The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The Time Machine is a science fiction novella by H. G. Wells, published in 1895. Although Wells is generally credited with the popularisation of the concept of time travel by using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively, The Clock That Went Backward by Edward Page Mitchell was published in 1881 and involves a clock that allows a person to travel backwards in time. The term “time machine”, coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle. This work is an early example of the Dying Earth subgenre.

The Time Machine has since been adapted into two feature films of the same name, as well as two television versions, and a large number of comic book adaptations. It has also indirectly inspired many more works of fiction in many media.

Wells had considered the notion of time travel before, in an earlier work titled The Chronic Argonauts. This short story was published in his college’s newspaper and was the foundation for The Time Machine. Wells frequently stated that he had thought of using some of this material in a series of articles in the Pall Mall Gazette, until the publisher asked him if he could instead write a serial novel on the same theme; Wells readily agreed, and was paid £100 (equal to about £10,000 today) on its publication by Heinemann in 1895. The story was first published in serial form in the January to May numbers of The New Review (newly under the nominal editorship of W. E. Henley). The first book edition (possibly prepared from a different manuscript) was published in New York by Henry Holt and Company on 7 May 1895; an English edition was published by Heinemann on 29 May. These two editions are different textually, and are commonly referred to as the “Holt text” and “Heinemann text” respectively. Nearly all modern reprints reproduce the Heinemann text.

The story reflects Wells’s own socialist political views, his view on life and abundance, and the contemporary angst about industrial relations. It is also influenced by Ray Lankester‘s theories about social degeneration, and share many elements with Edward Bulwer-Lytton‘s novel Vril. Other science fiction works of the period, including the Edward Bellamy novel Looking Backward and the later film Metropolis, dealt with similar themes.

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