Thursday, January 1, 2009

SF authors born 1864-73: 1866

1. Archibald Marshall
2. H.G. Wells


Archibald Marshall (TK)



H.G. Wells (TK)

Wells devoted himself to matching his fabulous contributions to science fiction, universal history, Fabian propaganda, and opinionated sociology with a passionate, troubled advocacy of peace brought about through world government.

More bio TK

* HG Wells, Men Like Gods (1923).
Aldiss -- a Mr. Barnstaple drives his car into the 4th dimension, and there finds a utopia of beautiful and powerful (and frequently nude) people. With him is a diverse group of his contemporaries who do their best to wreck the utopia. Barnstaple defeats them with utopian aid. Wells's fantasy device the 4th dimension, iserves merely to lead us to his utopia. Burroughs's Pellucidar, on the other hanf, is the whole story -- it's all about how to get there and what happens there.

Wells's is a seriois tale, whose main aim is to discuss entertainingly the ways in which man might improve himself and his lot. Aldiss says Burroughs's Pellucidar is better. Burroughs is fun to read; Wells gives off that whiff of what Amis called left-wing crankiness. Burroughs teaches us to wonder -- a religious state, blanketing out criticism. Wells is teaching us to think.
Aldiss uses this book as an example of the poles of modern fantasy -- thinking pole at one end (Swift to Wells) and dreaming pole at the other (no great figures).

Socialist world-state? Not a SF novel? Zamyatin says it's the one and only literary utopia written by Wells -- but Z does not consider it a SF novel. Its topical journalism, propaganda for the world state.
The hero of the novel, Mr. Barnstaple, is a depressive journalist in the newspaper "The Liberal." At the beginning of the story, Mr. Barnstaple, as well as a few other Englishmen, are accidentally transported to the parallel world of Utopia. Utopia is like an advanced Earth, although it had been quite similar to Earth in the past in a period known to Utopians as the "Days of Confusion." Utopia is a utopian world: it has a utopian socialist world government, advanced science, and even pathogens have been eliminated and predators are almost tamed. Barnstaple is confounded and confused by the utopian attitudes: "where is your government ?" he asks. "our government is in our education" is the answer (see Plato). Barnstaple gradually loses his Victorian English narcissism. For instance, Wells makes comments on personal responsibility when Barnstaple sees a person slaving over a rose garden at high altitude and asks "why don't you hire a gardner?" the answer is "the working class has vanished from utopia years ago! He who loves the rose must then serve that rose." Barnstaple is changed by those experiences and he loses his Eurocentric view of the world and starts to really get the idea of the place. As this conversion starts to take place utopians start to get sick.
This, however, means that the newly arrived Earthlings pose a grave threat to Utopians, as the latter's immune system has become weak; and the Earthlings have to be quarantined until a solution is found. They resent this isolation and some of them plot to take over Utopia; they are actively opposed by Mr. Barnstaple, who has to escape from the quarantine castle, just as superior Utopian technology finally destroys the Earthling revolt. Finally, the Utopians find a way to send back Mr. Barnstaple, and the story ends as he goes back to Earth.
The novel was considered by several contemporaries to be a weakly plotted story in which Wells's utopian enthusiasm overtook his skills as a writer of scientific romances (his own term for what is nowadays commonly called science fiction). The novel was yet another vehicle for Wells to propagate the so-called 'wellsian utopia', his ideas of a possible better future society, which he has described in several other works, notably in his A Modern Utopia (1905). In literary history, the novel's notable role was to provoke Aldous Huxley into writing Brave New World (1932), his parody and criticism of wellsian utopian ideas.


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