In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle voyages to the many worlds imagined by a forgotten science-fiction pioneer
Victorian science fiction throws out one name: H. G. Wells. So comprehensively has Wells’s name come to dominate, or even define, our understanding of nineteenth-century English science fiction, that his contemporaries and precursors have been lost in the ether or relegated to the status of minor satellites, barely perceptible moons, orbiting Wells’s vast body of work. The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, published within three years of each other between 1895 and 1898, have come to be seen as the founding texts of modern science fiction in English.
But such an understanding of the emergence of this new genre in the closing years of the nineteenth century obscures the many contemporaries of Wells whose imagination and inventiveness were similarly remarkable, their stories and novels showcasing the brilliant possibilities of this new publishing phenomenon. Of all of Wells’s forgotten contemporaries, the greatest was perhaps George Griffith, sometimes known as George Chetwynd Griffith-Jones (1857-1906). Read the rest of this entry
In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle analyses the lasting appeal of H. G. Wells’s first great ‘scientific romance’
In some ways, H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895) is a ‘timeless’ text: it continues to enjoy huge popularity (as witnessed by big film adaptations in 1960 and 2002, as well as the fact that the novel itself has never been out of print and is available in a range of editions), it continues to exert a considerable influence on the literature and cinema produced since, and its very narrative structure – with much of the action of the novel taking place in a time that hasn’t happened yet, the year 802,701 – in a sense absenting it from its own context. But an analysis of Wells’s novella that sees it floating completely free of its 1890s context, much as the Time Traveller himself succeeds in leaving his late Victorian world behind, risks overlooking the extent to which The Time Machine is a novella deeply rooted in late nineteenth-century concerns. These concerns are neatly covered in Roger Luckhurst’s introduction to the recent Oxford edition of the novella, The Time Machine (Oxford World’s Classics).
In an interview published in 1899, Wells outlined his reasons for being so concerned with the future of mankind:
Why should four-fifths of the fiction of today be concerned with times that can never come again, while the future is scarcely speculated upon? At present we are almost helpless in the grip of circumstances, and I think we ought to strive to shape our destinies. Changes that directly affect the human race are taking place every day, but they are passed over unobserved. Read the rest of this entry
10 classic books written by the master of science fiction, H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells (1866-1946) wrote dozens of books over the course of his literary career, a career which spanned over half a century. But what are the best books by H. G. Wells? As well as writing many classic works of science fiction, Wells also wrote non-fiction as well as many popular realist novels such as Kipps and The History of Mr Polly. But in this list of his best novels we’ve confined ourselves to the pick of his science fiction, since it’s for his science fiction that Wells is best remembered. As ever with our lists, we’ll start at number 10 and work our way up to what is, in our opinion, the best H. G. Wells novel of all… Read the rest of this entry