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classic fantasy & science fiction   H. G. Wells

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headshot of H. G. Wells
1866 - 1946

Pen name(s) used by H. G. Wells:

Reginald Bliss


Herbert George Wells was a product of his time--the son of a servant, he studied the sciences at university and became both a popular writer and an influential socialist intellectual with a moderately scandalous list of affairs with women. Most of his science fiction dates from early in his career--in a few short years, he invented many of the obsessional tropes of the genre from The Time Machine to contact with hostile aliens (in The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon) to suspended animation (in The Sleeper Awakes) and the temporary uplift of animals to sapience (in The Island of Doctor Moreau). In almost all of these cases, he creates at once a satirical comment on some trend in contemporary society--class division, imperialism and so on--and a powerful poetic myth that transcends any immediate satiric content; when we think of the effete Eloi and subterranean Morlocks in The Time Machine, it is not just of aristocrats and proletarians that we think. Like Verne, he was occasionally fond of comic stereotypes--Wells almost singlehandedly crystallized the figure of the impractical comic scientist (in The First Men in the Moon), as he did that of the scientist so ruthless as to be on the edge of sanity (in The Invisible Man and The Island of Doctor Moreau). Unlike Verne, and perhaps because he had a solid scientific background, he did not fetishize scientific accuracy and used scientific ideas as story germs and for verisimilitude. Most of his later novels have no sf content, (while being novels of ideas in precisely the same way as his sf novels), the exceptions being various utopian fictions like In the Days of the Comet and terrible warnings like The War in the Air. Wells's political evolution was from an optimist who believed in casual eugenic slaughter to a pessimist who cultivated humane virtues.