H. G. Wells was one of the founding forefathers of Science Fiction, and an English author who had a major influence on international literature – and surprisingly, he was the inventor of tabletop miniature wargaming.
Herbert George Wells was born September 21, 1866 in Bromley, Kent, England. He died August 13, 1946, in London. He invented many of the tropes of science fiction we take for granted today: time travel, uplift, space travel, alien invasion, invisibility, and more.
Like Robert Louis Stevenson, young Bertie was a sickly child who sought comfort in books and his imagination. He studied science with Thomas Henry Huxley, the grandfather of Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World. Wells was, at various times in his life, a teacher, a journalist, a draper’s apprentice, and a novelist. In 1890, Wells earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of London. H. G. Wells’ first published work was the two volume Text-Book of Biology in 1893. To supplement his income, he wrote short humorous articles for journals. As many of these articles were published anonymously, they have been lost over the years, unidentified by literary scholars.
H. G. Wells wrote his first novel, The Time Machine, in 1895. From 1895 to 1901, Wells published several books that he called scientific romances, but we call science fiction today. To the best of my knowledge, The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, and The First Men in the Moon have never gone out of print, and all have been made into movies.
The Father of War Games
As both a futurist and a socialist, Wells dabbled with pacifism. He is considered the father of miniatures war gaming, which would make H. G. Wells the grandfather of Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer. He said, “much better is this amiable miniature [war] than the real thing.” He wrote Floor Games in 1911 and Little Wars in 1913.
Socialist and Social Critic
H. G. Wells was a lifelong socialist. He wrote several realistic novels (not scientific romances) which explored class and economic inequity. American author Sinclair Lewis, winner of the 1930 Nobel Prize for Literature, was impressed and influenced by H. G. Wells. Wells was an advocate for and a practitioner of what was called Free Love at the time, the scandalous notion that sexual relations should not be limited to husband and wife. This lead to the collapse of his first marriage. His first wife left him when he fell in love with a younger woman. Wells would fall in love many times and two of his four children were sired out of wedlock.
Wells and Other Authors
Brian Aldiss called Wells “the Shakespeare of Science Fiction.” Vincent Brome suggested he was a worthy successor to Charles Dickens. Wells was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature four times, but never won. Jorge Luis Borges wrote multiple articles on Wells, some critical, some favorable. Algis Budrys said in Galaxy Wells “remains the outstanding expositor of both the hope, and the despair, which are embodied in the technology and which are the major facts of life in our world.” Mystery writer G. K, Chesterton called him “a born storyteller.” Polish novelist Joseph Conrad called him “Realist of the Fantastic.” Charles Fort called him a “wild talent.”
“For roughly 50 years, Wells devoted his life to writing and his output during this time was amazing. Some even criticized Wells for his tremendous volume of work, saying that he spread his talent too thin. Wells wrote, on average, three books a year for a time. And each of his works went through several drafts before publication.” biography.com
H. G. Wells’ influence on modern science fiction is incalcuable. Even if you haven’t read his works for yourself (and if you haven’t, hurry to the library and correct that as soon as possible), you’ve read books or seen movies that were influenced by him and his fertile imagination.
Happy HG Wells’ Birthday to all!
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.