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Anticipations: H. G. Wells, Science Fiction and Radical Visions
A Conference at Woking, 8-10 July 2016
Abstracts * Accommodation * Programme * Registration * Venue and Directions

Saturday 9 July 2016

13.45 Ogilvy Room
Bryan Hawkins (Canterbury Christ Church University)
“The Microscopic as Space, Place and Metaphor in H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1898) and F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922)”

H.G. Wells’s 1898 novel War of the Worlds and F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film Nosferatu both assert and challenge an emphasis on the truth-values of sight, science and technology and present the possibilities of the microscopic and the invisible as the imaging and imagining of the mysterious, the threatening and the unknown observed within the natural and nature as a legacy of romanticism and as a particular imagining of unfolding modernist anxieties. The central argument is that Wells and Murnau through the microscopic landscapes they introduce as space, place and metaphor animate a longer history of visual technology and explore a complex dynamic and imaginary beyond the scientific, the optical and the rational.

Wells introduces the landscape of his novel thus:

    No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. (Wells 2010, 6)

In a crucial section of Nosferatu it is a microscopic creature that appears to scrutinise and then predates its victim, as simultaneously the scientists of the film scrutinise the microscopic creatures and, as later, Orlock the film’s vampire scrutinises the human prey and re-enacts the actions of the parasitical microscopic as he feeds. In a section dealing with the discovery of the invading aliens Wells describes the experience of looking into a deep pit newly created within the familiar English landscape of the novel. It is a space entered through an evocation of the microscope and the microscopic:

    The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within… for a moment the circular cavity seemed perfectly black……but looking I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above the other, then two luminous discs like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake … coiled up out of the writhing middle and wriggled in the air towards me. (Wells 2010, 15)

Both film and book engage an idea of alien invasion but their landscapes and their threat significantly emanate from a conflation and interpenetration of the invisible worlds being made visible by advances in the technologies of seeing.

Wells, H.G. (1898/2010) The War of the Worlds Cathedral Classics Milton Keynes

Boyarkina Iren (University of Rome Tor Vergata)
“H.G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon”

Herbert Wells is unanimously considered to be the father of the science fiction, who influenced many prominent writers. Olaf Stapledon is definitely among one of the Wells’s most important followers (and friends). Indeed, critics and scholars agree that Olaf Stapledon is one of the most important SF writers since H.G Wells; he often has been referred to as Wells’s heir and as one of the fathers of science fiction. Robert Scholes correctly observes that “if his [Stapledon’s] books could be combined with those of his great contemporary, H.G. Wells, the composite might indeed be said to contain much of the potentiality of the genre [of SF]. And in particular, no writer has left more ideas to posterity than William Olaf Stapledon.” The present paper studies the indebtedness of Olaf Stapledon to Herbert Wells, analyses some similarities of their social and scientific views (evident not only in their works but in their private correspondence as well.) The paper analyses Stapledon’s Last and First Men and some works by Herbert Wells to demonstrate in which way Stapledon was influenced by his older friend and teacher.

David Ketterer (Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool and an Emeritus Professor of English at Concordia University, Montreal)
“John Wyndham’s Second Manifesto: ‘H.G. Wells v S-F'”

This paper draws on the introductory section of Chapter 12 of my completed full-scale critical biography Trouble With Triffids: The Life and Fiction of John Wyndham (“Critical Essays: H.G. Wells Versus Science Fiction”). That introduction distinguishes six periods in the theoretical development of JBH’s (John Beynon Harris’s) critical view of Wells on the one hand and science fiction on the other. Secondly, my paper consists of my discussion of what JBH wrote in response to invitations from The Weekend Telegraph and The News of the World to write pieces related to the 21 September 1966 centenary of Wells’s birth. Thirdly my paper consists of the nine paragraphs of JBH’s resultant 1966 essay “H.G. Wells v S-F” (in essence, a follow up to a 1939 manifesto piece) only some of which appeared in The News of the World’s “Personally Speaking” column.