NEWER SF HISTORY: H.G. WELLS” (1972-78, 13,400 WORDS)

After a brief Introduction, two essays deal: 1/ with an overview of H.G. Wells’s SF, and 2/ with a depth probe of his general model for SF, adopted in most of it after him. The text is taken from a first pagination of the 1979 book MOSF and has mistakes. 

1/ This chapter 9 of MOSF discusses Wells’s SF, concentrating on 1895-1904. In it, the framework of staid bourgeois England is opposed by a horrible Novum: an alien superindividual form with superior power but equal ruthlessness as the violent imperial civilization. The novum can be a limited strange property or an entire strange world, but the menacing strangeness always refers to the future of Man. Sociopolitical conflicts are transferred into Darwinian biology. At the end the framework is shaken but no livable alternative is found. Wells’s later SF is also discussed.

2/ This chapter 10 of MOSF contrasts the models of The Time Machine (TM) and Morus’s Utopia. TM proceeds by way of a foreshortened Darwinian sociobiological seriation. The narration embodies this series as devolution that leads to extinction. The TM-Utopia comparison reveals that Power is the arbiter and fate in a long subsequent tradition of SF (and utopias) where Everyman succumbs to Non-existence – or is saved by a tacked-on happy ending.

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