Saturday, 23 August 2014


If Western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, is Western sf a series of footnotes to Wells? - in which case, Mary Shelley is the equivalent of Thales, the beginning.

Post-Wells works on time travel, in particular Poul Anderson's six volumes, are like a very long series of footnotes to the phrase "...curious possibilities of anachronism and utter confusion..." in The Time Machine. The War Of The Worlds is the grandfather of all alien invasion stories. In popular sf, the Daleks (evolved beings in protective machines) play the roles of Morlocks (persecuting the blond, fair-skinned Thals) and Martians (invading Earth).

When discussing Greg Bear's Eon, I twice explicitly referred to Wells and could have drawn at least three other parallels:

alternative histories on parallel Earths (Men Like Gods; A Modern Utopia);
future technological warfare (The War In The Air etc);
in particular, nuclear warfare (The World Set Free).

These are significant issues, not Buck Rogers stuff. However, Wells did not address artificial intelligence or immortality.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

While I certainly agree H.G. Wells was one of the TWO fathers of modern SF, he was not the only one--his older contemporary Jules Verne also played a major role in shaping science fiction. Three of his works comes to mind: 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, and A JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH.

Broadly speaking, Jules Verne represented the beginning of that strain of science fiction called "hard SF," while H.G. Wells wrote SF belonging more to the softer sciences, such as psychology and history. I admit leaning more to hard SF, because it seems more reallstic, more likely and possible.

Olaf Stapledon, who began writing his own SF after Wells more or less abandoned that field, was, of course, sui generis.