Wells is news! | Sunday Observer

Wells is news!

11 April, 2021

A witty woman who used to write novels was asked “What is news?” by a student following a journalism course. Not being a journalist she thought for a moment and said, “Crime is news; divorce is news; girl mothers are news; fabric gloves and dolls’ eyes are, for some unaccountable reason, news; centenaries of famous men are, for some still stranger reason, news; strangest of all, women are inherently and with no activities on their part, news, in a way that men are not … If you do wrong, you are news, and if you have had a bad accident, you are news; but if you mysteriously disappear you are doubly and trebly news. To be news once in one’s life – that is something for a man. Sometimes it comes too late to be enjoyed.”

You will also be surprised to hear that H.G. Wells is news because his activities have attracted that mysterious measure of public attention which is necessary in order to take a writer out of those inglorious little paragraphs in which well-informed gentlemen prattle ardently about Well’s forthcoming books. While the world is grappling for the reader’s attention, he becomes hot news. Wells wrote steadily for more than a quarter of a century. His short stories written with enormous skill were competing with Rudyard Kipling, R.L. Stevenson, and Joseph Conrad. Then he wrote novels with greater elasticity. They described life, death, love and violence vividly. His descriptions were lucid: “It was a very glorious hedge, so that it held my eyes. It flowed along and interlaced like splendid music. It was rich with lupins, honeysuckle, campions, and ragged robin; bedstraw, hops and wild clematis twined and hung among its branches, and all along its ditch border the starry stitch wort lifted its childish faces and chorused in lines and masses. Never had I seen such a symphony of note-like flowers and tendrils and leaves. And suddenly in its depths, I heard a chirrup and the whir of startled wings.”

Wells’ interest is far more in his subject matter than in the literary process. We read him today for the sake of the things that he says, for the vivid images that he conveys of mind, manners, morals, and all the rest of it. His imagination was entirely engaged by the progress of mechanical invention and the march of the Fabian Society towards its strictly hygienic Utopia. He is still widely read as a specialist in the Future. He preferred to be thought of as the most judicious exponent of the Past and as the first historian to find something more in history than the record of a single nation.


After reading some of his books, you get the impression that he has painted the intellectual portrait of every epoch of his career. Wells has always reflected with astonishing accuracy the mood and outlook of his time. You can think of Wells as a pair of bright eyes, watching the world alertly and not without malice.

Hubert George Wells (1866-1946) became famous for his science fantasy novels with prophetic depictions of the triumph of technology as well as the horrors of 20th century warfare. His novel The Time Machine mingled science, adventure and political comment. Later he wrote The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds and The Shape of Things to come. Throughout his long life Wells was deeply concerned with contemporary civilisation. His later works such as Mind at the end of its tether were rather pessimistic.

Wells is the Father of Modern Science Fiction. He was more interested in biology and evolution than in the physical sciences, and more concerned about the social consequences of invention than the accuracy of the invention itself. As a science fiction writer he conjured up some futuristic visions that have not yet come true. Some of them are a machine that travels back in time, a man who turns invisible, and a Martian invasion that destroys Southern England. However, some of his predictions have come true.

Futuristic Utopia

In Men like Gods Wells invites readers to a futuristic Utopia that is essentially earth after thousands of years of progress. In this alternate reality, people communicate exclusively with wireless systems that employ a kind of co-mingling of voicemail and email-like properties. He alone imagined future forms of entertainment. In When the Sleeper Wakes the protagonist rises from two centuries of slumber to a dystopian London in which citizens use wondrous forms of technology like the audiobook, airplane and television. Yet, they suffer systematic oppression and social injustice. Visitors to the island of Dr. Moreau were confronted with a menagerie of bizarre creatures including Leopard-man and Fox-Bear Witch created by the titular madman doctor in human-animal hybrid experiments that may presage the age of genetic engineering. Today, the theme of humans playing god by tinkering with nature has become a reality.

Wells’ ideas have endured because he was a standout storyteller. Joseph Conrad said, “I am always powerfully impressed by your work. Impressed is the word, O Realist of the Fantastic!” He wrote these words after reading The Invisible Man.

Wells recognised the world-changing destructive powers that might be harnessed by splitting the atom. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the failure of his idealised political vision on a World Government which he described in “A Modern Utopia.” After World War II he started a campaign for human rights and eventually United Nations issued a Declaration of World Rights in 1947. His draft declaration was the basis for the formal UN document.

Cambridge party

On leaving a Cambridge party, Wells accidentally picked up a hat that did not belong to him. Discovering his mistake, he decided not to return the hat to its rightful owner, whose label was inside the brim. The hat fit Wells comfortably; furthermore, he had grown to like it. So he wrote to the former owner: “I stole your hat; I like your hat; I shall keep your hat. Whenever I look inside I shall think of you and your excellent sherry and of the town of Cambridge. I take off your hat to you.”

In the middle of World War II Wells took a train to Texas to address the United States Brewers’ Association. His critics could not figure out why he was tapped to speak there; perhaps he simply liked beer!

In 1938, The War of the Worlds was adapted by a young New York theatre director Orson Welles for a radio play. When it was broadcast, some people did not realise that it was a fiction; they actually thought Martians had landed in New Jersey. The sensation that followed made Wells a star! A radio station brought Wells and Welles together for a conversation. “I had a series of delightful experiences since I came to America,” Wells said. “But the best thing that has happened so far is meeting my little namesake Orson Welles.” Then he suggested that his American counterpart should drop the extra ‘e’ from his name.

When he breathed his last H.G. Wells’ last words were: “Go away. I’m all right.”

[email protected]