Who is H.G. Wells?
Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English writer. Prolific in many genres, he wrote more than fifty novels and dozens of short stories. His non-fiction output included works of social commentary, politics, history, popular science, satire, biography, and autobiography. Wells is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and has been called the “father of science fiction.”
In addition to his fame as a writer, he was prominent in his lifetime as a forward-looking, even prophetic social critic who devoted his literary talents to the development of a progressive vision on a global scale. As a futurist, he wrote a number of utopian works and foresaw the advent of aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web. His science fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, invisibility, and biological engineering before these subjects were common in the genre. Brian Aldiss referred to Wells as the “Shakespeare of science fiction”, while Charles Fort called him a “wild talent”.
Wells rendered his works convincing by instilling commonplace detail alongside a single extraordinary assumption per work – dubbed “Wells’s law” – leading Joseph Conrad to hail him in 1898 with “O Realist of the Fantastic!”. His most notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), which was his first novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), the military science fiction The War in the Air (1907), and the dystopian When the Sleeper Wakes (1910). Novels of social realism such as Kipps (1905) and The History of Mr Polly (1910), which describe lower-middle-class English life, led to the suggestion that he was a worthy successor to Charles Dickens, but Wells described a range of social strata and even attempted, in Tono-Bungay (1909), a diagnosis of English society as a whole. Wells was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times.
Wells’s earliest specialised training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a Darwinian context. He was also an outspoken socialist from a young age, often (but not always, as at the beginning of the First World War) sympathising with pacifist views. In his later years, he wrote less fiction and more works expounding his political and social views, sometimes giving his profession as that of journalist. Wells was a diabetic and co-founded the charity The Diabetic Association (known today as Diabetes UK) in 1934.