H G Wells: The pioneering science fiction writer

Introduction to H.G. Wells

H G Wells

H.G. Wells or Herbert George Wells was an English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian best known for such science fiction novels as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds and comic novels as Tono-Bungay and The History of Mr. Polly.

Early Life

Wells grew up under the continual threat of poverty, and since age 14, he was apprenticed to various people. He came from a working class background. His father played professional cricket and ran a hardware store for a time. He continually suffered from poor health and was bedridden because of an accident at the age of 7. During this time, he went through many books, including some by Washington Irving and Charles Dickens. At 18 he won a scholarship to study biology at the Normal School (later the Royal College) of Science, in South Kensington, London. He became a science teacher and underwent a period of ill health and financial worries supplemented by a bad marriage, in 1891, to his cousin, Isabel Mary Wells because of which he ran off with Amy Catherine Robbins who was his former pupil, and became his second wife in 1895.

Early Writings

His first published book was a Textbook of Biology (1893). With ‘The Time Machine’, which was immediately successful, which talks about an English scientist who develops a time travel machine, he began a series of science fiction novels that revealed him as a writer of marked originality and abundance of original ideas: The Wonderful Visit (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), The First Men in the Moon (1901), and The Food of the Gods (1904).  Eventually, Wells decided to abandon science fiction for comic novels of lower middle-class life, most notably in Love and Mr. Lewisham (1900), Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul (1905), and The History of Mr. Polly (1910). In addition to fiction, he also wrote many essays, articles and nonfiction books and served as a book reviewer for the Saturday Review for several years. Politically, he supported socialist ideals. For a time, he was a part of the Fabian Society, and explored issues of social class and economic disparity in a number of his works. 

Later Works

In 1920, H.G. Wells published ‘The Outline of History’, which was perhaps his best selling work during his lifetime. This three-volume work commenced with prehistory and followed the world’s events up through World War I.

He caught up so vividly with the energy of this period, its adventurousness, its feeling of release from the bounds of Victorian thought and the so called mannerisms. His influence was enormous, both on his own generation and on that which immediately followed it. Wells was unyielding and fearless in his efforts for social equality and world peace. In his science fiction, he took the ideas occupied the mind of his age and gave them symbolic expression. His best work has a narrative style, extraordinary ideas and a vitality that is unsurpassed.

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