H. G. Wells's The Time Machine and the “Odd Consequence” of Progress
The Time Machine of H. G. Wells stands as one of the foundational works of science fiction. It is a true product of its time, a reflection of the fast pace of technological development and social change that makes a romance of the ideology of advancement for its own sake. But between the lines of its “adventure” plot, we find evidence of another, more complex story being told. Wells's work is plagued by ambivalence about the outcome of social and scientific progress—the selfsame progress that gave birth to the time machine in the first place. The Time Machine, in short, is preoccupied by an anxiety about a catastrophe just around the corner, not one born of global war or political turmoil but rather of the absence of turmoil, of need, of struggle. The idea and possibility of fiction itself becomes entangled in this problem of the everyday catastrophe, as it nearly suffocates under the conditions of the utopian society which it creates.
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