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H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells(1866-1946)
Herbert George “H. G.” Wells was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing textbooks and rules for war games. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction”. His most notable science fiction works include The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man and The Island of Doctor Moreau. Wells’s earliest specialised training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as at the beginning of the First World War) sympathising with pacifist views.

The Time Machine: Absolutely gorgeous and groundbreaking

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The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

One thing I’ve always wanted to do since the first time I read an anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling was to read all the books they recommend in the excellent essays they almost always include on the topic of the volume. I finally decided to do it, using the essay in After as my reading list. The book they listed as having started modern dystopian fiction is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Luckily, it is in the public domain so I downloaded a free copy and started reading, though I must admit I wasn’t expecting much from a science fiction novel published in 1895. And while Wells does get the science wrong in some places, there is so much more he gets ri... Read More

The Island of Dr. Moreau: A dark fable of mad science and Beast Men

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The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells’ 1896 novel is dark, disturbing and thought-provoking. Coming just several decades after the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), it tells the tale of a man named Edward Prendick who gets shipwrecked on a remote island, subsequently encountering a sinister figure named Dr. Moreau, who he discovers conducts vivisections of animals, combining various creatures to make subhuman beasts who he then loses interest in and releases to roam the island. Some of these Beast Men have banded together and recite a Law that rules their actions:
Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not... Read More

The War of the Worlds: So much for the modern SF reader to enjoy

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The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

“It was the beginning of the rout of civilization, of the massacre of mankind.”

H.G. Wells’ earliest novels had a major impact on science fiction. The War of the Worlds, first serialized in Pearson’s Magazine in 1897 and published in novel form in 1898, is one of our earliest examples of the First Contact theme. In Wells’ story several spaceships from Mars land in England, creating vast craters. At first the English are either amused or indifferent until Martians pop out and start terrorizing them with heat rays, “fighting machines,” “black smoke” and a Martian plant that begins spreading across England. The English are not prepared to fight this kind of war and, because it’s the late nineteenth century, are unable to communicate their situation quickly enough to the outside world. By the time the Martians make their way to... Read More

The Invisible Man: Not someone you want to piss off

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The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man (1897) is a story known by most people, but how many have actually read the book? It’s probably a lot darker and action-packed than you think. Also, like most of H.G. Wells’ books, it is not long and is available free as an e-book, so it’s well worth a day’s reading time.

Imagine you are an ambitious but poor young medical student named Griffin, eager to make a name for yourself and enjoy success. What if you were to discover how to change the refractive index of the human body (tested first on an unfortunate cat... Read More

The War in the Air: Should be mandatory reading for all thinking adults

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The War in the Air by H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds wasn't the only masterpiece that H.G. Wells wrote with the words "The War" in the title. The War in the Air, which came out 10 years later, in 1908, is surely a lesser-known title by this great author, but most certainly, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece nonetheless. In this prophetic book, Wells not only predicts World War I -- which wouldn't start for another six years -- but also prophesies how the advent of navigable balloons and heavier-than-air flying craft would make that war inevitable. Mind you, this book was written in 1907, only four years after the Wright Brothers' historic flights at Kitty Hawk, and two years BEFORE their airplane design was sold to the U.S. Army for military purposes. In The War in the Air, Well... Read More

Star-Begotten: A “must read” for thinking adults

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Star-Begotten by H.G.Wells

Released 39 years after his seminal sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds was published in 1898, and just two years before Orson Welles scared the bejeebers out of U.S. listeners with his radio play of that same novel, 1937's Star-Begotten finds its author, H.G. Wells, returning to the Red Planet to tell us more about those mysterious and pesky Martians. Written when Wells was 71, this latter work — rather than being a tale of action and mayhem and a truly groundbreaking instance of the then-still-new science fiction (or, to use the term that Wells preferred, "scientific romances") — is more a novel of ideas and speculation, of satire and bitter condemnation, and, I have a feeling, is a largely unknown work today. And that is a shame, as it is obviously ... Read More

Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies

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Weird Tales: The Magazine that Never Dies edited by Marvin Kaye

Marvin Kaye's Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies anthology from 1988 takes a slightly different tack than its earlier sister volume, Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors. Whereas the editors of that earlier collection chose to select one story from each year of the magazine's celebrated 32-year run (1923-1954), Kaye has decided here to not just limit himself to the periodical's classic era of 279 issues, but to also include tales from each of the four latter-day incarnations of "The Unique Magazine" (from 1973-87). The result is 45 pieces of generally superb speculative fantasy and horror, including six "Weird Tales Reprints" by such luminaries as Dickens, Poe, Flaubert and Stoker, as well as Otis Adelbert Kline's "Why Weird Tales?," an article that clearly delineated the magazine's goals and intentions in its first an... Read More

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories: Humane science fiction

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The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories edited by Tom Shippey

I read Tom Shippey's other excellent collection, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories some time ago, so it was only a matter of time before I sought out this one. Like its stablemate, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories consists of a chronological collection of stories from a variety of authors with an introduction by the editor. I was struck by the idea of "fabril" literature, which is discussed in the introduction: a form of literature in which the "smith" is central. Certainly, a great deal of early science fiction in particular involves a clever engineer solving some sort of problem, and I'm sure many careers in engineering and the sciences have been launched in this way. I'd say that there is some tendency, though, as the genre matures, for technology to beco... Read More