sense of wonder

November 4, 2017

alien landscape3

Wells is teaching us to think. Burroughs and his lesser imitators are teaching us not to think. Of course, Burroughs is teaching us to wonder. The sense of wonder is in essence a religious state, blanketing out criticism. Wells was always a critic, even in his most wondrous and romantic tales.

And there, I believe, the two poles of modern fantasy stand defined. At one pole wait Wells and his honorable predecessors such as Swift; at the other, Burroughs and the commercial producers, such as Otis Adelbart Kline, and the weirdies, and horror merchants such as H.P. Lovecraft, and so all the way past Tolkien to today’s non-stop fantasy worlders. Mary Shelley stands somewhere at the equator of this metaphor.

Brian W. Aldiss
Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction

Sanity…?

April 26, 2017

I must confess that I lost faith in the sanity of the world

H.G. Wells
The Island of Dr. Moreau

catastrophe

March 5, 2017

flood

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

H G Wells
The outline of history

social-vat-tim-french

H G Wells was a committed socialist and also a scientist with an active interest in evolution. His literary visions of the future were frequently shaped by both of these concerns. In The Time Machine (1895), Wells’s protagonist travels into the distant future – the year 802,701 – to discover that the human race has evolved into two distinct species, the ‘Eloi’ who live on the surface and the ‘Morlocks’ who live underground. The Time Traveller’s initial observations suggest a utopian society: his first encounter is with the Eloi, who are beautiful but useless, living in plenty and liberated entirely from work. ‘Communism’ is his initial diagnosis, as he observes that the houses and cottages that were familiar features of the Victorian countryside have disappeared to be replaced by ‘palaces’ for communal living.

The pastoral idyll in which the Eloi live resembles in several respects the utopian society depicted by the 19th-century English socialist William Morris in his utopian romance News from Nowhere (1890), where money is abolished, work is pure pleasure, and every member of society lives in plenitude. The palaces also recall the phalanstères proposed by the 19th-century French socialist Charles Fourier: utopian communities of 500-2000 inhabitants would allow for the dissolution of the individual family unit, so that marriage could be abolished and children mutually reared.

However, while at first glance the Eloi seem to inhabit a classless society, when the troglodytic Morlocks come into view – savage brutes who live underground and seem to perform the mindless drudgery necessary to keep society functioning – the Time Traveller awakens to another possibility. Has the social separation between rich and poor become so extreme that the two groups have evolved into separate species?

Class in the time machine
Matthew Taunton

Neanderthal lullaby…

March 11, 2016

disunity

Diary 11th March

CDs scattered over the unmade bed and my guitar resting on the chair in the corner. Last night the house was filled with smooth jazz sounds that faded somewhere beyond midnight into sleep. When I woke, I watched you sleeping. I wondered what you did to that other person I met all those years ago? They had your hands and voice. Your eyes…

They had your feckin’ temper, too!

But where the hell did they go…?

Then I think of all the shit-storms we’ve weathered together. Most things seem to get rubbed smooth by time, by regret – but not us! Remember our so called friends? What they said about us, way back then?

“It can’t last…She’s a bad un…You’ll both be sorry…!”

‘To hell with them,’ we said, in the nicest possible way. And together we were like some noir tableau, eyeball-to-eyeball with our sin, ready to burn down the world…

Remember?
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Throughout his life H G Wells championed the cause of a world government. He projected it in “The Shape of Things to Come” as a world council of scientists, a benevolent dictatorship that abolishes all religion and outlaws war. Earlier, in “Anticipations” Wells predicted the “unification” of English speaking states into “a New Republic dominating the world”, and which ultimately becomes the basis of a new world state. In “The Open Conspiracy” he advocates a “world commonwealth” governed benevolently by a scientific elite. In “The New World Order” Wells outlined his plans for the creation of such a “World Government”.

H G admitted that the establishment of such a government would be difficult. It would have to be carried out piecemeal and over a long period of time. Yet he saw it as the only hope for humankind. A world state would abolish war and want; nationalism would become redundant, a thing of the past; universal education would abolish ignorance. Organised religion would be cast aside, thus ending centuries of religious conflict.

Wells was indeed a prophet – one listened to attentively by large audiences…listened to but then ignored! It is the fate of prophets.

Today we still have national boundaries, international antagonisms occur with depressing regularity. The UN is possibly the nearest we’ve come to a “World Government”, but only as the barest of beginnings. We have the EU, of course. It grows year on year…It has its own currency, the Euro, although not all member states use that…

Many advocates of the “Federated States of Europe” have adopted and adapted ideas originally propounded by Wells. Would World Government end war? There are those who think the EU has prevented wars…certainly one of the foundation stones of the EU was ‘make war unthinkable and materially impossible”.

In 1991 there was war in Slovenia; 1991 to 95 there was the Croatian War of Independence; 1992 to 95 there was the Bosnian war; 1998 to 1999 there was the Kosovo war; 1999 to 2001 there was Insurgency in the Preševo Valley with conflict between Yugoslavia and Albanian insurgents; 2001 there was insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia, an armed conflict between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army and the security forces of the Republic of Macedonia. The EU failed abysmally to react to these conflicts in the Balkans and UN peacekeepers from the Netherlands failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre, “the largest mass murder in Europe since the second world war”.

So has the EU made war materially impossible…?

Britain and France are two of the world’s largest suppliers of military hardware…both countries have engaged in numerous conflicts around the globe in the past decade.

What about want? Has the EU abolished want?

Since 2007 unemployment has consistently risen in those countries that had adopted the Euro. One in five under-25s in the European Union labour force is currently unemployed, with the figures particularly dire in the south. Poor growth, widespread austerity programmes and the winding up of job-creating stimulus measures threaten further unemployment overall.

In Portugal, where the youth unemployment rate stands at 27%, some 40% of 18- to 30-year-olds say they would consider emigrating for employment reasons. In some countries, such as Italy, a constant brain-drain is one more depressing symptom of a stagnant economy. In Ireland, where discouragement among young workers has shot up since 2005, migration has doubled over the same period, with most of the departed aged between 20 and 35.

A report on poverty published (19th Feb 2016) by Caritas Europa states it found disturbing levels of deprivation in the seven EU countries worst hit by the economic crisis: Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain. According to the report, almost half of Bulgarians (48%) and more than 40% of Romanians are currently at risk of poverty.

In fourteen out of the EU’s 28 member states, one in three children are considered to be living in poverty.

The Caritas figures are broadly confirmed by the EU’s official statistical agency, Eurostat, which ascertained that one in four citizens were at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

So, despite the overall wealth of the European Union, poverty is still at a relatively high level and growing. (yet I seem to recall the EU in 2005 made it one of their aims to abolish poverty by 2010?).

Has the EU abolished want…not yet, it hasn’t.

Sunday…

February 14, 2016

Time flows in strange ways on Sundays…

Haruki Murakami

1Q84 

 

melted_clocktime_the time machineTime_time machine_Rod Taylor

Morlocks on the move - The Time Machine

Morlocks on the move – The Time Machine

A fate much worse than death...Randy Morlock!

A fate much worse than death…Randy Morlock!

Tardis

Tardis

wheel

Graham became aware that his eyes were open and regarding some unfamiliar thing.

It was something white, the edge of something, a frame of wood. He moved his head slightly, following the contour of this shape. It went up beyond the top of his eyes. He tried to think where he might be. Did it matter, seeing he was so wretched? The colour of his thoughts was a dark depression. He felt the featureless misery of one who wakes towards the hour of dawn. He had an uncertain sense of whispers and footsteps hastily receding.

H.G. WELLS
THE SLEEPER AWAKES

H.G. Wells, one of the founding fathers of science fiction, novelist, visionary, popular educator – satyr, too, perhaps – believed a world government would cure all mankind’s ills. We know this to be the case because he said it so often. Too often, some might say. He imagined that such a government would be both humanistic and socialistic…and one can imagine Wells, stately as Socrates, an enthusiastic believer in “free love” – his big argument with the Fabian Society leadership, after all, was due to his determined pursuit and practice of “free love” – considering “the English reality…like the piercing light of lanterns swinging and swaying among the branches of dark trees at night”.

Even the most obtuse members of humanity, Wells decided, must see the benefits of a “world government”; in some ill defined way the world would assume the mantle of H.G.’s “English reality”. It would be as near to perfect as was possible. War would end. Hunger would become a thing of the past. There would be no rich, no poor. Mankind would live in harmony with its surroundings. Nationalism would dissipate, and swords be beaten into ploughshares. A land of milk and honey…almost a return to Eden.

I suspect there’s something, some small glitch in the genes of humankind, that leads particular individual’s to lust after power, to desire control and domination of others; after all, each of us in turn knows what’s best for us, don’t we? Wells knew what was best for us, obviously – “World Government”! But not a government of tired, crafty-eyed politicians, no, instead he’d have a Technocracy! A world leadership of scientists! Of course, Wells didn’t “lust after” power, only women, and the creation of a “World Government”.

Busy, as he eventually became, dashing here, dashing there; interviews with Roosevelt one day, Stalin the next; putting heart and soul into his attempts to transform the world, while demonstrating the desperate and urgent need for his world Technocracy. Wells was far from alone in his belief that mankind required a worldwide legislature in order to survive. Stalin thought he might well have a point; Hitler, too, ultimately saw a world dominated by…not scientists, like H.G., but true Aryans, a Germanic elite, the Übermensch, transcending national politics, class, creed, and even human nature itself!

But let’s take a step back to the year 1907 when Wells “saw in his mind’s eye” a future world dominated in the East by China and Japan, with Europe filled with bickering states – an aggressive Germany (what else), Italy, France, Spain and Portugal all armed but reluctant to fight; Russia in the throes of revolution; the USA split in civil strife between State and Federal governments. Germany starts a war, (prophetic, this)“the War in the Air”, and attacks the US…as does China and Japan (but for different reasons). Every country is bombed to destruction. London, Paris, Hamburg and Berlin are all destroyed. The story moves forward, allows us a fleeting glimpse of barbaric humanity trapped in a primitive, feudal society, the result of that terrible war.

Moving forward in “real time” to the 1914 – 18 war, the Great War, as it came to be called (though as far as scale goes, wars do seem to have increased in magnitude since then), H.G. simply couldn’t comprehend the terrible motivation leading humankind to such catastrophe – or rather, he could, but it defied logic. Politicians were the problem, and nationalism, and poverty, and wealth – especially the wealth that grew from armaments (for then as now military hardware comprised a big money spinner for Britain, France, the US, etc).

After that war, the war to end wars (well, nearly, but not quite – did you know Wells coined that phrase for the ministry of propaganda?), Wells saw the continued development of the aeroplane; from string bag to sophisticated weapon of mass destruction; as he’d predicted, civilisation would be threatened by use of such weapons; for the first time civilians and cities would BE the front line. Stanley Baldwin in a speech (“A Fear For The Future”) threateningly declared: “The bomber will always get through”. Military theorists believed a future war would be won entirely in the air. The Italian general Giulio Douhet, published his book “ The Command of the Air”, a seminal work on future air war. Wells didn’t believe a war could be won by bombers, instead he envisaged civilisation shattered by mass air attacks in a war that would have NO winners, only losers.

The solitary answer Wells could see to this approaching Armageddon was to deliver power to the hands of the scientists who in turn would form a World Government. Only then would peace reign supreme; only then would civilisation be safe and able to develop.

Well, inevitably war did come; Hitler, Stalin and Roosevelt in turn dreamed of empire, while that old imperialist, Churchill, looked on and lost an empire; though still no stranger to the world of Realpolitik, increasingly he appeared marginalised in the post war world. Civilisation wasn’t shattered by the bombers. A world Government didn’t come into being. Nor did the world’s problems go away.

And what of Wells, that great mind at the end of its tether? If still alive today, what would he make of our world? Poverty still rife, populations growing out of control, hunger and disease rampant. Science, however, is now accorded the sort of respect reserved for a “world” religion; its practitioners elevated to the status of cardinals in this cabala of scientific witchery; this new shamanism casts the runes of “climate modeling” (for example), its necromancers witch-wiggling at any and every dissenting voice, theirs is the only TRUE scarabee. And on the back of this strange new phenomenon, the politicians, recognised by Wells as one of the major problems in the world, have craftily politicised science and scientists. These new necromancers must dance to the tune of the £ or $ played on the politicians pipe!

And what of world government? Yes, the auguries are good. We may yet see one develop – but it won’t be Wells Technocracy!

No, sadly, I fear, we’ll see the rise of a worldwide mediocracy where unelected and unrepresentative individuals will reign supreme in a world bureaucracy, mind numbing in its unaccountability to anyone, other than its “political” masters, those representatives of massive self-interest in the developed parts of the globe.

This will be the way the world ends, not with a BANG nor a whimper, but with a shit storm of paperwork, regulations, and waste!