The War in the Air saw HG Wells at the peak of his predictive powers, and what he got wrong is as interesting as what he got right. Writing in 1907, he failed to imagine heavier-than-air aircraft, hence the great air fleets are variants on Wright Flyers, Zeppelins and hot air balloons. And he failed to anticipate that there would be two world wars – believing that one would be enough. But he got the antagonists right – the Germans versus the rest, and then the Japanese cashing in with their own conquest of Asia while the west was too busy fighting amongst themselves to bother protecting their colonial interests. The notion that the principle would be bombing cities was what he got most right, but he could not see how the aircraft could successfully attack each other. He did not anticipate atomic bombs, but thought that conventional bombing would be able to have the same general effect, blasting humanity back into the stone age. And once it all began it was unstoppable – he did not anticipate that populations would be able to stop wars.
He has a nondescript hero named Bert (his own name), an aviator captured early by the Germans and whose expertise they need. As a prisoner, he rides with the great air fleet as it blasts its way across Europe, over the Atlantic and stages a huge attack on New York. (Meanwhile, the Japanese get into the act with swordsman pilots and superior aircraft). Bert harbours the secret of a superior type of plane that will beat them all.
The final battle, for Bert and the German Prince who leads the assault, occurs over Niagara and they crash on Goat Island in the middle of the falls. Bert shoots the Germans and escapes. Wells was so deeply into his ideas and far removed from his characters that he had Bert rescue a kitten and then forget it. As the last fires burn in the last cities, Bert makes his way home to England where anarchy prevails and his girl Edna has been claimed by a rival. Bert guns down the male members of the bridal party and runs off with Edna, getting clean away with it because all law and order has broken down.
I smouldered with outrage. In my dreams I inflicted every death and torture imaginable upon him. The Assyrians were pussycats compared to the way my mind continually destroyed him. I said nothing, did nothing, rode out the derision and chiding and laughter and humiliation. None of that bothered me really. I carried my blatant injury with as much pride as I could manage. I had survived a reputation as a gutless wonder. This was no worse.
But I was biding my time, waiting my chance, and it came the next time it was decreed that there was about to be another game of Trojan Crunch.
Around this time, Hanna-Barbra (a minor competitor of Disney) broke through with the first adult (or at least prime time) cartoon TV series, The Flintstones. Slavishly imitating the once very popular Jackie Gleason series The Honeymooners, it justified its medium by being set in a fanciful version of the Stone Age where a man crushed rocks for a living using live mechanical monsters and went home in his boulder-wheeled, foot-powered car to his family and pet dinosaur in their suburban cave . This absurd nonsense worked because of the endless flow of silly ideas on how they adapted to do a thousand modern domestic things in prehistoric times, - a flat-billed pterasaur used for the ironing or the small creatures that really lived in the TV (there being TV but of course no electricity).
And it was funny because Gleason and his original cast had been funny. Many spin-offs (in other improbable eras) and movies followed and continue to do so, but none matched the marvelous intentional stupidity of the original adventures of Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their neighbours, Barney and Betty Rubble.