Does h.g wells books stand the test of time?

Venusian Broon

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No doubt you would know better... and the historical comparisons will have me learning a lot today as I look them up.
What perked my ears (regarding laser) is this: "in some way they are able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute non-conductivity. This intense heat they project in a parallel beam against any object they choose, by means of a polished parabolic mirror of unknown composition"

JUST for discussion: Chamber to me means a closed space, which a CO2 laser typically is a glass tube with a 100%===50/50% (or whatever the number is) mirrors respectively of the ends (unlike a NdYAG and its oval chamber and rod). The parabolic mirror he mentions simply an aiming device used with a fixed laser. The Mars/CO2 deal, is convenient on top of that.

That said, I'll search on that Archimedes/Wells source. The only reason I'm curious, is since investigating much more recent and well documented things (like air combat of New Guinea), I long ago discovered that many researchers copy and add their twist on previous researcher's work. Meaning, if Bob-2012 says Wells used, he may have picked that up from Tom-1963 says Wells used, who got that from Frank 1910 says Wells used. See where I'm going with this? If 1910 Frank only knew of Archimedes, his 'speculation' about what Wells used may be no more than my/our own.

Now I'm really curious if HG Wells ever said 'he' used... what?

K2
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I just think you are trying to see too much into a reasonably straightforward description that HG Wells had a certain idea for...and trying to bend it to terms and science he didn't know anything about to fit your idea! The Mars atmosphere angle...I'm sure top scientists at the time assumed Mars had an atmosphere like Earth. So oxygen and nitrogen + bits, just drier (hence the canals transporting water ;)), so linking CO2 to this device feels a step too far.

The source of this intense heat is mcguffined, then he uses the word 'non-conductivity' which means 'impervious to heat' in this case, which makes sense given he had described some chamber with intense heat inside. You would not use this word for light, but (to be fair) he does hint it with the use of a polished mirror later on.

However then the key line for me is: "Heat, and invisible, instead of visible, light." This had been tested in Scientific circles since the discovery of infrared in 1800 and the bringing together of electricity and magnetism in the Maxwell Equations: that the heat was a EM-wave like light. This seems clear to me that's what he's talking about and trying to communicate.

The Archimedes thing: I'm pretty sure HG Wells was an amateur military historian of sorts (see Little Wars) and the whole Archimedes death-ray thing had been pretty well known for 2000 years (and probably attempted to have been constructed by boys who had heard about it in their studies!). EDIT: Actually it should be pointed out that he also published in 1922 A Short History of the World which includes a lot of ancient history. The siege of Syracuse is not mentioned as far as I can tell (He was covering a lot and it was a short history), but I'd be shocked if he then knew nothing about Archimedes, as he does mention that Syracuse was 'where thought and science flourished for two centuries'.

So for me Archimedes death-ray seems the most logical great-grandfather of the Martian Heat-Ray. It would, however, be interesting if he had mentioned it in his memior/autobiography. Might be a nice book to try and find. I believe it exists.

Fair point about seeping into certain 'facts' into general discourse that actually aren't true. Only today I found out that the fact that bacteria cells in the human body outnumber human cells by 10 to 1 is...not true (both estimates of numbers were probably...guesses originally). An actual, more detailed study, shows there are probably equal numbers of both!
 
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Randy M.

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I have to agree. Once we accept the fact that his premises aren't going to be entirely scientifically accurate after so much time, they are still very well written, and create a true sense of wonder. The social commentary you find in, say, The Time Machine or The Island of Doctor Moreau certainly isn't out of date.
And we no longer expect to reanimate corpses as in Frankenstein, but the moral of that story whether you take it to mean Mankind shouldn't oughta mess with things it shouldn't oughta mess with, or when you make a mess, take responsibility and clean it up, still appeals.

I've read ...Moreau three or four times and always felt it was a solid, vicious satire on both science and religion, and blistering to both; it remains one of my favorite later Gothics. I've read The War of the Worlds as many times and again, satire and commentary on the place of mankind in a vast universe.

So, as science, maybe not current. As fiction, about as potent as any fiction from that time period can still be.

Randy M.
 

Venusian Broon

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I've read The War of the Worlds as many times and again, satire and commentary on the place of mankind in a vast universe.

Randy M.
That's an interesting take. I didn't get that but saw it coming in two main angles. First a commentary on colonisation of more advanced cultures on simpler ones - one could also take a corollary that it's a rebuke of what the greatest Empire the world has ever seen*, the British, then at the height of its powers had done to others to make its empire. Of course he subverts this by making the British Empire fall apart.

The Second is probably lost on many modern readers, but it's the type of book he wrote. There was a genre of Invasion! literature, usually written by retired military men trying to warn the rest of Britain about the dastardly foreigner and their plans to invade Blighty. (See Riddle of the Sands for a famous one that was published a bit later) He's really writing squarely in that genre, but found a wonderful antagonist to threaten us all.


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* Certainly in terms of population % of the world controlled.
 

Randy M.

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About the second, yes. I would guess that he saw that form of fiction and chose to subvert it. At the time he wrote these novels, Wells seems to have been hopeful for mankind, but not patient with its pretensions.

About the former, I think you're right about the commentary on colonization. But all the British firepower and weaponry was insufficient to save mankind from the more technologically advanced Martians. All the Maritan firepower and weaponry was insufficient to save them from our germs. That parallel strikes me as purposeful, and I think puts us in our place.

Randy M.
 

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All the Maritan firepower and weaponry was insufficient to save them from our germs. That parallel strikes me as purposeful, and I think puts us in our place.
Speaking of parallels, just as Western civilizations germs/diseases decimated innumerable indigenous people, tropical diseases tend to do their own number on colonizing Westerners.

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Brian G Turner

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I mean the use of character point of view. If I recall character, a lot of War of the Worlds consists of chapters about an un-named brother, which may be distant and relatively unengaging compared with the closer narrative common in modern novels.
 

Toby Frost

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It does, but I don't really have a problem with that (for what it's worth, I tend not to pay that much notice to names in SFF). There's a slightly chaotic and scrappy feel to WOTW, which feels modern to me and works well. We never get a clear idea of what's going on in the bigger picture and it's just running and hiding and screaming until it all stops, which feels like a very modern depiction of war. I would have expected a Victorian novel about fighting aliens to involve big military manouvres, patriotic derring do and a few trophies for the smoking room, which never really happens.
 

BAYLOR

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I mean the use of character point of view. If I recall character, a lot of War of the Worlds consists of chapters about an un-named brother, which may be distant and relatively unengaging compared with the closer narrative common in modern novels.
Stephen Baxter's recent novel The Massacre of Mankind is a sequel to War of the Worlds.
 

Finch

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As a study in the art of short story writing, I'm working my way through, The compleat short stories of HG Wells. After reading a story I try to rewrite them. I have so far learnt that Wells is much closer to writers like George Orwell than his contemporaries. Wells started his writing career writing articles and short stories. His style is journalistic and is the foundation of many modern writers. He was also a Science teacher and socialist,his writing reflects his knowledge and ideology. I haven't read all his book or short stories. What I have read doesn't read some like historical writing and considering he started publishing his shorts in 1895, I think it is impressive. His beliefs as an anti-capitalist were not well supported at the time, so his stories are not spoiled by his ideas and I believe to some modern readers probably misunderstood. Like Orwell, he was a complex person and much of his writing reflects that.
 

Karn's Return

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I wouldn't say that War of the Worlds really holds the test of time, but the Time Machine, in certain aspects of it, definitely could. It really all has to do with technological and scientific advancements, really, and in this day and age, I believe that WotW has already reached past its prime, as society is really not THAT gullible anymore, for the most part.
 

hitmouse

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I wouldn't say that War of the Worlds really holds the test of time, but the Time Machine, in certain aspects of it, definitely could. It really all has to do with technological and scientific advancements, really, and in this day and age, I believe that WotW has already reached past its prime, as society is really not THAT gullible anymore, for the most part.
Can you explain the gullibility comment please?
 

Robert Zwilling

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Maybe we are not so gullible about life from other planets in our solar system attacking us, but we are still very gullible in so many other ways. If Mr Welles did his radio program today in a suitable format and just left out mention of Mars, I wouldn't be surprised if some people believed it was happening. If nothing else the gullibilty factor has been transferred to other fields of interest that didn't even exist back then. Well's choice of subjects overall were on the money back then and still are. The Island Of Dr Moreau and The Food Of The Gods still stick in my mind as if I read them yesterday. The style is fine with me, especially when the message has only become more compelling.

Here is some other stuff he did

The article says he quit writing science fiction and went straight to flat out plain statements to convince people there is more to life than what we are getting out of it. Probably should have stayed with the scare tactics of science fiction to score his points in the games we play with our minds.
 

Karn's Return

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Can you explain the gullibility comment please?

Referring to the point about when it was told over the radio, panic became widespread as people thought that it was actually happening. Not really a gullibility sort of thing, as there was no deception intended, but you know what I mean by it.


And that was the point of WotW, Robert, in being gullible about getting attacked by ET lifeforms.

Personally, what I would be more afraid of for the future of humanity would be a scenario like Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, though of course, the whole being kept immortal and then being turned into a goo creature not being the real concern...
 

Dave

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Referring to the point about when it was told over the radio, panic became widespread as people thought that it was actually happening.
That was a 1938 radio adaption by Howard Koch and directed by Orson Welles. It was made 40 years after HG Wells published his book. It was during a time of great uncertainty and world tensions. It was deliberately designed to appear to be like real news bulletins. The people who mistakenly though it was real were a small proportion of the total audience. I think that it had that effect after 40 years would tend to prove that it did indeed "stand the test of time" rather than not.
 

hitmouse

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Referring to the point about when it was told over the radio, panic became widespread as people thought that it was actually happening. Not really a gullibility sort of thing, as there was no deception intended, but you know what I mean by it.


And that was the point of WotW, Robert, in being gullible about getting attacked by ET lifeforms.

Personally, what I would be more afraid of for the future of humanity would be a scenario like Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, though of course, the whole being kept immortal and then being turned into a goo creature not being the real concern...
Thanks. So you weren't actually referring to the book by HG Wells at all then. That is more clear. I do not think it is very easy to argue about the relevance of the book on those terms.
 

Finch

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War of the worlds was published in 1897 as a magazine serial. It is about British Imperialism and it's attitude to native people. The viral infection bit , Wells actuly turned it round from his original influence. There are stories that the British deliberately infected native Tanzanians with viruses . There are also stories of native Americans being given blankets infected with small-pocks. The book is written as a report from a single narrator. It was a modern approach at the time and is still used .The book was published in 1898 and have never been out of print . I don't feel the book is dated.
 

Finch

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As I said in an earlier post , I'm working my way through H G Wells complete works .Reading some well less well know works, has given me a new insight . I have found quite lot of his earlier short stories have racialist references. Passably not out of step with the thinking of the time , but it doesn't look good to the modern eye . So I would like to change my opinion about Wells . Only some of his work is suitable for modern day publication. I would also need to reread some books with a different perspective.
 
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