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By Mark Rose

A set of serious technology fiction essays.

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The First Men in the Moon admittedly has some satirical discussions of war and human irrationality, together with one of several early anticipations of the conditioning‐ during‐sleep idea Huxley developed in Brave New World, but Wells’s main drive here is simple delight in invention, in working out an alien ecology, typical of what I might call primitive science fiction. Despite the fluent imaginativeness of the stories mentioned, the most forceful of Wells’s romances is the strongly Verne‐like The War in the Air of 1907.

This brief band‐ wagon period, during which dons reviewed science fiction with an enthusiasm tempered by patronage and stultified by ignorance, did no good to anyone, and can hardly be said to have had much effect on the Literary Mind.  Reprinted by permission of Robert Conquest.  And they are interested in the actualities and potentialities of the phenomenal world for their own sakes, not merely as background for the subjective (compare Auden with his lesser contemporaries).  What distinguishes it is the extraordinary, dominating position of the novel of character.

The action was often simply of a naive young hero (if that is the word) being shown round some island or planetary Utopia whose social arrangements seemed to indicate that the professor held overoptimistic views about the regulation of the human passions.  Though less adult, these were on the whole more popular than the professorial ones, and rightly so, and they crowded them out.  But it is only a qualification.  Not only is his work erratic in general, and sometimes constructed in an almost incomprehensible manner, but he often heavily overwrites, even in his best work.

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