Pop Culture Wells

Sketch of H. G. WellsTo go with my online class Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, I started a series of posts listing companion materials in pop culture, preferably ones that are a little forgotten, have not received the attention I think they deserve, or take an unusual angle.  All the better if they are available online, double-plus for free.

These are the ones I propose to accompany H. G. Wells’ novels The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man, and his short stories “The Country of the Blind” and “The Star.”


There is even more pop culture material tracking back to Wells than to last week’s star, Edgar Allan Poe, so I mostly focused on this week’s specific readings.  Still, here are a few resources of general interest:

  • Wells is probably the first to publish a miniatures game with his book Little Wars; he played war games with his son using toy soldiers long before such games were sold in packaged boxes.
    • Little Wars on the Gutenberg Project; also, the audiobook version. This essay and the next gives his account, with photos, of creating worlds of whole-cloth and staging adventures and battles.
    • Floor Games on the Gutenberg Project; also, the audiobook version. The companion book to Little Wars.
  • Lots of scholarly articles on this page from DePauw University.
  • H.G. Wells’ works online on Unz.org.
  • Wells on women, a 1895 article.

"The Island of Doctor Moreau" coverThe Island of Doctor Moreau

  • The book is available in free audio version on LibriVox;
  • The best known movie adaptation is probably the 1996 version, starring Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando, which received bad reviews.  There is also a 1977 version with Burt Lancaster and Michael York.  However, you may be interested in viewing the 1932 Island of Lost Souls, starring Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi, available free on YouTube.
  • Wells on utopias, 1939.

"The Invisible Man" coverThe Invisible Man

  • The book is available in free audio version on LibriVox and YouTube.
  • Griffin (the Invisible Man)’s portrayal as a rather odious fellow was a great deal of fun in Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s graphic novel series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (not the disappointing movie based on the series).  I enjoyed volumes 1 and 2 of the collected issues, though not the subsequent books.

The Country of the Blind

  • Wikipedia links to several MP3 and RealAudio files of readings of the story for radio plays (scroll to the bottom of the page).
  • The 1947 radio play is also available on YouTube (30:27).

The Star

  • BBC Radio played “The Star” as read by Sir Patrick Stewart on its show “Twenty Minutes”, but the file seems to have been pulled.  😦

Learning for the Love of Knowledge

Book pilesI’ve registered for a few free online university classes through Coursera.  Alas, I had to drop some because the workload was not possible for me in January, but right now I am keeping up with Critical Thinking in Global Challenges from Dr. Celine Caquineau and Dr. Mayank Dutia at the University of Edinburgh, and with Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World from Dr. Eric S. Rabkin at the University of Michigan.

I also registered for Property and Liability: An Introduction to Law and Economics from Dr. Richard Adelstein at Wesleyan University, which begins in March.  The first two are about improving thinking and reading habits; the third is to increase my understanding of topics connected to, but not directly part of, my professional work.

The class on Fantasy and Science Fiction requires reading some seminal works and writing short (~300 word) essays to comment on them.  I plan on posting my essays once the grading period for each is over.  The works to read are, by week:

  1. Grimm — Children’s and Household Tales [offbeat resources] [essay]
  2. Carroll — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
    [offbeat resources] [essay]
  3. Stoker — Dracula [offbeat resources] [and more] [essay]
  4. Shelley — Frankenstein [offbeat resources] [essay]
  5. Hawthorne & Poe — Stories and Poems [offbeat resources] [essay]
  6. Wells — The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, “The Country of the Blind,” “The Star” [offbeat resources] [essay]
  7. Burroughs & Gilman — A Princess of Mars & Herland  [offbeat resources] [additional thoughts] [essay]
  8. Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles  [offbeat resources] [essay]
  9. LeGuin — The Left Hand of Darkness  [offbeat resources] [glossary] [essay]
  10. Doctorow — Little Brother  [offbeat resources] [essay]

All of them seem to be available as free ebooks, which I will link to with my essays.  The “grading” actually consists of peer reviews; each student must review four other participants’ essays every week, meaning of course everyone also receives comments from four peers for each essay they submit.

More to Learn: Post-class reading group on Goodreads.

Photo: A stack of books, by austinevan, Creative Commons license Attribution 2.5 Generic.