Wells is a name that is synonymous with the creation of what we now know as science fiction.
He effectively invented the sub genre of alien invasion.
He coined the now ubiquitous terms, "Time machine," "Heat ray," and even disputably, "The new world order."
But what most people don't know about Wells, is that although today he is predominantly known for his science fiction, his career as a Sci-Fi author was pretty short.
Wells wrote dozens of novels, most of which weren't even science fiction.
But despite the relatively few number of science fiction works he wrote in comparison to his vast oeuvre, Wells was an influential thinker not just for the genre of science fiction but for science's relationship to the culture at large.
(upbeat music) Herbert George Wells, the son of servants-turned-shopkeepers escaped apprenticeships in draper shops to become a pupil teacher at Midhurst Grammar School in the south of England.
A scholarship propelled him to what is now Imperial College London, where he studied biology under champion of Darwinism, T.H.
Huxley, grandfather of brave new world author, Aldous Huxley graduating in 1890.
But within a few years, he transitioned to writing and quickly became hugely popular with people from all demographics, sort of the Stephen King of his day.
But he was particularly popular with the working class.
You love to see it.
According to Columbia University professor of English, Sarah Cole, "He had many readers among working people, coming in second in the list of favorite novelists polled by the Workers Education Association, WEA in 1936."
Put a pin in that note.
Of course, like half of the authors we cover, our boy was not without his feuds.
To this day, people sometimes confuse the works of Wells with his contemporary Jules Verne.
Wells was irritated by this comparison of his work to Verne's and the feeling was mutual.
Then there was George Orwell, my boy, whom Wells feuded a lot with later in life despite their similar politics.
They had an idea of what the end should be but really disagreed on the means and on the nature of humanity in general.
Orwell's gripe was that Wells naively believed in the natural progression of scientific progress as inevitably leading to a better world.
Orwell was right, guys.
He knew that Twitter was gonna come and destroy everything and Facebook and Instagram.
Get off social media, but keep watching YouTube and "It's Lit!"
videos on PBS storied.
Orwell implied that Wells was 'A dusty old Victorian who was a relic of a bygone era," in The Listener in March of 1942.
Wells fired off a letter in response to Orwell that very week, which has regretted been lost to time, except for this bit.
"I didn't say that at all, read my earlier works you (beep) Was there anyone Orwell didn't beef with?
And also that would have been an excellent tweet.
Wells was one of the earliest major English fiction writers to be a trained scientist.
His approach to science fiction or scientific romance as he called it, was kept rooted in reality, only include one far-flung concept and keep that concept rooted in the real world, i.e the time machine is told from the point of view of the time traveler talking to his friends after he got back from his adventure.
In his future earth, there's just humans, no aliens, no robots haven't taken over humanity, just humans.
And that's the thing we're gonna explore with our time machine.
There is generally only one thing per novel invisibility, aliens, time travel, et cetera.
So there's no smash up here.
No, "Cowboy versus Aliens," or "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter."
But much of Well's influence were the archetypes and tropes he helped popularize within science fiction.
Take "The Invisible Man."
Again, a fairly simple story.
A scientist invents a way to change our human bodies' refractive index to that of air so that it neither absorbs nor reflects light rendering him invisible.
The story isn't so much about the man's adventures, but what this seemingly innocuous superpower brings out in him.
"Invisible Man," was influential-less because of its focus on technology.
Although Wells is focused on the scientific house was important, to him, but more the thought experiment of what a person would do if they could escape accountability.
And Wells' first scientific romance, "The Time Machine," the protagonist known only as the time traveler travels to a future where man has evolved into two distinct species Morlocks and Eloi, we'll get into that later.
This book was so wildly popular, it started an entire sub genre, that of time travel and also coined the term, "Time machine," which you never think needed to be coined, but there he did it.
According to professor of English at Robert Morris University, Sylvia, Pamboukian, "While he does not innovate in using time-travel or evolutionary concepts, Wells develops important tropes that open the genre to new possibilities.
Wells introduces machinery to this genre and explores the role of technology in the genre.
He also innovated in his presentation of the time traveler himself, which has far reaching implications, both in Wells' own work and in the genre as a whole."
"The Island of Dr. Moreau," draws a lot from Frankenstein, but also builds on that trope.
Moreau helped codify Mary Shelley's mad scientist as a re-occurrent figure in science fiction, but takes it a step further by making him no longer horrified by his creations, but excited by them.
This was a particular character archetype in the 50s and 60s and remains extremely popular to this day.
According to professor Jay Clayton, "Dr. Moreau draws a powerful portrait of an irresponsible scientist, and it directly anticipates contemporary concerns about the creation of chimeras.
But these are not the only ways Wells' novel can contribute to the public policy debate.
In the early 19th century, there was nothing like today's disciplinary structures.
For most of the 19th century, discipline-based expertise was not the primary way, a savant gained influence in the public sphere, much to the frustration of early advocates of disciplinarity, such as Charles Babbage."
Then there is, "The War of the Worlds," arguably Wells' most influential work.
"War of the Worlds" started an entire sub genre, which remains very popular, alien invasion.
But also inspired the most well-known adaptations of Wells' work, from Orson Wells', not relation, 1938 audio drama that was so realistic, listeners thought it was happening for real.
To the 1953 film adaptation, to Steven Spielberg's 2005 adaptation, which has a really great first half.
According to cultural historian, John Higgs, "A book like "The War of the Worlds," inspired every one of the thousands of alien invasion stories that followed.
It burned its way into the psyche of mankind and changed us all forever."
But "War of the Worlds," didn't come from nowhere.
It also came out of a very popular genre in Britain called, "Invasion Literature," which sprang from the anxiety that those uppity Prussians might come for Britain next, after they invaded France in the 1870s.
Wells combined this genre of literature with the also popular idea of intelligent aliens, specifically from Mars, using it to put a mirror to British colonialism.
According to University of Dundee, professor Keith Williams, "'The War of the Worlds,' elaborated the possibility of this emerging alien gaze to allow contemporary Britain to look long and hard at itself.
And the ethics of its foreign policy from the vantage point of another species, a nightmare version of the colonial Other, integral to its expansionist ideology."
The critique of colonialism in "War of the Worlds," isn't subtext either, it's text.
In the first chapter of "War of the Worlds," Wells states, "And before we judge of them too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought.
The Tasmanians in spite of their human likeness were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants in the space of 50 years.
Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?"
This basic thought experiment has remained a staple of alien invasion literature to this day.
From the indigenous suffocation of aliens and narratives, where humans are the colonizers, to the idea of firepower we can't match, in which humans are the colonized.
In 1898, Britain was still the most powerful Imperial power on the planet.
So Victorian British minds were blown by this reversal of roles.
(balloon buzzing) This idea that somewhere out there, there may be a race of beings, more powerful than the British.
According to Well's biographer and former British labor party leader, Michael Foot, "Wells plan to write a book that would show the English what it would be like to be overtaken by a race more developed, better armed, and even more ruthlessly genocidal than themselves.
To the Martians," he wrote in the introduction to "The War of the Worlds," "We men, the creatures who inhabit this earth must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us."
And we can't talk about these 19th century thought leaders without talking about eugenics.
Eugenics was a topic that Wells had mixed feelings on.
In Edwardian Britain, eugenics was the new hotness, but though Wells didn't want to discount the theory completely, he also had his doubts.
Though he did have an affair with Margaret Sanger, among many, many other women because H.G Wells, liked to smash.
For one thing, he was never on board with positive eugenics or the idea that we can breed or genetically engineer a superior human.
In 1904, responding to Francis Golten, co-founder of eugenics, Wells said, "I believe that now and always the conscious selection of the best for reproduction, will be impossible, that to propose it is to display a fundamental misunderstanding of what individuality implies."
That said, Well's also said, "It is in the sterilization of failure and not in the selection of success for breeding, that the possibility of an improvement of the human stock lies."
So that's a whole yikes.
In other words, he wasn't sold on positive eugenics, but he wasn't against negative eugenics or the idea that we can breed out certain traits or genetic defects and that's its own gross can of worms.
So how does this apply to his fiction?
So, "The Island Dr. Moreau," is more concerned with the ethics of genetic engineering than the implications of eugenics, which is about breeding a superior human.
But what about, "The Time Machine"?
Which some have called, "A love letter to eugenics?"
(sighs) Here we go.
In "The Time Machine," humanity has evolved into two distinct species, the Morlocks and the Eloi.
The Eloi are these elfin childlike day walkers, that just kind of have fun and vibe all day.
They're basically like the trolls in "Troll."
Then there are the Morlocks who live underground and only come out at night.
And like in the movie, trolls, turns out that they eat the Eloi, like the Bergens in "Trolls."
So how did these two humanities come to be?
In effect, the Eloi are descendants of the bourgeoisie and the Morlocks are descendants of the proletariat.
The Morlocks eat the rich.
(chuckles) The time traveler describes it thus.
"So in the end, above ground, you must have the Haves pursuing pleasure and comfort and beauty and below ground the Have-nots, the workers getting continually adapted to the conditions of their labor.
According to Pamboukian, "The sublime landscapes of the future and the events of 802,701, highlight the vast sweep and power of evolution and the small time-bound achievements of humanity, a somewhat distressing conclusion because it reverses the popular idea that science can influence evolution and produce a better society.
A key concept of social Darwinism, eugenics, and several earlier time-travel narratives."
Wells' fiction reflected Wells' own conflicting ideas on science and progress.
He demonstrates a belief that science could better humanity while cautioning that betterment thanks to technology is not inevitable.
There is plenty that could derail that future.
Widening income inequality and class division, for instance.
If it's not obvious Wells like Orwell was a socialist, but he wasn't a Marxist.
Reason being, Marx believed that a violent class war between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat was inevitable.
And in Russia, well, clearly Marx was not wrong, completely.
But Wells believed that through science and rationality, eventually, we could all just get along.
Maybe the means of production, were the friends we made along the way, but that didn't mean that this future was inevitable.
In the words of the time traveler, "At first, proceeding from the problems of our own age, it seemed clear as daylight to me that the gradual widening of the present merely temporary and social difference between the capitalist and the laborer was the key to the whole position.
No doubt, it will seem grotesque enough to you and wildly incredible.
And yet even now there are existing circumstances to point that way."
Wells' scientific romance was usually influential, not just in fiction, but in the real world and also predicted technologies that were decades, if not more than a century out.
"The War of the Worlds inspired Robert Godard, inventor of the liquid field rocket, whose research led to NASA's Apollo Program to devote his life to space travel.
Wells' 1914 novel, "The World Set Free," predicted the atomic bomb drawing on and subsequently influencing chemist, Frederick (indistinct) work on radioactivity and influencing physicist Leo Szilard in his work on the neutron chain reaction.
And with regard to Dr. Moreau's creations, according to Clayton, "The scientific breakthrough Wells imagined in 1896 has become a reality in 2006.
In the last few years, the question raised by the creation of interspecies hybrids, xenotransplants and chimeras have become pressing enough to prompt the Institute of Medicine, IOM, to issue guidelines, covering the ethical constraints on such research."
He even predicted something like Wikipedia.
In an address to the Royal Institute in 1936 on the world encyclopedia or "World Brain."
He described it as such.
"The mental background of every intelligent man in the world.
It should be alive and growing and changing continually under revision, extension and replacement from the original thinkers in the world, everywhere.
Every university and research institution should feed it.
Every fresh mind should be brought into contact with its standing editorial organization.
Its contents would be the standard source of material for the instructional side of school and college work, for the verification of facts and the testing of statements everywhere in the world."
Wells saw science fiction as a genre, not only in conversation with science, but in conversation with itself.
According to former vice president of the H.G Wells Society, Brian Aldiss, "Within the domain of scientific romance, he managed three unique achievements.
He elevated the freak event, a visit to the moon, a invasion from another planet and to an artistic whole.
In consequence, he greatly expanded the scope and power of such imaginings.
And he brought to the genre, a popularity and a distinctness from other genres, which it has never lost since, despite the blunders of many following his wake."
H.G Wells helped create and popularize tools that allow us to envision all sorts of futures, good and bad.
But one thing is for sure, if you see an alien, sneeze on it.
(dramatic sound effect)