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About the Author
BEFORE AIRPLANES, SPACE travel, and atomic energy, before freeways and traffic jams, poison gas and tanks, and just before the dawn of the twentieth century, a nameless inventor in London discovered a way to travel in time, using a mysterious machine assembled in a small private shop.
And an unknown journalist named Herbert George Wells (1866-1946) leaped in a few short years to fame and fortune.
If this is the first time you’ve read The Time Machine, then stop right here. Skip over this introduction, for now, and get right to the story. When you’re done, if you wish, come back and join the discussion. It’s bound to be heated.
To this day, H. G. Wells is controversial, and I doubt he would have had it any other way!
Welcome back. Now how do you feel about time travel? Perplexed, skeptical, excited, a little sad?
By 1895, when The Time Machine was first published in book form, H. G. Wells had lived through years of ill health, married and parted, and tried on a career of teaching, then moved on to journalism and writing reviews. He did not seem very successful at anything, but he was enormously intelligent and ambitious. And he knew he had one story, one idea, one card up his sleeve that could possibly trump all of his disadvantages.
A man, traveling in time, using a machine.
A Time Traveller.
Judging from many drafts and redrafts over at least seven years, Wells knew that he had something big—something that could launch his career very nicely indeed, if he only got it right.
He finally got it right. After its serialization in William Ernest Henley’s The New Review in early 1895, The Time Machine became a sensation. In an age intrigued by all the possibilities of science and mathematics, Wells’s first work of fiction was like a brisk slap in the face. The future will be marvelous, the young Wells told his audience—and also tragic, even horrible. All things biological must end, or give way to new forms, he suggested, following the dour lead of his most influential teacher, Darwin’s “Bulldog,” T. H. Huxley.
For Victorian England, the picture of humanity divided into the diminutive, weak, and sun-dwelling Eloi and those technological dwellers in underground darkness, the Morlocks, must have seemed particularly grotesque—mirroring as it did the tottering class system: quite literally, Upstairs and Downstairs.
In this bleak picture of distant futurity, Wells gives us a final glimmer of human love, innocent and childlike, in the outstretched hand of the tiny Eloi Weena . . . love, however, too weak to withstand the brutal forces of evolution and necessity, and far too swiftly destroyed. As a final fillip, Wells shows us that eventually even the necessity of biological evolution will give way, as the sun swells and reddens, life reverts to the crustacean and then to the (possibly) molluscan or protozoan, and the Earth finally freezes over.
It is an utterly chilling message, mixing as it does human sentiment, contemporary scientific knowledge, unwavering pessimism, and a sense of cosmic wonder and discovery, with the realization of the limited condition of the human race. As a novelistic tour de force, nothing like it had ever been published.
Coming on the heels of decades of speculation about both evolution and geometry, and bringing together recent theories in astronomy and geology, The Time Machine hit the Victorian intellect squarely between the eyes. It was the first modern science fiction novel.
Within nine years, H. G. Wells would write seven more novels—The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), When the Sleeper Wakes (1899), The First Men in the Moon (1901), The Food of the Gods (1904), In the Days of the Comet (1906)—and numerous short stories that would shape and define twentieth-century science fiction. By 1914 and the beginning of World War I, Wells was one of the bestselling authors in the English language.
He became the twentieth-century prototype of the angry young man, brilliant and full of contradictions. Throughout his life, Wells promoted his changeable brand of socialism yet toyed with (early on, at least) a belief in God, called for equality of the sexes yet was a flagrant womanizer, decried class distinctions yet sought the approval of the rich, the powerful, and the famous—and then, just as quickly, denounced them!
In the 1920s, his Outline of History would sell millions of copies. He would become so famous and so influential that authors seeking a reputation—or at least some intellectual balance—would cock their hats and shy stones at his overwhelming success and his pugnacious attitudes.
C. S. Lewis parodied Wells’s brand of evolution and rationalism from a theist perspective in his science fiction novels Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. Lewis built an intellectually confused, villainous character named Weston on the frame of a number of scientific acquaintances, possibly including J.B.S. Haldane and Wells. Even as late as 1955, William Golding would reply to Wells’s portrait (in An Outline of History) of low, bestial Neanderthals with his own depiction of them as scions of a kinder nature, brutalized by modern humans, in The Inheritors.
Wells was a marvelous sounding board, and there’s evidence he enjoyed this kind of hurly-burly. What he did not enjoy was a bad review or being ignored.
Above all, he hated being ignored.
All of Wells’s early scientific romances are accessible to a person of average education. They are clearly and elegantly written, not very heavy on the character bits (but convincing in what is shown), realistic despite their fantastic elements, clear-eyed about animal nature—and highly imaginative. They are also thoroughly satirical, though often written with a straight face or at most a wry grimace.
These early novels are far more than just adventurous dives into the deep canyons of fantasy. They are more like mountain climbs to the edge of space. They can be disturbing, and intentionally so. Wells knew early on that his audiences enjoyed a good scare; and he enjoyed, in those prewar years of growing tension, placing human folly in cosmic perspective.
In writing The Time Machine, Wells claimed to draw his inspiration from Nathaniel Hawthorne, but there is also a touch of Poe in early drafts. Wells was fond of Voltaire, the French philosopher and satirist; he respected but found little useful comparison with Jules Verne, whose own satiric elements are often overlooked. Most often, Wells likened himself to Jonathan Swift, the sardonic Irish author of Gulliver’s Travels.
The Time Machine was compared favorably in one review to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a masterpiece of psychological horror. The Time Machine’s horrors are less moral than neutral, however. Its plan is not so much darkly psychological as biological and physical. Whatever our psychology, our class, our politics, Wells says, the laws of nature will betray us. In the greater scheme of things, our personal lives and wishes seem to mean very little.
This sensation of doom and claustrophobia at the end of life on Earth, and the end of Earth itself, evokes a new kind of fear, a cosmic fear. In later decades, writers as diverse as William Hope Hodgson, H. P. Lovecraft, and Olaf Stapledon would expand upon Wells’s concepts and time scales, with extraordinary results upon philosophy and popular culture. The universe would never look the same to us.
Years later, in 1934, Wells would write that horror is easier to create than hope, or uplifting suggestions for improving the human race. His science fiction novels, however, demand reactions entirely other than paralyzed fear; they provide a clear-eyed perspective of our place in the universe, a realistic sense of human smallness, refreshing to this day in our world of simian self-regard.
We still need the Wellsian anodyne of these brisk, abrupt, and heated early novels, and in particular, we still need The Time Machine.
How did a draper’s assistant, son of a man variously described as a cricketer, a gardener, and a shopkeeper, with a sporadic education and in frequent ill health, come to put together something so rich, diverse, and utterly new?
H. G. Wells began by studying hard. He took advantage of an experiment in free schooling at the Normal School of Science (after 1890 renamed the Royal College of Science) to listen to some of the great voices and minds of his day. He read everything he could get his hands on: biology, geology, astronomy, and of course geometry. Victorians were masters at playing with geometric concepts, witness Lewis Car-roll’s Alice stories and Edwin A. Abbott’s masterwork, Flatland (1884). (Abbott was not a mathematician, but a schoolmaster, as was Wells for a time.)
A fellow student, E. A. Hamilton-Gordon, presented a paper on the fourth dimension at a meeting of the Debating Society that bore a distinct (though perhaps coincidental) resemblance to an essay by C. H. Hinton called “What Is the Fourth Dimension?”, published in 1884-1885 in his two-volume collection, Scientific Romances . Hamilton-Gordon’s talk and possibly Hinton’s essay are likely the prime influences on Wells’s discussion of the fourth dimension and time travel.
Earlier still, topologist August Ferdinand Möbius (1790-1868) had described, among other wonders, the one-sided piece of paper that bears his name. Giving a longish strip of paper a half twist and then fastening the ends together produces a marvelous “vanishing” of one side. (Try it—ignore the glued or taped part, and run your finger around the entire surface . . . an endless loop! If one can lose geometric features, isn’t it possible to gain a few, as well? An extra dimension, perhaps?)
Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, T. H. Huxley, and other controversial biological thinkers had shown the scientific world that humans had evolved over deep time, and this implied that they could still evolve—in Huxley’s opinion, not necessarily for the better, but almost certainly in adaptation to a dying world. Wells autographed a copy of the British edition of The Time Machine for Huxley in May 1895:
I am sending you a little book that I fancy may be of interest to you. The central idea—that of degeneration following security—was the outcome of a certain amount of biological study. I daresay your position subjects you to a good many such displays of the range of authors but I have this much excuse—I was one of your pupils at the Royal College of Science and finally: the book is a very little one.
Huxley died in June of that year. He probably never had time to read his student’s novel.
The year 802,701, the last date specified in The Time Machine, was far more remote to a scientist in Wells’s era than it might seem now. (Though very little science fiction even today ventures so far into the future.) The best scientific speculation of the time placed the age of the solar system at no more than fifteen to twenty-four million years, based on the probability that the sun was a combusting ball of gas.
This relatively brief span caused Darwinians and many geologists concern. The Darwinians needed great gulfs of time—certainly more than just tens of millions of years—to explain the diversity of life on Earth through slow and gradual evolution. The geologists saw evidence of processes occurring over hundreds of millions of years, possibly even billions of years.
Fusion of hydrogen into helium and heavier elements was of course unknown at the time. It wasn’t until the 1920s and the researches of deep-sky astronomers like Edwin Hubble that the true size and age of the universe began to be understood, and the Darwinians and geologists could breathe easier. However, Wells’s estimate of the time and nature of the death of the Earth was in agreement with the science of the time, and his description of the sun blossoming into a red giant is still accurate enough—though the Earth is likely to be swallowed by this future monstrosity and crisped, not frozen.
Wells acquired skepticism early in his life. As he wrote The Time Machine, he was unsure of what lay ahead for himself, much less the human race. Both personally and historically, the last decade of the nineteenth century was a time of danger and change. Engaged in an affair with future wife Amy Catherine Robbins (whom Wells would nickname “Jane”), recently separated from his first wife, cousin Isabel, and barely earning any kind of living, Wells likely began each day by being at least a little frightened.
Like T. H. Huxley, whose own upbringing was far from upper-crust, Wells distrusted the soothing religious and political babble of the day. Not for him the easy pathway to a gentleman’s success and leisure. He could not trust the class system that would have relegated him, by birth alone, to obscurity; the son of a tradesman, Wells clearly saw that unearned privilege and inbred claims of intellectual supremacy draped England and Europe in a shroud of ill omen.
Consequently, his first work of fiction is dark, almost hopeless—but for the tiny hand of love offered by a future childlike member of the “upper” classes, Weena.
Later, Wells would regret this self-styled hat flipping and reliance on visceral emotions, aiming instead for a program of intellectual and moral reform, of disciplined hope and warnings of the bleaker prospects of the twentieth century. Still, to his irritation, his early scientific romances remained his most popular works. He had done more than strike a chord; he had composed a new kind of symphony.
To the masses of readers around the world, especially in information-hungry America and England, Wells became the prophet of science and a hopeful if stern critic of political and technological progress. Along the way, however, his reputation and his own sense of self-worth were almost derailed by the very violence he predicted with such prescience.
As Wells had feared, the ruling upper classes did goof, and horribly, in both politics and military strategy. World War I killed ten million people and ravaged Europe. (Spanish influenza, possibly spread by troop mobilizations and international trauma and stress, killed tens of millions more.) Airplanes and dirigibles dropping bombs on civilian populations, so-called “Land Ironclads” (tank...Biographie de l'auteur :
Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent, England, on September 21, 1866. His father was a professional cricketer and sometime shopkeeper, his mother a former lady’s maid. Although “Bertie” left school at fourteen to become a draper’s apprentice (a life he detested), he later won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London, where he studied with the famous Thomas Henry Huxley. He began to sell articles and short stories regularly in 1893. In 1895, his immediately successful novel The Time Machine rescued him from a life of penury on a schoolteacher’s salary. His other “scientific romances”—The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), The First Men in the Moon (1901), and The War in the Air (1908)—won him distinction as the father of science fiction. Henry James saw in Wells the most gifted writer of the age, but Wells, having coined the phrase “the war that will end war” to describe World War I, became increasingly disillusioned and focused his attention on educating mankind with his bestselling Outline of History (1920) and his later utopian works. Living until 1946, Wells witnessed a world more terrible than any of his imaginative visions, and he bitterly observed: “Reality has taken a leaf from my book and set itself to supercede me.”
Greg Bear’s novels and stories have appeared in more than twenty languages worldwide and have won numerous prizes, including two Hugos, five Nebulas, and the Prix Apollo. His novels include Darwin’s Radio (winner of the Nebula and Endeavor awards), Darwin’s Children, Vitals, Blood Music, Eon, Queen of Angels, and Moving Mars. He has served as a consultant and a lecturer on space and defense policy, biotechnology and bioterrorism, multimedia entertainment, and Internet issues.
Simon J. James is Professor of Victorian Literature at the Department of English Studies, Durham University. He is the editor of The Wellsian, the peer-reviewed scholarly journal of the H.G. Wells Society. He has edited four H.G. Wells novels for the Penguin Classics, as well as George Gissing’s Charles Dickens: A Critical Study. James is the author of Maps of Utopia: H.G. Wells, Modernity and the End of Culture and Unsettled Accounts: Money and Narrative Form in the Novels of George Gissing.
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Description du livre Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Etat : New. Reissue. Language: English. Brand new Book. The revolutionary novel that catapulted readers into the future, from the father of science fiction, H.G. Wells. "I've had a most amazing time." So begins the Time Traveller's astonishing firsthand account of his journey eight hundred thousand years beyond his own era--and the story that launched H. G. Wells's successful career. With a speculative leap that still fires the imagination, Wells sends his brave explorer to face a future burdened with our greatest hopes.and our darkest fears. A pull of the Time Machine's lever propels him to the age of a slowly dying Earth. There he discovers two bizarre races--the ethereal Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks--who not only symbolize the duality of human nature, but offer a terrifying portrait of tomorrow as well. Published in 1895, this masterpiece of invention captivated readers on the threshold of a new century. Thanks to Wells's expert storytelling and provocative insight, The Time Machine will continue to enthrall readers for generations to come. With an Introduction by Greg Bear and an Afterword by Simon J. James. N° de réf. du vendeur BTE9780451470706
Description du livre Signet, 2014. Mass Market Paperback. Etat : new. N° de réf. du vendeur 9780451470706
Description du livre Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Etat : New. Reissue. Language: English. Brand new Book. The revolutionary novel that catapulted readers into the future, from the father of science fiction, H.G. Wells. "I've had a most amazing time." So begins the Time Traveller's astonishing firsthand account of his journey eight hundred thousand years beyond his own era--and the story that launched H. G. Wells's successful career. With a speculative leap that still fires the imagination, Wells sends his brave explorer to face a future burdened with our greatest hopes.and our darkest fears. A pull of the Time Machine's lever propels him to the age of a slowly dying Earth. There he discovers two bizarre races--the ethereal Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks--who not only symbolize the duality of human nature, but offer a terrifying portrait of tomorrow as well. Published in 1895, this masterpiece of invention captivated readers on the threshold of a new century. Thanks to Wells's expert storytelling and provocative insight, The Time Machine will continue to enthrall readers for generations to come. With an Introduction by Greg Bear and an Afterword by Simon J. James. N° de réf. du vendeur ABZ9780451470706
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