The Bicycle of Destruction

Don’t you just love HG Wells?

How about this for a start to a book:

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own … With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter… Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us"

Marvellous, isn’t it?

It’s the beginning to The War of the Worlds, of course.  Wells was fairly cheesed off, in the wake of Darwin and his theory of natural selection, with the notion that English Victorian civilisation was the culmination of evolution on Earth.  The English bourgeois were, the idea went, the very point of life on Earth.  Very silly indeed.

So Wells smashes this idea to pieces with his invading Martians. Imperial Britain is on the receiving end of interplanetary social Darwinism.  And Wells’ Martians are agents of the void.

Wells carefully conveys the quality of the void – immenseness, coldness, and indifference – in his rendering of the aliens. The Tripods tower over men physically, as the vast intellects of their occupants tower over human intelligence.  Bodily frail, but mentally intense, the superior technology of the Martian machines are the instruments of human oppression.  Their weapons of heat rays and poison gas are dehumanising devices of mass murder, and all attempts at contact are futile, furthering the idea of the aliens as an unrelenting force of the natural void.

But what I love most about all this is that Wells planned the whole thing on a bike.

Yes, that’s right.  Wells began the invasion on bicycle, mapping mayhem as he peddled, and it is intriguing to picture him planning his narrative as he “wheeled about the district marking down suitable places and people for destruction by my Martians” .  As early as 1896 he declared his intentions to “completely destroy Woking – killing my neighbours in painful and eccentric ways – then proceed via Kingston and Richmond to London, which I sack, selecting South Kensington for feats of particular atrocity”. 

And who can blame him?  Nothing like a bit of cosmic annhilation to wipe that smug look off the faces of the complacent.  It’s this exquisite violence of Wells’ that is so compelling.



2 comments


    Matt

    November 7, 2006

    Seems that some of the most fertile moments of the imagination that have lead to great contributions have historically been during journeys of some kind or another; cycling, on the train, or even simply crossing the road!

    Perhaps it is in these moments of quiet inner peace that we are at our moswt productive. Maybe we should all start carrying dictaphones for those moments of revelation!

    MarkBanerji

    November 7, 2006

    ??????Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving?????? AE
    !http://www.cs.uni-magdeburg.de/~kamran/pages/Einstein/einstein_bike.jpg!

    Was this how Einstein really came up with E=mc^2^ ?

Leave a comment


Name

Email(will not be published)

Website

Your comment

Designed by Forte Web Solutions