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KEV67

H.G. Wells' science fiction contemporaries

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I am working through H.G. Wells' science fiction books. I wondered who Well's sci-fi contemporaries were. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton is not exactly science fiction, but it has its steampunk chapters. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a little bit science fiction.

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Wells lived from the late eighteen hundreds through to the middle of the last century, so you've quite a range there. 

 

Off the top of my head, I'd suggest Jules Verne, Aldous Huxley, Fred Hoyle and Orwell.  Sure there are plenty more! 

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I can't think of very many -- at least not in that time period.

 

Arthur Conan Doyle published The Lost World in 1912.

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote some sci-fi, including Under the Moons of Mars.

 

(I just Googled, and there's a wikipedia list here that you might find interesting:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_science_fiction#1900s )

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E. M. Forster wrote a book called The Machine Stops in 1909. According the the Goodreads blurb, it predicted instant messaging and the internet.  I would not have thought E. M. Forster wrote science fiction.

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On 5/25/2017 at 8:00 PM, KEV67 said:

I am working through H.G. Wells' science fiction books. I wondered who Well's sci-fi contemporaries were. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton is not exactly science fiction, but it has its steampunk chapters. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a little bit science fiction.

 

 I didn't like the religious over/undertones at the end of The Man Who Was Thursday. I thought it started off really well though

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Arthur Conan Doyle's other 'Professor Challenger' stories too, The Poison BeltWhen the World Screamed and The Disintegration Machine are really interesting. The Lost World is my favourite though.

 

Edward Bulwer Lytton wrote a science fiction book called The Coming Race in the 1870s. He has another one called A Strange Story but I can't remember if it's got any science fiction elements, it's mostly about belief in spiritualism. 

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19 hours ago, vodkafan said:

 

 I didn't like the religious over/undertones at the end of The Man Who Was Thursday. I thought it started off really well though

 

I agree with you there. It did get rather weird.

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4 hours ago, KEV67 said:

 

I agree with you there. It did get rather weird.

 

Apparently Christianity was Chesterton's big thing, he really deplored the fact that the world was becoming more secular and lots of people no longer believed.

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6 minutes ago, vodkafan said:

 

Apparently Christianity was Chesterton's big thing, he really deplored the fact that the world was becoming more secular and lots of people no longer believed.

 

Yes, I've given him a go, but there is a reason why he is not read much any more. I read The Napoleon of Notting Hill, which I seem to remember had some odd religiosity too, but not as much as The Man Who Was Thursday. Although NoNH was set in 1984, it could not really be called science fiction. I read his Father Brown stories, which are rather like Sherlock Holmes, but not quite as engaging. It struck me that these days he would be in great demand writing TV plots for series like Dr Who, only he didn't write women at all; he almost entirely ignored them. I think one or two of his poems are quite good. I may well ask for the Rolling English Road to be read at my funeral.

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11 hours ago, Hayley said:

Arthur Conan Doyle's other 'Professor Challenger' stories too, The Poison BeltWhen the World Screamed and The Disintegration Machine are really interesting. The Lost World is my favourite though.

 

Edward Bulwer Lytton wrote a science fiction book called The Coming Race in the 1870s. He has another one called A Strange Story but I can't remember if it's got any science fiction elements, it's mostly about belief in spiritualism. 

 

Interesting, I knew Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Lost World, but not the others. Does he discuss any science in them? H.G. Wells like to include a bit. For example, in The Invisible Man, the abrasive anti-hero says he made himself invisible by changing the refractive index of his body tissue.

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@KEV67  Yeah, there's a few Professor Challenger stories and they're all based on science in some way, with Challenger giving his scientific theories. Supposedly Arthur Conan Doyle much preferred writing about Challenger to Sherlock Holmes. When he killed Sherlock it was so he could focus on this other character, but then there was so much uproar and demand for Sherlock to come back he gave in and carried on with that instead.

Without giving too much of the plots away: The Disintegration Machine,is literally about a scientist inventing a machine which can disintegrate a person and put them back together, quite an interesting early comment on weapons of mass destruction. The Poison Belt is about the what happens when the earth passes through a belt of poisonous ether (with Challenger and his friends watching the effects from a sealed room) and When the World Screamed is based on the idea that the mantle of the earth is actually a sentient being and if we could drill down far enough it could be alerted to the presence of humans. The Land of Mist is another Professor Challenger one, it's about the debate between science and spiritualism but it leans towards spiritualism more than science. There are some interesting examples of scientific experiments which attempt to prove or disprove the existence of spirits though as far as I can remember.  

 

Just thought maybe you could count Mary Shelley's Frankenstein too. Technically I think it's horror but I know there are people who argue it was the first real science fiction novel.

 

I have The Invisible Man on my to-read list, it's one I'm really looking forward to :)

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On 05/06/2017 at 6:07 PM, Hayley said:

@KEV67 

 

Just thought maybe you could count Mary Shelley's Frankenstein too. Technically I think it's horror but I know there are people who argue it was the first real science fiction novel.

 

Frankenstein does not actually have an awful lot of science in it. Frankenstein won't say how he made the monster, although it seemed to entail digging up body parts from the graveyard and torturing animals. Frankenstein said he made the monster very large because it was an easier scale to work with, not so fiddly. So, does that he made all the body parts from scratch? Where would you find bones and parts for a man that big.

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On 2017-6-11 at 0:00 AM, KEV67 said:

Frankenstein does not actually have an awful lot of science in it. Frankenstein won't say how he made the monster, although it seemed to entail digging up body parts from the graveyard and torturing animals. Frankenstein said he made the monster very large because it was an easier scale to work with, not so fiddly. So, does that he made all the body parts from scratch? Where would you find bones and parts for a man that big.

 

I agree, I remember the actual creation of the monster being an unexpectedly short part of the book. Still, some people do claim it was the first science fiction novel and, either way, it's a good book.

Interesting thought on the size of the monster. I definitely got the impression that the body parts were stolen rather than made from scratch. The monster was supposed to be about 8 foot tall I think, which isn't actually impossible for a human, just really unlikely. Maybe we're supposed to assume that the way he was put together, or the odd combination of parts made him unusually tall? 

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I remember he made the body from the remains of an executed criminal, and someone else's head!

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On 13/06/2017 at 10:16 AM, Madeleine said:

I remember he made the body from the remains of an executed criminal, and someone else's head!

 

I don't remember that at all. Was that from a film?

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Anyway, regarding HG Wells' early science fiction: they must have been startling at the time. The late C19th seems to have been a period of change literature wise. All the great old Victorian authors were dead. The old triple decker novels were falling out of fashion. Arthur Conan Doyle was writing his detective books. Rudyard Kipling was writing his Empire and animal books. Science was advancing, yet technology was still in a half and half state. When Wells was writing in the Victorian era, we did not have radio, but we did have the telegraph. We did not have cars, so we still relied on horse power, but we did have trains. We did not really have much electricity, but we did have gas. Wells' books must have seemed explosive back then - short but totally original.

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I remember it in the Kenneth Branagh version, honestly can't remember it from the book, but at least Branagh's version didn't look quite as ridiculous as Hollywood's monster!

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I was looking for an article in a book called Victorian Science in Context (ed. Bernard Lightman) and spotted an essay titled 'Strange New Worlds of Space and Time: Late Victorian Science and Science Fiction' by Paul Fayter. I thought of this thread so I flicked through it and these are some of the books mentioned which haven't been discussed already:

Mary Griffith- Three Hundred Years Hence (1836)

Edward Bellamy - Looking Backward (1888)

Frank Challice Constable - The Curse of Intellect (1895)

Edwin Abbot - Flatland (1884)

Percy Greg - Across the Zodiac (1880)

Robert Cromie - A Plunge Into Space (1890)

 

Hopefully some of those are useful :)

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I have just read E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops. It's a bit like The Matrix and a bit like Brave New World. It seems to predict something like the internet. 

 

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