Saturday, March 6, 2010

H. G. Wells: the Social Architect

The Time Machine recreation for the 1960 movie. Picture from

Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English author, specially dedicated to the science fiction genre. From an introduction in his famous book “The Time Machine” I learn:
“ H. G. Wells was a scientific visionary and social prophet. One of the most widely read British writers of his generation, he explored the new territory of science fiction and crusaded for a new social order in more than forty-four novels and social and historical books.
Scrawny and tubercular, Wells was born to domestic servants turned shopkeepers in Kent on September 21, 1866. In his late twenties a close brush with death led him to break away from a lifeless marriage to his cousin and to quit his uninspiring teaching position. He became determined to fulfill his dreams of authorship and of finding a perfect relationship with a woman. His childhood fascination with science found expression in The Time Machine (1895), the first of several enormously popular novels of scientific mythmaking, including The Invisible Man (1897) and The War of the Worlds (1898).
Fame brought him an invitation to join the socialist Fabian Society, an alliance that later turned sour. Wells continued to pursue the ideal woman, who would combine passion and intellect, and this led to a stormy ten year love affair with the young English author Rebecca West. Well’s ambivalence about the blessings of science and technology contained in his earlier novels increasingly gave way to his sense of himself as a social architect and cautionary prophet. Throughout the 1930s he took center stage in warning that humankind was on the brink of disaster, while zealously planning the reconstruction of society. He died in 1846, at the age of eighty, shortly after the detonation of the first atomic bomb.

H. G. Wells. From

Here I reproduce a paragraph of The Time Machine (Bantam Books, p.25, 1991)expressing social concern:
“ I looked up again  at the crouching white shape, and the full temerity of my voyage came suddenly upon me. What might appear when that hazy curtain was altogether withdrawn? What might not have happened to men? What if cruelty had grown into a common passion? What if in this interval the race had lost its manliness, and had developed into something inhuman, unsympathetic, and overwhelmingly powerful? I might seem some old world savage animal, only the more dreadful and disgusting for our common likeness –a foul creature to be incontinently slain.”

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