Taking Notes: "Time Machine Cuba" (2006) by William Gibson

William Gibson 在童年的某個時節發現歷史,也在同一個時節發現了科幻── H. G. Wells 的 The Time Machine。這兩者之間有何關聯?抑或有著相同的本質?

原文刊載於 The Infinite Matrix 網站:


paragraph 8:
What I wanted was to attain the world of The Time Machine, the Morlocks' garden. Wells's Victorian future nightmare had become a favorite fantasyland, for me. Because it existed so far up the timeline as to be beyond history, and history, once acknowledged, had quickly become a sort of nightmare, one from which there seemed to be no escape.
paragraph 10:
I had become an involuntary sponge for modern history, after my discoveries of World War II and science fiction. Much of the science fiction I was reading, American fiction of the nineteen-forties and fifties, had already become history of a sort, requiring an acquired filter for anachronism. I studied the patent Future History timeline Robert Heinlein appended to each of his novels and noted where it began to digress from history as I was coming to know it. I filtered indigestible bits of anachronistic gristle out of this older science fiction, reverse-engineering a model of the real past through a growing understanding of what these authors had gotten wrong.
paragraph 14:
Freed by Wells and his literary descendants to roam, in my imagination, up and down the timeline, I had stumbled upon World War III, and the end of civilization.
paragraph 15:
Wells had discovered the end of civilization long before me. It must have seemed that it kept coming back throughout his life to oppress him, the vision of cataclysm and systemic collapse, fuelled by some basic immaturity of the species — to bring an end, at least temporarily, to modern history and technological progress. He must have expected it constantly, through World Wars I and II. He would have been terribly aware of it looming again, in the years immediately before his death, with the military use of atomic energy an established fact.
paragraph 18:
The appeal of The Time Machine for me, then, become one purely of escape. I longed for Wells's ellipsis, the long blur forward, "night follow(ing) day like the flapping of a black wing." I longed to find myself on the far side of whatever terrible, inevitable history was about to happen. ......
paragraph 19:
I didn't understand that Wells himself had written a more thorough end to humanity, in The Time Machine, than any I imagined descending on America as I knew it. The perversely enjoyable melancholy that pervades the garden of the Eloi emanates not from the hidden underworld of the Morlocks, nor from their grisly symbiosis with their former masters, but from the exquisite and utterly deliberate job of world-wrecking Wells has performed for us. Writers before and after Wells have enjoyed the heady pleasures of reducing the great monuments of their day to imaginary ruin, but few have attained the degree of symbolic elegance, nor the convincingly forlorn realism, of the Palace of Green Porcelain.
paragraph 20:
Here, in what once was Kensington, site of Wells's scientific education and all of his early hope, everything Victorian civilization valued has long been ended, ruined not by war but by a devolution of the human species — brought about by the failure to recognize the eventual outcome of a disastrous course of affairs. If Wells rejected socialism as a panacea, he also saw its diametric opposite as an inevitable road to ruin: "Ages ago, thousands of generations ago, man had thrust his brother man out of the ease and sunshine. And now that brother was coming back — changed!"
paragraph 26:
In his preface to the 1921 edition of The War in the Air, Wells wrote of World War I (still able to call it, then, the Great War): "The great catastrophe marched upon us in daylight. But everybody thought that somebody else would stop it before it really arrived. Behind that great catastrophe march others today." In his preface to the 1941 edition, he could only add: "Again I ask the reader to note the warnings I gave in that year, twenty years ago. Is there anything to add to that preface now? Nothing except my epitaph. That, when the time comes, will manifestly have to be: 'I told you so. You damned fools.' (The italics are mine.)"
paragraph 27:
The italics are indeed his: the terminally exasperated visionary, the technologically fluent Victorian who has watched the 20th Century arrive, with all of its astonishing baggage of change, and who has come to trust in the minds of the sort of men who ran British Rail. They are the italics of the perpetually impatient and somehow perpetually unworldly futurist, seeing his model going terminally wrong in the hands of the less clever, the less evolved. And they are with us today, those italics, though I've long since learned to run shy of science fiction that employs them.

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