Reshaping H.G. Wells. (Letters to the Editor)

The New American, September 9, 2002 | Go to article overview

Reshaping H.G. Wells. (Letters to the Editor)


Regarding your August 12th issue, in his article "Shaping Things to Come," William Norman Grigg attempted one of the most incomprehensible revisions of H.G. Wells I've seen in some time. To call the piece misleading is to be kind. He has deliberately taken aim at a man who admired and loved the U.S. for its love of freedom and liberty, its institutions, and its diversity. I find it appropriate however that his only biographical reference of Wells was to Michael Coren, author of 1993's meandering piece, The Invisible Man: the Life and Liberties of H.G. Wells.

Completely disregarding the truth about Wells in his fervor to warn us against the dangers of what he perceives as ideological/conspiratorial science fiction, Mr. Grigg made several egregious errors and omissions in his historiography of Mr. Wells. Despite citing the dates 1890-1920 to predicate Wells' zenith of influence, he mentions only The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon, Food of the Gods, and The Island of Dr. Moreau. The problem with this is that this selection covers only 1895-1904, less than 10 years of Wells' writing career, and at that, only his very first works. What of his social novels and historical texts that helped make his a household name? Does Mr. Grigg know any of those by name?

Is Mr. Grigg aware that The Time Machine and The First Men in the Moon are actually prime examples of dystopian novels, and not the utopian propaganda he imagines them to be? Does he imagine Wells meant us to be awestruck with the Selenite utopia in the Moon so as to work for its immediate creation on Earth?

Contrary to Grigg's belief, at no time was H.G. Wells a Marxist--let alone a "devoted Marxist"; in fact, Wells was outspoken in his lifelong opposition to Marxism. Mr. Grigg trumpeted Wells' joining the Fabian Society to further this tenuous link to Marxism, yet conveniently failed to point out that Wells had resigned from the society by 1908 after a failed coup against the Fabian "old guard" of the Webbs and George Bernard Shaw.

And in another thinly veiled attempt to hijack the history of Mr. Wells to fit his own agenda, he quotes only specific pieces Coren mentioned in his own slanted and incomplete study of Wells. If Wells was truly the evil totalitarian and Social Darwinian elitist Grigg makes him out to be, how is it possible that Wells wrote in Socialism and Freedom (from Christian Commonwealth, December 8, 1909), "Socialism without a tradition of personal freedom, without free literature whose freedom is jealously preserved, without artists, thinkers, speakers and writing, free from official domination may easily, because of the very completeness of its organizations, become the ugliest and most stagnant tyranny the world has ever seen.... There is an ungainly, self-righteous, almost conscientiously dishonest side to modem socialism of which Jam afraid."

Mr. Grigg has done your readers a terrible disservice.

CHARLES KELLER

Director, The H. …

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