Happy 150th birthday HG Wells

The guy who gave us four major stories Hollywood keeps remaking via film and TV was born on this day. Many authors are often known for like one, maybe two major novels with the public at large, unless it’s Stephen King or Jackie Collins. Wells’ stuff keeps going because I think it’s mostly timeless, these four readily adapt to the West’s changes via technology.

  • The Time Machine
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • The Invisible Man
  • The War of the Worlds

I’ve only read The Time Machine. It wasn’t as preachy as I had been told. Maybe I just don’t see the Eloi and Morlocks in the context of Victorian social classes. The premise worked even better with Wells and the Jack the Ripper traveling through time in Time After Time. When it comes to The War of the Worlds, the Jeff Wayne rock opera interpretation is my personal favorite. Richard Burton narrates with various Sixties and Seventies performers sing the parts of the characters the narrator meets: Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) as the parson, Chris Thompson (Mannfred Mann) sings about HMS Thunderchild and Justin Hayward (Moody Blues) covered the narrator’s “thoughts.” I also have the recent remake with Liam Neeson narrating, Joss Stone as the parson’s wife and Ricky Wilson (Kaiser Chiefs) as the artilleryman.

Wells’ lesser known works predicted the future a tad. The World Set Free warned about atomic/nuclear warfare as early as 1914. The Shape of Things to Come which was made into a movie in the Thirties didn’t explain what would initiate WWII but here I’m glad he was wrong about the use of planes to bombard cities with poison gas. I saw this movie once in college, probably on USA when they aired odd things on late weekend evenings. The acting is a bit stiff but these days, Shape comes off as more comical than scary, especially with the “zombie” disease ravaging the survivors.

I think I’ll finally get off my butt and read The War of the Worlds since it’s “free” on my iPad alongside some other contemporaries he had, Verne and Burroughs.

I want to close with a favorite quote of his, which is rather accurate given the shitty election we have alongside elements of Idiocracy coming true.

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Given how cheap Americans are, I think catastrophe is in the lead.

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One Response to Happy 150th birthday HG Wells

  1. Lester says:

    Wells is certainly a favorite of mine. Maybe it was because of your college exposure, but that the Eloi and Morlocks were representative of *anything* seemed so deftly handled that few readers recognize it. Personally, I’ve not thought of them as social classes, but rather as a schism between industrialism and the arts (ant and butterfly, some might say). In any case, I agree The Time Machine isn’t preachy. College profs sometimes have their own truisms, as described in this version of Yeats’ “The Scholars,” a poem I love so much I’m typing it here from memory:

    Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
    Old, learned, respectable bald heads
    Edit and annotate the lines
    That young men, tossing on their beds,
    Rhymed out in love’s despair
    To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.

    All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
    All wear the carpet with their shoes;
    All think what other people think;
    All know the man their neighbor knows.
    Lord, what would they say,
    Did their Catullus walk that way?

    Thanks for recommending Jeff Wayne’s rock opera version of War of the Worlds. Can’t wait to check that out!