The Ghost of H.G. Wells

In her Short Review of The Time Machine, Deirdre linked to a superb New Yorker piece about H. G. Wells that I wanted to be sure everyone had a chance to look at. Here’s a money quote that acts as a nice follow-up to last night’s discussion:

Astronomers have had some sport over the years pointing out the errors in Wells’s projections. But he did something nobody had ever done before: he painted a mural for all succeeding novelists, a sort of backdrop on which the saga of Homo sapiens was drawn. At the end of the novella, riding off once more on his machine, the Time Traveller vanishes. The speculation is that he’s dead, perhaps deep in the past, perhaps deep in the future, there’s no telling which. His passing leaves the distant dying Earth’s darkening shore completely empty—except of course for the invisible author, the amazing Mr. Wells.

“The Time Machine” is sometimes dismissed as a kid’s book, but Wells belongs to all of us, and we to him. Surely, other than Wells, there is no English writer of the nineteenth century who would feel remotely at home among our iPhones and space probes, our test-tube babies and computer viruses. He could have settled among us. Swallowing mightily, he would have said, “What’s next?” His ghost is huge. And here to stay.

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