Top Five Hard Science Fiction Authors #5: H.G. Wells
H.G. Wells (1866-1946), considered one of the fathers of science fiction, was most famous for his novels The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, and The Island of Dr. Moreau. Wells may have been the first science fiction writer to be successful in “predicting the future,” per se; in 1901 he correctly predicted that trains and cars would disperse the population to suburbs, saw the decline of moral and sexual restrictions, the defeat of German militarism, and the creation of a European Union, though he was slightly off in predicting a lack of successful aircraft before 1950. He also saw (in his novel (Tono-Bungay) the use of radioactive decay as an explosive device, and reportedly influenced Leo Szilard toward the nuclear chain reaction. He also predicted (in 1933) that another World War would begin in January 1940; he was only four months off, World War II having started in September of 1939.
One of Wells’ most important contributions (and maybe his most frequent) was in the field of politics. Wells was an avid socialist (as many science-fiction authors are), and wrote many utopian (A Modern Utopia) and dystopian (The Sleeper Awakes, The Time Machine) works that have an impact today, a hundred years later, as governments around the world evolve. The Time Machine, especially, shows his socialist leanings. It tells the story of a man who travels to the distant future and finds a society of two species which have widened from today’s basic social classes, “Capitalist and Labourer.”
H.G. Wells, I believe, was the first modern science fiction writer; Today’s science fiction deals with worldly problems and very scientific solutions. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein may have been the first science fiction novel, but Wells defined modern science fiction.