Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy birthday, H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells
It is the birthday of English writer H.G. Wells (1866), who is best known for the amazing science fiction he wrote, including The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898).

When actor/director Orson Welles interviewed Wells after having caused such a stir with his radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, Wells thanked him for   increasing sales of one of his more obscure titles.

Wells was a self-avowed socialist, and for a long time was associated with the socialist Fabian Society, but when Wells' political outlook grew beyond the group, he became very critical of it, accusing adherents of having little understanding of education and economic reform.

Wells was a futurist whose best-selling non-fiction book, Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought (1901), correctly predicted what life would be like at the turn of the next century, including the development of a European Union, the defeat of German militarism, the contribution of cars and trains to the growth of the suburbs, and greater sexual freedom among men and women.

Wells wasn't accurate in all his predictions, though. He didn't think anybody would be flying airplanes before mid century and he didn't think submarines would ever work.

In a lesser known novel, Tono-Bungay (1909), Wells satirizes English society in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, with its greed and obsession with pleasure. The book's protagonist helps his uncle develop a patent medicine, Tono-Bungay, that he believes to be a swindle. It is a semi-autobiographical work, whose protagonist has affairs with two women (as Wells did).

Wells died in London 1946 at age 79. The cause of death was not clear, though some suggested it was a heart attack. In any case, Wells had already said his epitaph should read: "I told you so. You damned fools."

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