Saturday, 6 August 2016

H G Wells (History of Science Fiction)

Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was a prolific English writer in many genres, including the novel, history, politics, and social commentary, and textbooks and rules for war games. Wells is now best remembered for his science fiction novels, and is called the father of science fiction, along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback. (I wrote about Jules Verne a few weeks ago and Hugo Gernsback is next week.)


His most notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). Also The Sleeper Awakes (1910) and The First Men in the Moon (1901). I will be sharing the plots of each of these in the weeks to come.

When he was 8 he broke his leg in an accident, which left him bedridden. His father brought him books from the library, and they changed his life. He loved the other lives and other worlds in the books and they provoked a desire to write.

At 18 he won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science in South Kensington, now part of Imperial College London), studying biology under Thomas Henry Huxley. As an alumnus, he later helped to set up the Royal College of Science Association, of which he became the first president in 1909.

A diabetic, in 1934 Wells co-founded the charity The Diabetic Association (now known as Diabetes UK).

Wells said that the author should always strive to make the story as credible as possible, even if both the writer and the reader knew certain things are impossible. This allowed the reader to accept the ideas as something that could really happen. While neither invisibility nor time travel was new in speculative fiction, Wells added a sense of realism to the concepts which the readers were not familiar with. In ‘Wells's Law’, a science fiction story should contain only a single extraordinary assumption.

The science fiction historian John Clute describes Wells as ‘the most important writer the genre has yet seen’, and notes his work has been central to both British and American science fiction. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921, 1932, 1935, and 1946.

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