H.G. Wells published over 150 books across many different genres, but he is most famous for his scientific prophecies, such as The Time Machine. In this podcast, Simon James identifies how Wells was inspired by contemporary developments in science to envision a future yet to come.
Nineteenth-century discoveries in geology expanded the ways in which Victorians thought about time. This new understanding inspired Wells to launch his time traveller further than any fictional character had gone before, to the year 80271 and then beyond.
From the point of view of the future, Wells reflects back upon social issues in his own time, enacting a grisly kind of class revenge on those who exploit the working classes. That vision may not (yet) have come true in our own moment, but his writing foresaw other developments like the internet with remarkable prescience, giving Wells a claim to be the man who, as Simon James puts it, “invented the twentieth century.”
This podcast was produced by Andrea Rangecroft. Book extracts read by Neil Armstrong, Sarah Boulter, Paul Dunn, and Samantha Morris. Photography by Colin Davison.
The Time Machines exhibition runs until 3rd September at Palace Green Library. It is accompanied by a series of talks, film screenings and other events. Join the conversation on twitter via #PGLTimeTraveller.