shapes of things

Toward the middle of the 1890′s H.G. Wells began writing reviews, articles and stories. But he was not consciously starting a literary career. After all, he was a science instructor. But, an illness forced him out of teaching, and he had to earn a living so turned to writing. As early as 1895, when not quite thirty, he produced a minor masterpiece in The Time Machine. Over the course of the next six years came The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, First Men on the Moon and a number of highly original short stories.

---but it’s true that the Verne-Wells-Poe “scientific romance” era ended with Wells’s The Food of the Gods (1904). Wells’s great talent helped define an era; and the decline of that talent marked the era’s end. No room, here, to discuss Wells’s utopianism, his flirtation with eugenics and Stalinism, his prodigious output and sexual appetite. Instead, I’ll end by noting that even Wells’s post-1904 novels merit a browse. Also: Check out his game-theory books, written for kids: Floor Games (1911) and Little Wars (1913).--- Read More:

What is remarkable is that at that time, most literary men were very literary. Like the French Academie Francaise, they were super fine writers, aesthetes, self-conscious stylists: people who wrote more and more about less and less. Wells did not really regard himself as part of these fastidious men of letters. He knew he was no literary man. He was a scientist who had the knack of telling unusual tales in which he made some use of his scientific training and outlook, though nobody called it science fiction back then. At heart he was a science instructor.

That is the paradox of Wells. A man of certain literary genius, who never saw himself enjoying a literary career. The accidental literary. An artist in spite of himself. And not one primarily concerned with the creation of literature. He never thought of his work in terms of art at all. Mind you, he welcomed the readers and the royalties. What was closer to his heart than his novels was his non-fiction which was both critical and prophetic; from Anticipations in 1901 to The Fate of Homo Sapiens in 1939.

---The Fabian program, continued Wells, was to provide welfare subsidies primarily through the mother. This had -- from the collectivist perspective -- the very useful effect of making the state the de facto father of welfare children. It also turned the mother into a kind of state concubine; sure, the father retained certain marital prerogatives, but where raising the children was concerned, the mother was to be accountable to the state, on pain of separation from her offspring.---Read More:

There was indeed, a curious prophetical streak in Wells, in particular the period that ended with the outbreak of WWI. In his story, When The Sleeper Wakes, of 1899, there are some astonishing previsions of the vast cities of today or tomorrow. Again, Wells was writing about military aircraft and tanks before any army had used them. Even if his claims to being a scientific sociologist are not allowed, he must at least be considered an inspired guesser with genuine flashes of insight into the future. It could even be said he made a few fast if brief trips in his own time machine.

Of course, there were certain broad ideas that Wells carried from his first typed word to his last stroke on paper. He seemed haunted by the idea that society was a dangerous muddle and a disgusting mess because it was bedeviled by irrationality. He really believed what we needed was a world government directed by men with a scientific training and outlook. A kind of Thorstein Veblen idea of rule by technocracy, of a special and disinterested ruling class of trained and dedicated people, a new and scientific elite. A kind of new world order undercut by a disdain for democracy: …

---These are some of the amazing achievements predicted for the world of tomorrow by H. G. Wells, world-famous British novelist who is hailed as the greatest prophetic genius of our day. With other miracles of the year 2054, they will soon be seen in Mr. Wells’ startling motion picture, prophetically entitled “Things to Come.” Not the least convincing fact about Mr. Wells’ vision of the future is the clean-cut way in which he eliminates what he calls scientific “balderdash.” Tomorrow’s world will be a triumph of science and the machine, to be sure. But there will be no robot men; machines will not rise like Frankensteins to slay their creators. Such fantastic touches as these often adorn the prophecies of less able scientists than H. G. Wells. But in “Things to Come” we have painted for us an astonishing picture in which there is not a single development which does not follow naturally out of laboratory discoveries of our own day.--- Read More:

( 1920): The attainment of the world state may be impeded and may be opposed to-day by many apparently vast forces; but it has, urging it on, a much more powerful force, that of the free and growing common intelligence of mankind. To-day there is in the world a small but increasing number of men, historians, archaeologists, ethnologists, economists, sociologists, psychologists, educationists, and the like, who, are doing for human institutions that same task of creative analysis which the scientific men, of the seventeenth and eighteenth century did for the materials and mechanism of human life; and just as these latter, almost unaware of what they were doing, made telegraphy, swift transit on sea and land, flying and a thousand hitherto impossible: things possible, so the former may be doing more than the world suspects, or than they themselves suspect, to clear-up and make plain the thing to do and the way to do it, in the greater and more urgent human affairs.

Let us ape Roger Bacon in his prophetic mood, and set down what we believe will be the broad fundamentals of the coming world state.

(i) It will be based upon a common world religion, very much simplified and universalized and better understood. This will not be Christianity nor Islam nor Buddhis

r any such specialized form of religion, but religion itself pure and undefiled; the Eightfold Way, the Kingdom of Heaven, brotherhood, creative service, and self-forgetfulness. Read More:

The above pretty well encompasses much of Wells’s social and political criticism, of which later he would be known for his increasing impatience, anger and general crankiness. Organized and traditional religion, the blind drive of nationalism irked him, even if he knew that irrational motives in human affairs could not be brushed aside at his command. He was pig headed type, who he if he had ever found himself in utopia, probably would have jeered and denounced all the frozen perfections. In this he was as deeply divided as he was in his emotional life.

For Wells, the martians of War of the Worlds, at once have an advantage over our disorder and muddle, at the mercy of superior intelligence and coolly rational methods. But, despite his sympathies, the martians symbolize what might happen if rational organization, science and technology were developed to such a degree where all compassion and higher values were left behind. Maybe the reason the martians only find nourishment in direct supplies of fresh blood. But this vampire suggestion is effective on another level. We are made to feel that brain without heart, science and technology released from human feeling, might drain us of blood. You can say that one half of Wells is warning us against the other half.

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