H. G. Wells Module Week 12: "A Story of the Days to Come" (1897)

* by Mr Andy Sawyer

H. G. Wells, "A Story of the Days to Come"
* First published in 1897.
* "Contemporary" beginning with a picture of the "modern" (Victorian) Mr Morris. Then a description of the "Mwres" of the future. (see Pohl's "Day Million" where there is also a comparison of future humans with individuals.)
* Wind Vane and Waterfall Trust: the suppliers of power are the rulers. See The Shape of Things to Come, where the transport utilities are the potential rulers.
* The "phonograph" results in the decline of reading and writing. Hypnotism said to offer a kind of virtual reality, "playing out a romance" -- "practically an artificial dream". Moving platforms of Regent Street; giant animated advertising pictures.
* Fashions and artifacts have changed. But "Mwres" is still a Victorian paterfamilias, wanting to marry off his daughter to whoever he wants. Women are still "Victorian" women: chaperones. Romance between Elizabeth, with only expectations of money when coming of age, and Denton, with only a small private income.
* Scarlet "cock's comb" cap. Sexuality. The "ingenious little pump" which distends his nether garments to suggest "enormous muscles".
* Fear of the lower classes: marriage might result in poverty and a descent into the lower orders; "For people like Denton and Elizabeth, such a plunge would have seemed more terrible than death."
* Escape to country; idyllic until it rains. The pastoral life is an illusion. Living on borrowed money, they end up, when Elizabeth's inheritance comes through, having spent most of their capital. Denton had not been working. In need of "something to keep them comfortably in the happy middle class, whose way of life was the only one they knew."
* First a few weeks as hat salesman. Then "Labour Company" (Workhouse). Denton becomes accustomed to life as working class. At first, even the language is different.
* "We shall pass": cosmic view.
* Melodrama of Bindon's plan, to get Elizabeth to leave her husband. His illness. (Obliquely described VD?) The doctor's ambitions to refine the race (Eugenics). Bindon's approaching death makes him magnamimous, and E and D are saved.
* Cosmic View: We are in the making. A "condensed novel" -- rewriting a typical melodrama/romance. What is Wells's view of his future world? Approval?
* "Squatting place of the children of Uya" -- reference to "A Story of the Stone Age".

Frederik Pohl, "Day Million"
* First published in Rogue, 1966.
* Narration sets forth "a boy, a girl, and a love story". Similar to "Days to Come" -- also note Wellsian echo in the title "Man of the Year Million").
* But: "none of it is true". What Pohl means by the words of his introduction are very different from those understood by his implied reader.
* Who is the implied reader? Someone who would see a love story as to do with "sublimation of the instinct to rape"; who would recoil at the implication of a story "about a pair of queers"; who is an American male "with your aftershave lotion and your little red car, pushing papers across a desk all day and chasing tail all night".
* In short, a reader of Rogue magazine. Colloquial tone of the narration. "Cripes, man ... 'sweet kid' ... get her in the sack". Science used to explain the hows and whys, but dismissed -- "you don't give a rat's ass for that." (Nevertheless, this is a science fiction story, and the genetic discussion uses technical vocabulary: chromoseomes, cell division, "when the segmenting egg is becoming a free blastocyst". Are there other implied readers?
* Science fiction plays on words. A physical female can be genetically male. Don is "bronze" -- not just in skin colour, but literally. Cybernetic.
* Love is downloading a copy of the loved one.
* Accelerating curve of progress. Dora is a highly evolved human. Evolution "takes hell's own time to get started but when it goes it goes like a bomb." Compare with Denton's speculations about change. We will not actually understand or appreciate the nature of these changes: we can only experience them in this playful, ironic fashion.

Sydney Fowler Wright, "P. N. 40"
* First published 1929 in Eve and Britannia as "P. N. 40 and Love". Published 1932, The New Gods Lead.
* SFW b. 1874 -- seven or so years younger than Wells but worked as an accountant and did not enter literary world until post 1917, when he founded the Empire Poetry League and became editor of Poetry and the Play.
* The Amphibians (1924), Deluge, The Island of Captain Sparrow (both 1928).
* A religious freethinker, vegetarian, non-smoker. Individual freedom and responsibility; hated the bureaucracy and technological social changes of modern life. The motor car and birth control symbolised the technological, anti-natural forces of modern civilisation.
* Brian Stableford, introduction to S. Fowler Wright's Short Stories: "Fowler Wright's shorter scientific romances constitute a savagely vitriolic vision of the future which was unprecedented in the 1930s and still remains almost without parallel today." SFW was "the most determined" of Wells's ideological opponents; progress itself was an idea which was rotten to the core.
* Another romance: boy and girl and love story. First sentence gives us date, and location in an obviously highly-planned future.
* A eugenically planned future. Rebellion against allocation.
* Glamour of air transport.
* Escape to wilderness (Brazil): this time they win.
* Compare with Wells: is the future examined? Are the characters portrayed ironically; is there humour in SFW? Does SFW have an ideal? Wells, whatever his ambivalence towards it, is at home and happy in the urban setting. We don't see the "Brazil" where the characters are fleeing to in SFW, but unlike the Wells, we are directed to think that it is a place of refuge.
* More didactic.
* "For all men die, but few live" ... "to override the storm". What exactly does SFW mean? The triumph of the individual in action over the mass, planned society? Wells: "Whether we die or live, we are in the making". The individual, even discontented, is in some way part of society.

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