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post #59 of Old 01-22-2013
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Re: Great Literary Quotes

H. G. Wells is adept at painting word pictures in his readers' heads. Yet his writing is plain and straightforward, making it accessible to those with minimal vocabulary and mediocre reading skills. Here's the Wells quote I promised, along with a little of my own expository writing. Visualize what he describes.

The very British Herbert George Wells (1866 1946) wrote and published The Time Machine in 1895 when he was not yet even 30. It was his first novel and his first science fiction book. With it he began the creation of many of the themes of modern science fiction. He went on to publish The Island of Doctor Moreau in 1896, The Invisible Man in 1897, The War of the Worlds in 1898, both When the Sleeper Wakes and Tales of Space and Time in 1899, The First Men in the Moon in 1901, and The Food of the Gods in 1904.

Interestingly, Wells did not think of himself as a science fiction author. He considered himself a sociologist, journalist, novelist, and historian. His purpose in writing all his published works was social commentary. He was a prolific writer and published regularly throughout his life. Only this early handful of his many works are science fiction. Like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Wells' science fiction is always a ripping good story when taken literally but works even better when not, for within them he challenged the thinking of his day and society's views of itself. His contemporaries undoubtedly found his books hard to put down and his views hard to accept.
The thing the Time Traveller held in his hand was a glittering metallic framework, scarcely larger than a small clock, and very delicately made. There was ivory in it, and some transparent crystalline substance. And now I must be explicit, for this that follows -- unless his explanation is to be accepted -- is an absolutely unaccountable thing. He took one of the small octagonal tables that were scattered about the room, and set it in front of the fire, with two legs on the hearthrug. On this table he placed the mechanism. Then he drew up a chair, and sat down. The only other object on the table was a small shaded lamp, the bright light of which fell upon the model. There were also perhaps a dozen candles about, two in brass candlesticks upon the mantel and several in sconces, so that the room was brilliantly illuminated. I sat in a low arm-chair nearest the fire, and I drew this forward so as to be almost between the Time Traveller and the fireplace. Filby sat behind him, looking over his shoulder. The Medical Man and the Provincial Mayor watched him in profile from the right, the Psychologist from the left. The Very Young Man stood behind the Psychologist. We were all on the alert. It appears incredible to me that any kind of trick, however subtly conceived and however adroitly done, could have been played upon us under these conditions.

The Time Traveller looked at us, and then at the mechanism.

'Well?' said the Psychologist.

'This little affair,' said the Time Traveller, resting his elbows upon the table and pressing his hands together above the apparatus, 'is only a model. It is my plan for a machine to travel through time. You will notice that it looks singularly askew, and that there is an odd twinkling appearance about this bar, as though it was in some way unreal.' He pointed to the part with his finger. 'Also, here is one little white lever, and here is another.'

The Medical Man got up out of his chair and peered into the thing. 'It's beautifully made,' he said.

'It took two years to make,' retorted the Time Traveller. Then, when we had all imitated the action of the Medical Man, he said: 'Now I want you clearly to understand that this lever, being pressed over, sends the machine gliding into the future, and this other reverses the motion. This saddle represents the seat of a time traveller. Presently I am going to press the lever, and off the machine will go. It will vanish, pass into future Time, and disappear. Have a good look at the thing. Look at the table too, and satisfy yourselves there is no trickery. I don't want to waste this model, and then be told I'm a quack.'
Now, make sure you got your mental picture right. London houses of the period had not yet been electrified. All lighting was done with gas lights on the walls and candles in sconces, candelabra, and lamps. With that in mind, do you still think of the room as brilliantly lighted? How did you visualize the time machine model? It's description is purposely a little vague. Like he did with the people, the author encourages us to project our desires onto the model. If your mental image of the room, people, and objects changed when you read this paragraph, go back and reread the passage, paying careful attention, and work at building the picture in your mind.

T. P. Donnelly
S/V Tranquility Base
1984 Islander 30 Bahama
Pasadena, MD
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