Problematic influence: H G Wells

I got reminded about HG Wells today: his birthday was a few days ago. Here are some of the H.G., Wells stories that haunt me from early childhood (from when I used to literally crawl around in front of my parents’ bookshelf and sniff out things to read). Some of these are kind of science fiction, some are kind of fantasy, and some are horror stories. I don’t love them all, but they all stick with me the way that not much else does. These are from this site: it looks like it might be an uploading of part of the big fat anthology I read when I was a kid.

The Crystal Egg this is the story that my journal title “peeking into the rock” refers to. How much I’ve loved this story I cannot even express.

The Door In the Wall Another story fo the same type: mysterious glimpse into another, possibly better, world, eventually consumes a person’s imagination and everything else.

The Flowering of the Strange Orchid When you’ve read this plant-phobic horror story you don’t need to read any of the ones that came after.

The Diamond Maker lone inventor and his troubles

Aepyornis Island Large birds and a castaway orchid hunter

The Magic Shop The literal grandaddy of this kind of story, which I never get tired of. Why haven’t I written more of them myself? The only one I wrote was about a place trhat sold porn. The story wasn’t actually porn itself, though.

The Moth scientific rivalry and madness

A Slip Under the Microscope the most agonizing horror story of a student and the conse quences of an innocent mistake

There’s one at the same site called “A Deal in Ostriches” whose narrator is the coarsest racist (unecessary even for his time, thank you, though since I’ve seen plenty of not-racist and anti-racist and barely-racist material from his time I do not give that “for his time” argument much credit) which combines large birds and diamonds. I’m not sure if the narrator of “A Deal in Ostriches” is supposed to be shockingly horrible in his racism: if he is, I think the point might be lost on much of his readership. Given that there are so very many stories set in “exotic” locations which seem to turn on the superior faculties of the English narrator or the inferior faculties of the indigenous people, I am afraid I can’t excuse Wells. I tended not to remember these like the ones without this device in them, though when I face them now I get a belly-punched feeling that is way too familiar: yes, I noticed the racism as a child, and I recoiled from it. But I must have read the few stories without such content first, because those are the ones I can remember without trying.

Actually, now that I have wasted the morning on this little sentimental journey, I’m thinking that a lot of the terrible writing in the speculative fiction world is people rehashing HG Wells without advancing a step farther than he got, as if they didn’t have HG Wells behind them.

(reposted from livejournal)

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