Paving The Way For Change
English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian, whose
science-fiction stories have been filmed many times. Wells's best known books are THE TIME MACHINE (1895), THE INVISIBLE MAN
(1897), and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1898). Wells wrote over a hundred of books, about fifty of them novels.
"No one would
have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences
greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their affairs they were scrutinized and
studied, parhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply
in a drop of water." (from War of the Worlds)
Along with George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley's Brave
New World, which was an pessimistic answer to scientific optimism, Wells's novels are among the classical works of science-fiction,
but his romantic and enthusiastic conception of technology later turned more doubtfull. His bitter side is seen early in the
novel BOON (1915), which was a parody of
H.G. Wells was born in Bromley, Kent. His
father was a shopkeeper and a professional cricketer, and his mother served from time to time as a housekeeper at the nearby
estate of Uppark. His father's business failed and to elevate the family to middle-class status, Wells was apprenticed like
his brothers to a draper, spending the years between 1880 and 1883 in Windsor and Southsea. Later he recorded these years
in KIPPS (1905). In the story Arthur Kipps is raised by his aunt and uncle. Kipps is also apprenticed to a draper. After learning
that he has been left a fortune, Kipps enters the upper-class society, which Wells describes with sharp social criticism.
In 1883 Wells became a teacher/pupil at Midhurst Grammar Scool. He obtained a scholarship to the Normal School of Science
in London and studied there biology under T.H. Huxley. However, his interest faltered and in 1887 he left without a degree.
He taught in private schools for four years, not taking his B.S. degree until 1890. Next year he settled in London, married
his cousin Isabel and continued his career as a teacher in a correspondence college. From 1893 Wells became a full-time writer.
After some years Wells left Isabel for one of his brightest students, Amy Catherine, whom he married in 1895. As a novelist
Wells made his debut with The Time Machine, a parody of English class division and a satirical warning that human progress
is not inevitable. The Time Traveller lands in the year 802701 and finds two people: the Eloi, weak and little, who live above
ground, and the Morlocks, carnivorous creatures that live below ground. Much of the realism of the story was achieved by carefully
studied technical details.
The basic principles of the machine contained materials regarding time as the fourth dimension
- years later Albert Einstein published his theory of the four dimensional continuum of space-time. The work was followed
by such science-fiction classics as THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1896), in which a mad scientist transforms animals into human
creatures, The Invisible Man (1897), a Faustian story of a scientist who has tampered with nature in pursuit of superhuman
powers, and The War of the Worlds (1898), a novel of an invasion of Martians. The story appeared at a time when Percival Lowell's
"observations" of "canals" on Mars arose speculations that there could be life on the Red Planet. Inspite of the technological
superiority of the Martians, their plan fails - they start to die off because they have no immunity to the bacteria of Earth.
THE FIRST MEN ON THE MOON (1901) was prophetic description of the methodology of space flight, and THE WAR IN THE AIR (1908)
was a hybrid that places Kipps-like Cockney hero in the context of a catastrophic aerial war. Altough Wells's novels were
highly entertaining, he also tried to pave way for a wiser attitude about the future of the mankind.
his literary work, Wells moved into the novel genre, with LOVE AND MR. LEWISHAM (1900). He strenghtened his reputation as
a serous writer with Kipps, TONO-BUNGAY (1909), and THE HISTORY OF MR. POLLY (1909), an ode to vanished England. He also published
critical pamphlets attacking the Victorian social order, among them ANTICIPATIONS (1901), MANKIND IN THE MAKING (1903), and
A MODERN UTOPIA (1905).
Passionate concern for society led Wells to join in 1903 the socialist Fabian Society in London,
but he soon quarreled with the society's leaders, among them George Bernard Shaw. This experience was basis for his novel
THE NEW MACHIAVELLI (1911), where he drew portraits of the noted Fabians. At the outbreak of war in 1914, Wells was involved
in a love affair with the young English author Rebecca West, which influenced his work and life deeply.
have been more obvious to the people of the early twentieth century than the rapidity with which war was becoming impossible.
And as certainly they did not see it. They did not see it until the atomic bombs burst in their fumbling hands." (from The
World Set Free, 1914)
After WW I Wells published several non-fiction works, among them THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY (1920),
THE SCIENCE OF LIFE (1929-39), written in collaboration with Sir Julian Huxley and George Philip Wells, and EXPERIMENT IN
AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1934). At this time Wells had gained the status as a popular celebrity, and he continued to write prolifically.
In 1917 he was a member of Reserch Committee for the League of Nations and published several books about the world organization.
In the early 1920s he was a labour candidate for Parliament. Between the years 1924 and 1933 Wells livend mainly in France.
From 1934 to 1946 he was the International president of PEN. In 1934 he had discussions with both Stalin and Roosevelt, trying
to recruit them to his world-saving schemes. However, he despaired of the whole business when the global war broke the peace
for the second time.
"The professional military mind is by necessity an inferior and unimaginative mind; no man of high
intellectual quality would willingly imprison his gifts in such calling." (from The Outline of History, 1920)
In THE HOLY
TERROR (1939) Wells studied the psychological development of a modern dictator based on the careers of Stalin, Mussolini,
and Hitler. In 1938 Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio broadcast, based on The War of the Worlds, caused a panic which spread
across the United States. Wells lived through World War II in his house on Regent's Park, refusing to let the blitz drive
him out of London. His last book, MIND AT THE END OF ITS TETHER (1945), expressed pessimism about mankind's future prospects.
Wells died in London on August 13. 1946.