Different Engines

Listen; writing a book is a fascinating business.

As you may know, God and I are busy doing just that for the MacMillan Science list; the book’s called Different Engines: How Science Drives Fiction and Fiction Drives Science.

So I’ve been very busy the last couple of months writing my current chapter on the science fiction of the C19th, focussing particularly on Shelley, Verne and Wells, but also looking at Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race, and Samuel Butler’s Erewhon.

As with all histories, of course, you can’t cover everything.  Between 1870 and 1900 alone over 70 futuristic fantasies were written.  Of those, the likes of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwards and William MorrisNews From Nowhere are notable, though they are more concerned perhaps with socialist utopia than science, and for that reason they’ve not made my cut.

I recently began to search for compelling images to go in the chapter and came across some beautiful and very evocative illustrations for Wells’ War of the Worlds.

These illustrations are by the artist Alvim Corrêa, and his own story is also very much worth the telling.

Alvim Corrêa was born in 1876 into a wealthy family in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But in 1892 Corrêa and his family, were considered monarchists by the new Brazilian republic, and exiled to Lisbon.

After reading the Davray (French) edition of War of the Worlds, in 1903 Corrêa travelled to London to meet HG Wells and show him some conceptual sketches and illustrations he had produced.  His vision so impressed Wells that the author befriended Corrêa and chose him to illustrate the 1906 deluxe edition of War of the Worlds that would be printed by L. Vandamme, a leading Belgian publisher.

When the L. Vandamme Edition was published there were only 500 signed copies. The last drawing in the book, highlighted by the word ‘Fin’, depicts a seated HG Wells and a standing Alvim Corrêa. Of the artist, Wells declared, "A. Corrêa contributed more to this work with his brush than I did with my pen."

The Collection of 31 original drawings, a postcard from HG Wells to Alvim Corrêa, and a promotional poster are still extant, and some of the Collection is currently on loan to our old friends at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle.

Many thanks to Stefan Gefter, also of Seattle, for a fascinating chat on the phone last night, for the bio on Alvim Corrêa, and for permission to use the illustration in the chapter!

If anyone is interested in further details on Alvim Corrêa you can contact Stefan Gefter at sgefter@aseptico.com

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