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When Worlds Collide is a 1933 science fiction novel co-written by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer; they both also co-authored the sequel After Worlds Collide (1934). It was first published as a six-part monthly serial (September 1932-February 1933) in Blue Book magazine, illustrated by Joseph Franké.

Plot summary

Sven Bronson, a South African astronomer, discovers that a pair of rogue planets, Bronson Alpha and Bronson Beta, will soon enter the solar system. The larger one, Alpha, will pass close enough to cause catastrophic damage. Eight months later, after swinging around the Sun, Alpha will return to pulverize the Earth and leave. It is believed that Bronson Beta will remain and assume a stable orbit.

Scientists led by Cole Hendron work desperately to build ships to transport enough people, animals and equipment to Bronson Beta in an attempt to save the human race. Governments are skeptical, but the scientists persist and develop the technology necessary for the spacecraft, which are built in various countries. Nations including the United States evacuate their coastal regions in preparation for the Bronson bodies' first pass. Tides reach heights of hundreds of meters, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes take their deadly toll, and the weather runs wild for more than two days. As a token of things to come, Bronson Alpha's first pass takes out the Moon.

The isolated Hendron camp manages to build two ships which take off together with all of the survivors of the camp (after beating off an attack from refugees desperate to escape). One ship makes a successful landing, but without radio contact with any other ships, the crew members assume that only they made it across. They find that Beta is habitable and that there are traces of a native civilization wiped out when, millions of years before, the planet was torn away from its sun.

The sequel, After Worlds Collide, follows the fate of the survivors on Bronson Beta.

Adaptations and influences

When Worlds Collide had far-reaching influences on the science fiction genre. The themes of an approaching planet threatening the Earth, and an athletic hero and his girlfriend traveling to the new planet by rocket, were used by writer Alex Raymond in his 1934 comic strip Flash Gordon. The 1938-1941 strip Speed Spaulding was more directly based on the novel. The themes of escape from a doomed planet to a habitable one also can be seen in Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's 1938 comic Superman.

The novel was also adapted as the 1951 film When Worlds Collide, produced by George Pal and directed by Rudolph Mate. The film inspired Deep Impact. Another film adaptation is scheduled for release in 2010 by DreamWorksmarker, directed by Stephen Sommers.

In the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show the very first song ("Science Fiction, Double Feature") refers to the film.


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