to strategic locations on Earth and in space. Huge amounts of resources are being expended to find a way to duplicate the disintegrator, with various pundits and government officials claiming that if we do we’ll have any future invaders where we want them. Pessimistic types suggest that we may just be duplicating the enemy’s equivalent of canon or even machine guns, and we have yet to see what the Martian equivalent of the atom bomb is. (Such people are generally howled down as defeatists if not downright objectively pro-Martian. Truth is, people don’t want to think about such things).
You can also mess with a Martian force field with a powerful enough magnetic field, but since that requires the Martians to be polite enough to drive their craft between house-sized magnetic coils, it suffers on the stealth front.
(There’s also a major bio-weapons project to develop new and nastier bugs to kill Martians, but it has been hampered by a distinct shortage of living Martian cells, and many wonder about how these pathogens to the Martians, given that by now they have probably figured out a little about sterile environments and decontamination, especially after visiting Venus).
Much of Earth’s most lethal hardware is in space, in distant orbits and here and there around the Earth-Moon system. The notion is to interrupt future Martian cylinders before they reach the Earth, where they can use mega-bombs of hundreds of megatons without worrying about the damage it will cause to Earth. (Disintegrator weapons form something of an inner line of defense in closer orbit: their range is limited). Exact details on Earth’s defenses remain highly classified: none but the deeply paranoid believe that the Martians have agents on Earth , but there’s no guarantee Martians can’t translate our radio broadcasts. They don’t want them to hear about Project Pale Horse, the project to deliver lethal pathogens to Mars . And certainly they don’t want them to hear about Project Mjolnir, the plan to accelerate some distant and hard to see asteroids to the point where they violently crash into Mars.
Technology has pushed forward, boosted by a more integrated world and the research carried out by an even bigger than OTL military-industrial complex, along with spinoffs from Martian technology. As mentioned, many vehicles, especially in shipping goods, move on beams of electromagnetic force, which allows the crossing of rough or swampy ground or even rivers and lakes (the main limitations are speed – compared to airplanes - and braking: for small or medium vehicles, electromagnetic forces are less effective at bringing you to an abrupt stop than normal mechanical brakes.) Other spinoffs include room-temperature spray-on superconductors and a variety of remarkable new synthetics for the household and construction. Martian computer tech is alien enough in both architecture and composition as to have given few clues to terrestrial computer science, but the strong push for a global free flow of information to the formation of a crude, clunky “internet” by the late 70s. (Social Media remains a gleam in the eye of various technology entrepreneurs, and may remain so, given the hostility of many governments towards disseminating false “anti-science” or “anti-Global Assembly” information on the Planetary Network. Interest in duplicating Martian machine-mind interfaces has helped with the development of advanced prosthetics, as good as anything OTL 2017, and recently direct brain interfaces have been developed to the point where they allow totally blind people to at least make out the rough shapes of things from a distance. Sub-orbital one-hour jumps between Europe and North America are increasingly common among the Jet Set, and while large scale settlement in near-Earth orbit is not something the GA supports for obvious reasons, there certainly are luxury space hotels.
POLITICS, SOCIETY, RELIGION
Environmentalism is a heated subject of debate: although global warming is being taken more seriously than OTL, there is a strong sense of “develop the planet to the point we can beat the Martians first, then we’ll worry about damage to the environment”, which of course industry and business find very agreeable. On the other side, there are those who point to Dying Mars as a sign of the frailty of planetary environments, etc., etc., although some seem to interpret the message somewhat inaccurately as “use up the planet, we’ll do what the Martians tried and move to another.”
Urbanization is a bit different from OTL. Cities are even more “spread” than OTL – concentrated populations mean concentrated targets. Locations of major urban centers have changed – although a lot of important cities have been rebuilt, even if it had to be from scratch, with only 50 years many haven’t grown to match their former size, while still intact cities grew enormously from hordes of refugees looking to restart their lives. Chicago, which Martian forces stopped short of, is currently considerably larger than rebuilt New York. Some cities have been rebuilt in new locations – New Washington was built in the high Rockies, Martian war machines having been shown to have difficulties with steep slopes. Other cities were simply converted from existing ones – the current city of Moscow used to be called Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod even earlier). There are quite a few hidden, underground “secret cities” to serve both as locations for refugees and possibly fallback redoubts. Rebuilt-from-scratch cities have been fully planned for ease of evacuation and rapid removal of vital materials, but even in untouched cities there are now vast networks of normally inactive rail, tunnels, overhead road bridges, etc. to allow for carefully planned mass evacuations. Of course, as year after year pass, with no Martians showing up, standards are beginning to slip.
Socialism, collectivism, anarchism – compared to the OTL hegemony of neo-liberal capitalism alternate ideas on economics and social organization remain fairly vigorous, although both the USSR and China have moved a lot closer to the Capitalist model, if more ambiguously than OTL, and Italian-style Marxism looks more like technocracy nowadays. The notion of “convergence” between the Soviet and American system, largely dead OTL by the late 80s, retains some currency, given that the USSR’s move to a mix of state capitalism, free enterprise, and workers cooperatives, while the US has become rather dirigiste, with a massive military-scientific-industrial complex and a strongly interventionist tendency. Still, good old fashioned socialism is in trouble, and collectivist thinking has run into an odd public relations problem in that a lot of people now say true collectivism/Marxism is for Martians, not people, and is therefore “anti-human” by nature. Others, of course, say that since the more advanced Martians seem to be collectivists, it will likely be the future of humanity as well. (How Mars runs its economy is actually quite unknown, but at least judging from examination of Martian “nests” and other bases, Martians do not seem big on “privacy” or “personal possessions” save for the material needs of different scientific specialties, and if anything like an organizational hierarchy exists among Martians, no physical evidence of hierarchy has ever been found).
The US is still a democracy, if a rather authoritarian and mobilized one. There never was a 60s counterculture – the country was still rebuilding from the Martian invasion at the time – but things like Civil Rights were pushed through by a government wanting to create a genuinely unified nation which did not essentially screw itself out of a large portion of economic growth by deliberate impoverishment of many of its citizens. (Excessive unconventionality, however, is frowned on. The modern US accepts people of all races and creeds as long as they talk and behave like well-educated white Midwesterners.) Generally speaking, the US is a lot more pro-government intervention, if only because of the clearly vital role of large-scale government support and aid in the post-1953 recovery: over time people have of course begun to forget they actually owe anything to government aid, but combined with the lack of a (successful) oil embargo, one might say the rise of Reaganite and Thatcherite thinking was delayed by a couple decades. (An affable older actor with a libertarian agenda is running for President in 2004: some say George Carlin could go all the way). The Religious Right is less powerful in America, in part because quite a bit of its thunder was stolen by a broad, multi-denominational religious revival in the wake of the Martian invasion, generally referred to as the Fourth Great Awakening.
Globally, religion is generally doing better in the first world than OTL, while, oddly, religious fundamentalism is less active in North Africa and the Middle East, where secular regimes continue to hold power in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Syria, untroubled by US invasions or by ongoing clashes with Israel (the US and USSR joined forces in the 60s to bring a definite end to the Israel-Arab wars, both leaning very hard on their clients: the Arabs, which had in the cases of Iraq and Syria been reconstructed with the aid of US and Soviet military forces, weren’t in a good position to say no, and while they had held together as a country, Israel still had been burned black as far south as Caesarea.) Libya is still a monarchy.
Europe, which pursues a policy of “never again” after two horrible wars, has sunk its differences in a pan-European identity more successfully than OTL, although Britain actually managed to rebuild part of the Commonwealth – the white bits, mostly - into something a bit more substantial on the basis of “we must unite or the Martians will eat us all.”  (Theoretically they could hold a seat on the Security Council as representatives of Anglosphere Association and another as representatives for Europe, but currently those seats are held by an Australian and a Spaniard. It may be they deliberately avoid such a situation, given the accusations of excessive British influence that would no doubt follow). Europeans nowadays are perhaps the most hawkishly anti-Martian major power, old international hostilities now turned outwards towards the great enemy, and great slaughter of alien invaders is made in European movies and TV serials. Only the young, born after Europe’s economy revived and the cities rebuilt, have trouble seeing why they should hate Martians so much.
The USSR has gone over the years through various political gyrations, and as the government moved away from a clearly inefficient command economy (there was some effort to move towards a more efficient planned economy, but the computer science wouldn’t be there for some time, so it didn’t get very far) to a more “capitalist” one, it became increasingly dependent by the late 80s on a weird ersatz “Soviet Nationalism” based on a mix of “Eurasianism”, worship of “rationalism”, unity of all Soviet peoples against Martians and, alas, thumbing the national nose against the USA, whose continued holding of Number One Nation status increasingly grated. It was unable to keep Italy and several other socialist regimes from breaking with the USSR and creating the Fifth Internationale, a left-wing pressure group which has succeeded in getting a seat on the Group of Twelve, usually held either by Italy or Vietnam as representatives of the group as a whole.
China was devastated by the Martians, but by 1953 the Communists were the only real force left in China, and they were simply able to reemerge and reestablish themselves in power after the Martians left: Chiang’s effort to liberate the mainland (Taiwan, like several small island nations, had avoid Martian attack during the relatively brief invasion) was a humiliating failure. Falling out with the USSR over its turn away from World Revolution, an isolated China pursued self-sufficiency for two decades in a manner just as crazy as OTL, but in quite different ways (there’s still about 100 million concrete bunkers scattered about the country). The Chinese prefer not to talk about those years.
India fragmented, but was (mostly) able to pull itself together, although in the confusion Kashmir declared itself independent of both India and Pakistan. The two halves of Pakistan separated early with the collapse of government continuity, leaving (west) Pakistani leadership with a shortage of things to blame India for.
The Japanese had a long slow recovery, and retain a certain almost Scandinavian gloomyness to this day.
South Africa was and remained the Bad Seed of the Anglosphere Association: the failed First Great Rising in the aftermath of the Martian invasion did nothing for interracial relations. Eventually international intervention became necessary when they started waggling their nuclear weapons around and shouting accusations of foreigners stirring up the kaffirs.
Science fiction isn’t science fiction in this world, so to speak. Death rays? Force fields? Artificial gravity? Invading aliens? These are not fictional tropes, but deadly real things. The split between those religious groups who feel God will provide as long as we remain reverent and those who feel only technology and science can save us is sharpened by the fact that what many in OTL 2017 would call scientific magical thinking, old pulp-era assumptions that science can almost anything, have been validated to a substantial extent: “That Flash Gordon stuff” is achievable, so what else might be? Immortality? Faster than light travel? AI and robot butlers? Battleships fighting off the rings of Saturn with disintegrator rays and anti-matter missiles? Mere rational extrapolation. (Indeed, quite a lot of money is wasted funding projects which turn out to be mere moonshine, but can’t be dismissed as easily as they might OTL since so much pulpy stuff is real: consider the OTL US funded things like efforts to knock out goats with psychic powers, and imagine where taxpayer money may be going ATL.)
Fifty years after the Martian invasion, in 2003, the system is under some pressure, not so much from the small nations or Islamicists or neo-socialists, but from within the major powers.
People are beginning to grumble about the massive military budget, ongoing conscription, and the panicky atmosphere constant preparation for a future Martian attack brings with it. The Martians have gone, and aren’t coming back, right? It’s been fifty years: if they were coming back they’d be here by now.
There is strong opposition from religious groups, too. God clearly saved man from the Martians: it’s hubris to presume we could fight them off on our own if they came again. We should trust in the Lord, cut the budget for weapons research and stop mucking around with a global government that’s under the control of a bunch of ex-commies and bankers cabals. To their mutual surprise, a rising youth culture to which Martians are practically mythical find themselves in agreement with bedrock conservatives on the necessity for the US and Europe to get out of, well, pretty much everything outside the US and Europe.
The Church of the Cosmic Lords is looked on with some suspicion by the FBI and Global Assembly intelligence. They also believe military preparation is unnecessary, because they hold that humanity was saved by some other alien intelligence, which used its cosmic powers to weaken the Martian’s immune systems. After all, they argue, it’s hardly rational that beings as advanced as Martians would know nothing of the germ theory of disease, right? They do not of course worship the Martians, but their claims that the Cosmic Lords will arriving one day soon to help us all reach a higher evolutionary level has brought in enough converts to make people nervous. Given that super-powerful aliens DO exists, it’s not that big a jump to think there might be even mightier ones...
Nationalism remains a problem, and calls for “greater integration” or even “federation” of the Security Council and Groups of Twelve are sounding increasingly desperate. Although Europe seems to be slowly moving towards a true post-nationalism, the US and the USSR are increasingly at loggerheads again: it’s not the return of the Cold War, but it’s as least as rancorous as the interwar relationship between the British and French “allies.” China, too, is increasingly assertive, having moved out of isolationism in the late 70s after Mao’s death, and successfully regained its position in the Security Council. India is pushing hard to get a full seat on the Council, but this is being held up due to concerns about “India not possessing the economic and military strength to carry out its obligations as a Security Council Member” – supposedly. It probably has more to do with the fact that the Council President’s ability to get the Security Council’s ducks in a row is increasingly becoming an exercise in cat-herding, and adding another member won’t help much. There are a number of organizations – health, welfare, information – that remain global both in their reach and spirit, but the only truly muscular Global Council organization that remains a truly global organization in 2003 is the Space Defense Force.
Meanwhile, across the gulf of space, as Mars nears its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, intellects vast and cool and somewhat annoyed are once again drawing their plans…
 Giant Space Telescopes being rather easier for the Martians to spot than small space-probes.
 Martian forces from Syria advanced into northern Israel, but began dying of disease before they reached the most densely populated parts of the country, and Tel Aviv survived. Israelis called it a miracle, the Arabs said it was God saving Jerusalem, not the Jews.
 Mao’s eventual refusal to cooperate with what he saw as “betrayal of the global proletarian revolution” would cause China to break with the Global Assembly and withdraw into isolation for two decades.
 The Soviets, seeking to bind a Russo-philic Bulgaria more closely to Moscow, actually took them up on an offer to join they had made to Stalin. The local leadership was not very happy, but at the time Romania’s regime was still holding on and willing to let Soviet armies through, so whatcha gonna do?
 Not that the term “Third World” exists in this world: we’re all supposed to be one big human family fighting shoulder to shoulder against the Martians, etc. But there are definitely haves and have-nots.
 The notion that the government has been infiltrated by people infected by Martian genetic material or perhaps Martian ghosts from their corpses is a popular one among this world’s equivalent of the Black Helicopter crowd, along with the idea that a lot of those dead Martians weren’t actually dead.
 Which had been hampered by the fact that to get anything by Martian defenses any space probe has to be indistinguishable from a common bit of space rubble, and not too large, either, combined with the problem that the Martians mostly live underground and most of the surface is desert and ultraviolet rich.
 A slur: Martians of this type have no interest in human blood save as raw materials for their biomanufacturies.