Monday, January 5, 2009

SF authors born 1854-63: 1858

1. John A. Hobson
2. E. Nesbit


John Atkinson Hobson (1858-1940)

English economist, anti-imperialist, journalist. During his coverage of the Second Boer War, Hobson began to form the idea that imperialism was the direct result of the expanding forces of modern capitalism. Author of such works as Psychology of Jingoism (1901), The Crisis of Liberalism (1909), Work and Wealth, A Human Valuation (1914), Western Civilization (1915), Forced Labor (1917), Problems of a New World (1921), The Living Wage (with H.N. Brailsford, A. Creech Jones, E.F. Wise) (1926), From Capitalism to Socialism (1932), Veblen (1936), and Confessions of an Economic Heretic (1938).

Hobson's magnum opus, Imperialism (1902), argued that imperial expansion is driven by a search for new markets and investment opportunities overseas; the book influenced Lenin, Trotsky, and Hannah Arendt. Also influential on the musical artist Bright Eyes, whose song "Light Pollution" claims that "John A. Hobson was a good man/He used to loan me books and mic stands/He even got me a subscription/To the Socialist Review."

* As Lucian: 1920: Dips into the Near Future (Headly Brothers Publishing: London, 1918; a version was originally published in The Nation, 1917.) Charteris, who's just returned from India to England, where WWI is still going on in 1920, takes note of how Britain has changed since he's been gone. The Aged Service Act, for example, presses the elderly into military service — not as soldiers, mind you, but (once euthanized) as food. The War-Truth laboratory uses scientific means to distort history and destroy the image of German culture. Another group works to ease England's transition to an absolutist form of government. Marriage has become free-form (to boost birth-rates), while workers have become slave labor. NB: In the 2d edition (1918), the author writes a Preface explaining that "Satire seemed the only means of exposing a mind [mine?] of bottomless credulity." PS: In a 2004 scholarly essay (The Journal of Popular Culture), Jonathan Rose suggests that this novel is one of "The Invisible Sources of Nineteen Eighty-Four."

E. Nesbit (1858-1924)

Edith Nesbit Bland. Wrote as E. Bland and E. Nesbit. British poet, journalist, one of the founders of the Fabian Society. Well-known for such children's books as The Railway Children, The Treasure Seekers, etc.

follower of William Morris, 19-year-old Nesbit met bank clerk Hubert Bland in 1877. Seven months pregnant, she married Bland on 22 April 1880, though she did not immediately live with him, as Bland initially continued to live with his mother. Their marriage was an open one. Bland also continued an affair with Alice Hoatson which produced two children (Rosamund in 1886 and John in 1899), both of whom Nesbit raised as her own. Her own children were Paul Bland (1880-1940), to whom The Railway Children was dedicated; Iris Bland (1881-19??); and Fabian Bland (1885-1900), who died aged 15 after a tonsil operation, and to whom she dedicated Five Children And It and its sequels, as well as The Story of the Treasure Seekers and its sequels.

Nesbit and Bland were among the founders of the Fabian Society (a precursor to the Labour Party) in 1884. Their son Fabian was named after the society. They also jointly edited the Society's journal Today; Hoatson was the Society's assistant secretary. Nesbit and Bland also dallied briefly with the Social Democratic Federation, but rejected it as too radical. Nesbit was an active lecturer and prolific writer on socialism during the 1880s. Nesbit also wrote with her husband under the name "Fabian Bland,"[2] though this activity dwindled as her success as a children's author grew.

Nesbit lived from 1899 to 1920 in Well Hall House, Eltham, Kent (now in south-east Greater London). On 20 February 1917, some three years after Bland died, Nesbit married Thomas "the Skipper" Tucker, a ship's engineer on the Woolwich Ferry. She was a guest speaker at the London School of Economics.

Nesbit published approximately 40 books for children, both novels and collections of stories. Collaborating with others, she published almost as many more.

According to her biographer Julia Briggs, Nesbit was "the first modern writer for children": "(Nesbit) helped to reverse the great tradition of children's literature inaugurated by [Lewis] Carroll, [George] MacDonald and Kenneth Grahame, in turning away from their secondary worlds to the tough truths to be won from encounters with things-as-they-are, previously the province of adult novels." Briggs also credits Nesbit with having invented the children's adventure story.

Among Nesbit's best-known books are The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1898) and The Wouldbegoods (1899), which both recount stories about the Bastables, a middle class family that has fallen on relatively hard times. Her children's writing also included numerous plays and collections of verse.

She created an innovative body of work that combined realistic, contemporary children in real-world settings with magical objects and adventures and sometimes travel to fantastic worlds. In doing so, she was a direct or indirect influence on many subsequent writers, including P. L. Travers (author of Mary Poppins), Edward Eager, Diana Wynne Jones and J. K. Rowling. C. S. Lewis wrote of her influence on his Narnia series and mentions the Bastable children in The Magician's Nephew. Michael Moorcock would go on to write a series of steampunk novels with an adult Oswald Bastable (of The Treasure Seekers) as the lead character.


* "The Third Drug" (The Strand, February 1908). Short story. As "E. Bland." Set in Paris. Roger Wroxham, plagued by woman and money problems, decides to throw himself into the Seine. Attacked by apaches on his way there, he takes refuge in the establishment of an elderly doctor who dresses his wounds and gives him a sedative, Wroxham awakens to find himself tied up, with the feeling that he is at the brink of death. The doctor questions him minutely about his sensations, then gives him a second, restorative draught. The doctor explains: he is seeking a chemical that will produce a superman. Wroxham is the first to survive the first draught — he shows Wroxham a room full of corpses preserved by taxidermy — and quite possibly he will survive the third draught and become a superman. If he does not drink the third, the second draught will kill him. Wroxham has no choice and accepts the third potion, which really does turn him into a mental superman. Seeing this success, the doctor decides to try the elixirs himself, but in the last stage is unable to reach the potion and dies. Wroxham, still tied, is released by the apaches.

* The Five Senses (1909) TK

* Fear TK

* "The Pavilion" TK

* To the Adventuresome TK

* Rose Royal TK


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