“The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells

The Time Machine

The Time Machine is a science fiction novella by H. G. Wells, published in 1895.

Wells is generally credited with the popularisation of the concept of time travel by using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively.

The term “time machine”, coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle. This work is an early example of the Dying Earth subgenre.

Wells had considered the notion of time travel before, in an 1888 work titled The Chronic Argonauts. This short story was published in his college’s newspaper and was the foundation for The Time Machine. Wells frequently stated that he had thought of using some of this material in a series of articles in the Pall Mall Gazette, until the publisher asked him if he could instead write a serial novel on the same theme; Wells readily agreed, and was paid £100 (equal to about £10,000 today) on its publication by Heinemann in 1895. The story was first published in serial form in the January to May numbers of The New Review (newly under the nominal editorship of W. E. Henley). The first book edition (possibly prepared from a different manuscript) was published in New York by Henry Holt and Company on 7 May 1895; an English edition was published by Heinemann on 29 May.[1] These two editions are different textually, and are commonly referred to as the “Holt text” and “Heinemann text” respectively. Nearly all modern reprints reproduce the Heinemann text.

The Time MachineThe story reflects Wells’s own socialist political views, his view on life and abundance, and the contemporary angst about industrial relations. It is also influenced by Ray Lankester’s theories about social degeneration,[3] and share many elements with Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel Vril.[4] Other science fiction works of the period, including the Edward Bellamy novel Looking Backward and the later film Metropolis, dealt with similar themes.

Wells was not the first to write about the concept of Time Travel. The short story “The Clock That Went Backward” by Edward Page Mitchell was published in 1881 and involves a clock that allows a person to travel backwards in time.[5] Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno also had a brief scene of a special watch that allowed a character to go backward in time a few seconds.

Eleven people attended the meeting on 5th August to discuss The Time Machine by H G Wells. It was generally well enjoyed with no score below 5. Scores ranged from 5 to 8 with an average of 7. (77/11)

Enjoyable and interesting and their cognates were the words most frequently used. Sallie, Bill, Barbara and Maddie saw interest in the Victorian aspect – Victorian SF or a reflection of its own era or their perception of the future. Michele reminded us of the excellent 1960 film. Evan liked it as a scientific document as well as a story.

Evan thought it lacked interesting characters but made up for that with ideas and Michele liked the theorising about how humanity has reached its current state and the ideas on how the world ends. Helen found it a thought provoking read and Annette thought it had some interesting concepts.

All in all, a good choice.

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