Badly Wrong In The War Of The Worldviews

Back in 2005, John J. Miller looked at the legacy of H.G. Wells that history had — purely coincidentally, I’m sure — had chosen to ignore:

Wells was a pioneer of science fiction more than a generation before Hugo Gernsback coined the term in the 1920s, and he’s often lumped together with another child of the 19th century, Jules Verne. When the two are compared — and Wells hated it when they were, because he held the Frenchman in low regard — Verne usually comes off as a relative lightweight. His fiction tended to focus on the gadgetry of hot-air balloons and submarines. Wells was no slouch on technical details, but he was far more interested in concocting grand theories about life, the universe and everything.

Verne at least got a few things startlingly right: In “From the Earth to the Moon” (1866), he described a rocket launching from the coast of Florida, not far from Cape Canaveral. On the return trip, Verne’s astronauts splash down in the ocean close to the place where the Apollo 11 crew actually did.

Wells, for his part, was often appallingly wrong. “Human history is in essence a history of ideas,” he once wrote. That may be, but Wells flirted with the worst ideas of his time. After interviewing Lenin, Wells called him “creative” and described communism as the best hope for reforming Russia. The man simply never met a collectivist movement that didn’t intrigue him. “There is good in these Fascists,” he said of Italians in 1927. “There is something brave and well-meaning about them.” He despised Catholicism and mocked Jewish traditions as “nonsense.” It was for views such as these that George Orwell delivered a blunt verdict in 1941: “Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany.”

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Earlier thoughts on the totalitarian impulses of Wells, here.

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