Today, 21 September 2016, marks not only the day before the 2016 autumnal equinox but also the 150th birthday of H. G. Wells.
Herbert George Wells – or H. G. Wells – is of course the author of The Time Machine, arguably the most famous of time travel novels. It was one of the first novels which brought the concept of time travel to the reader – and it still does today.
But to be honest I’m a little upset because I believe that H.G. Wells is credited with too much when it comes to time travel.
For example, he is often credited with being the first time travel author by writing The Time Machine – but this simply isn’t true! Just like the moonwalk existed before Michael Jackson mastered and performed it for us, time travel existed (in literature) well before H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine.
Now admittedly it is pretty terrible, but H. G. Wells’own The Chronic Argonauts was written before The Time Machine (some consider it as a prequel, or at least a foundation). And before that is the (bloated) The Clock that Went Backward (Edward Page Mitchell) where the title clearly gives the game away!
Just two examples within the same decade of publication as The Time Machine – a simple internet search I’m sure would throw up many more earlier examples of time travel in fiction, and from even earlier.
And what of The Time Machine itself?
It’s heralded as being the Bible of time travel – the ultimate time travel novel that all other time travel novels should aspire to being.
But I disagree.
Well, it’s OK. I mean, it’s not fantastic as time travel novels go. The Time Traveller goes into the future, meets the Eloi and the Morlocks, and makes a few assumptions about present day sociology. Aside from the description of time being the fourth dimension quote, the actual time travel aspect in The Time Machine is pretty crap; the novel could have started off with “Once upon a time there was a chap living in the future and saw a load of Eloi and Morlocks.”
Take the time travel out of The Time Machine, you’ve still pretty much got the same novel as before – although the title would probably need changing!
But I don’t mean to slag off The Time Machine – or H. G. Wells! After all, the novel has been responsible for bringing many readers into the realm of scifi / time travel, and indeed H. G. Wells has written some brilliant scifi novels in other areas.
And it’s also inspired other authors to write sequels for it. Stephen Baxter, vice-President of the international H. G. Wells Society, wrote The Time Ships which is the official authorised sequel. And I’ve also read Epilogue (Jaime V. Batista) which to my mind is a far superior sequel to The Time Machine than The Time Ships.
(You can read my interview with author Jaime on Time Travel Nexus.)
Another worthy mention is The Map of Time – an extraordinary novel by Felix J. Palma which features H. G. Wells as the main character and either has or has no time travel within it, depending on how you view it! Brilliantly written!
So OK. H. G. Wells isn’t the first time travel author, and on top of that The Time Machine isn’t the best time travel novel, but there’s no denying that H. G. Wells has certainly popularised the genre and inspired many readers and authors alike!
Time is an arbitrary measure when you have a time machine, but all the same I’d like to sending my birthday wishes across time and back to H. G. Wells.
Happy 150th birthday, Herbert! 🙂