Without an Eye in the Sky

The Island of Doctor Moreau - coverThe Week 6 reading assignments for my online class on Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World were H. G. Wells‘ novels The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man, and the short stories “The Country of the Blind” and “The Star” from his collection The Country of the Blind and Other Stories.

It was a lot of reading, but it was also a treat; in the first five weeks, we had not had anything I think truly belongs in the science fiction category.  Even Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Poe’s more pseudo-scientific tales like “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” do not actually spend more than a short description on anything science-like; more importantly, they do not bring anything from the realm of science as more than trappings in a few scenes, whereas Wells uses its ideas and methods in constructing the structure of the novels.

I also enjoy Wells’ ability to use very different tones and styles from book to book — for example, The Island of Doctor Moreau is adventure and horror, The Invisible Man has a little bit of scariness in it but mostly humour.  In fact, I nominate The Invisible Man as a precursor in the British tradition now exemplified by the long-running Doctor Who, of mixing fear, adventure, and humour.

Here is my 300-word essay — not all that insightful, but sometimes you just have to phone one in.  Continue reading “Without an Eye in the Sky”

Squee: Wells with Platypus

I was looking for scholarly comments on race and colour in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, which is one of my SF/F class reading this week.  I found this thesis by Bill Hutchison, and I found this photo of Wells with a platypus.  And there was much squeeeeeeing.

H.G. Wells with platypus. Australia, 1939.
H.G. Wells with platypus. Australia, 1939.

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.”

General

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.  😦