Monday, 25 November 2013

Anderson And Wellsianity

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

Associative processes are spiral, not linear. Setting out to reread The War Of Two Worlds by Poul Anderson, I instead began to read for the first time Threshold Of Eternity by John Brunner, published in the same Ace Double volume. Noticing, so to say, the obvious "Wellsianity" of both novels, I then reflected more generally on Wells and his successors.

Thus, this post belongs more appropriately on the Science Fiction blog and will be copied there. However, most page viewers visit Poul Anderson Appreciation. Further, Wells and other sf writers are discussed here not in their own right but to compare them with Anderson.

CS Lewis referred to:

"...what we may loosely call the Scientific Outlook, the picture of Mr. Wells and the rest." ("Is Theology Poetry?" IN Lewis, Screwtape Proposes A Toast and Other Pieces (London, 1965), pp. 41-58 AT pp. 45-46)

Lewis acknowledges that practicing scientists as a whole do not accept this "Scientific Outlook" and concedes that "...the delightful name 'Wellsianity'...", (p. 46) suggested by another member of the Socratic Club, would have been more appropriate.

Wells' works, both fiction and non-fiction, express Wellsianity as Lewis' express Christianity. Wells' science fiction pioneers four themes:

space travel;
time travel;
interplanetary invasion;
future history.

Wells has many successors, including Anderson and Brunner, and one main opponent. I have argued on the Science Fiction blog that Lewis' Ransom novels are a systematic reply to the four Wellsian themes.

Wells is content to describe:

a single journey to the Moon in the Cavorite sphere, which is lost at the end of the novel;
a single journey to the future on the Time Machine, which is lost at the end of the novel;
a single attack by Martians, who are killed by Terrestrial microbes;
a single historical turning point in the next two hundred years - although, as against this, the Time Traveler's journey to the further future shows him the devolution of mankind and the end of life on Earth.

Wells' successors describe regular space travel, time travel and alien contact and write longer future histories. Anderson's The War Of Two Worlds, like Wells' The War Of The Worlds, describes a war between Earth and Mars and Anderson went on to write many other accounts of interplanetary conflicts. Brunner's Threshold Of Eternity, like Wells' The Time Machine, describes time travel but, in this case, such travel has become routine and indeed a means of conflict.

I have argued previously that Olaf Stapledon and Poul Anderson are major successors of Wells.

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