It’s Gettin Hot in Herr

For fans of the Cli-fi genre, H. G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” will surely delight and hold their attention as the first-person narrative is written with clear concise high diction articulating, in short-story format, a tale that provokes thought engaging socioeconomic and racial issues, while manifesting a sublime account of climate globalization. The story of “The Time Machine” is told from the perspective of the character “The Time Traveler”; Wells delineates an Earth where Homosapien has evolved into two distinct species: “Eloi” (diurnal surface dwellers) and “Morlocks” (subterranean nocturnal creatures). It is interesting to note, that the term Morlock was also used in Marvel’s X-MEN cartoon, and just like the Morlocks in Wells’ story these Morlocks, too, were subterranean disfigured outcasts. If “The Time Traveler’s” assumptions are to be believed these civilizations may have developed from the present day social classes: the affluent being the “Eloi” and the lower/working class (dominated by minority classes such Blacks and Hispanics) being the “Morlocks.” Infused among this economic, social, political, and racial sub-textual drama and clash of the classes is the threat of global warming. As these new species evolve, so begins the Earth’s reversion and with it Homosapien’s decent into archaic times.

The vast majority of Cli-fi novels/stories have a natural disaster theme of some type of tsunami flooding or snow encapsulation that forces mankind into a survival state; however, Wells’ story takes a distinctively unique approach in touching upon the importance of being conscientious of future negative weather globalization by focusing his narrative on global warming. Wells’ hypothesis on future global warming is a most logical conclusion based on theories and principles developed by Darwin. Wells describes “how much hotter than our own was the weather of the Golden Age. It may be that the sun was hotter, or the earth nearer the sun. It is usual to assume that the sun will go on cooling steadily in the future. But people, unfamiliar with such speculations as those of the younger Darwin, forget that the planets must ultimately fall back one by one into the parent body. As these catastrophes occur, the sun will blaze with renewed energy; and it may be that some inner planet had suffered this fate. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that the sun was very much hotter than we know it” (43).

According to “The Time Traveler” and by extension the author Wells, this planetary concave collapse caused an interesting shift in atmospheric pressure in relation to the Earth’s positioning with the sun “the band of light that had indicated the sun long since disappear; for the sun had ceased to set-it simply rose and fell in the west, and grew even broader and more red […] the sun, red and very large, halted motionless upon the horizon, a vast dome glowing with a dull heat, and now and then suffering a momentary extinction […] but it speedily reverted to its sullen red heat. [It is] perceived by this slowing down of its rising and setting that the work of the tidal drag was done. The earth had come to rest with one face to the sun even as in our own time the moon faces the earth […] the sky was no longer blue. North-eastward it was inky black, and out of the blackness shone brightly and steadily the pale white stars. Overhead it was a deep Indian red and starless, and south-eastward it grew brighter to a glowing scarlet where, cut by the horizon, lay the huge hull of the sun, red and motionless […] there were no breakers and no waves, for not a breath of wind was stirring. Only a slight oily swell rose and fell like a gentle breathing, and showed that the eternal sea was still moving and living” (76-77).

Wells further illustrates the effects of a planet consumed in suffocating heat from global warming as he describes the chemical reaction of a lit match in the air of the new atmosphere. The traveler notes how a “flame must be in the absence of man and in the temperate climate. The sun’s heat is rarely strong enough to burn, even when it is focused by dewdrops, as is sometimes the case in more tropical districts. Lightning may blast and blacken, but it rarely gives rise to widespread fire. Decaying vegetation may occasionally smoulder with the heat of its fermentation, but this rarely results in flame. In this decadence, too, the art of fire-making had been forgotten on the earth” (67).

In the end Wells leaves readers with an image of an “abominable desolation that hung over the world. The red eastern sky, the northward blackness, the salt Dead Sea, the stony beach crawling with these foul, slow-stirring monsters, the thin air that hurts one’s lungs; all contributed to an appalling effect. I moved on a hundred years, and there was the same red sun—a little larger, a little duller—the same dying sea, the same chill air, and the same crowd of earthly crustacean creeping in and out among the green weed and the red rocks. And in the westward sky I saw a curved pale line like a vast new moon. So I travelled, stopping ever and again, in great strides of a thousand years or more, drawn on by the mystery of the earth’s fate, watching with a strange fascination the sun grow larger and duller in the westward sky, and the life of the old earth ebb away. At last, more than thirty million years hence, the huge red-hot dome of the sun had come to obscure nearly a tenth part of the darkling heavens” (78-79).

Though the Cli-fi medium is not within my particular interest for leisure reading, I would recommend this novel for its sub-textual themes and its ability to evoke thoughtful environmental consciousness. Most climate enthusiasts assume global warming will occur due do man’s deterioration of the ozone layer, but Wells presents a natural warming occurrence based on Darwin’s planetary collapse theory.

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