H.G. Wells
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Radium Age SF

Wells makes a cameo in THINGS TO COME (1936)

The career of H.G. WELLS (1866-1946), author of such immortal works as The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, might seem to pose a conundrum for my Radium Age Science Fiction schema. Q: How can a distinct era of sf begin circa 1904, when the so-called Father of Science Fiction began publishing in 1888 (story version of The Time Machine) but didn’t quit until 1937 (Star Begotten)? A: Although he continued to write novels “intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision,” as Hugo Gernsback would describe the Wellsian oeuvre, after the early 1900s Wells lost his touch. “It is full of lively ingredients; it has no organic life,” writes Brian Aldiss of The World Set Free (1914). “Wells the One-Man Think-Tank has burst into view. His books are no longer novels but gospels.” According to Aldiss and other publicists of sf’s so-called Golden Age (c. 1934-63), the first three-and-a-half decades of the 20th century are science fiction’s Dark Age; I strongly disagree, but it’s true that the Verne-Wells-Poe “scientific romance” era ended with Wells’s The Food of the Gods (1904). Wells’s great talent helped define an era; and the decline of that talent marked the era’s end. No room, here, to discuss Wells’s utopianism, his flirtation with eugenics and Stalinism, his prodigious output and sexual appetite. Instead, I’ll end by noting that even Wells’s post-1904 novels merit a browse. Also: Check out his game-theory books, written for kids: Floor Games (1911) and Little Wars (1913).


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Leonard Cohen and Bill Murray.

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READ HiLobrow/io9 essays on: Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | Karel Čapek | H.P. Lovecraft | Edgar Rice Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Maureen O’Sullivan | Hermann Hesse | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Upton Sinclair | Yevgeny Zamyatin | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on)



Joshua Glenn is an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.