Friday, January 11, 2013

Steampunk Classics: The Time Machine by HG Wells

Though it's enjoyed an enormous rise in popularity within the last few years, Steampunk is not a new genre by any means. Writers have been utilizing what we classify as Steampunk elements since before the genre was given a name, and one of my personal favorites is HG Wells. Not all of his works would qualify as steampunk, but his novella The Time Machine most definitely gives us some fantastic futuristic technology.

First published in 1895, when steampunk was just a twinkle in the eye of science fiction, Wells' novella takes a look at the perils of time travel by following the Time Traveler as he uses his machine to journey into the future. He goes, expecting to find something similar to the life he left, but he discovers that humanity has split into two groups--the mild-mannered Eloi who live on the surface, and the dangerous Morlocks who occupy the underground. (And yes, those Morlocks were the inspiration for the Morlocks of the X-Men universe.) After he saves a young Eloi girl from drowning, the Time Traveler becomes noticed by the Morlocks, and not in a good way. They stalk him and try to kill him for his time machine. You'll have to read the book if you want to know the rest ;)

The Time Machine presents a few of what have become basic steampunk tropes--time travel, scientific discovery, technology ahead of its time, explorers, and alternate history. While not pure steampunk, Wells' novella acts as part of a foundation for the subgenre and has spawned multiple sequels and homages that are as well as different movie adaptations that utilize steampunk aspects including Morlock Night by KW Jeter, first published in 1979, a steampunk fantasy novel in which the Morlocks, having studied the Traveller's machine, duplicate it and invade Victorian London, and most recently, The Time Traveler's Tale: Chronicle of a Morlock Captivity by Paul Schullery, in which the Time Traveler returns to the future many years later to mobilize the Eloi against the Morlocks.

Fun fact: The term "Time Machine," which was coined by Wells, is used to denote any such vehicle.

Pop Culture Fact
: On an episode of "The Big Bang Theory" Leonard accidentally buys a full-sized replica of the Time Machine used in the 1960 film for $800.

In the future (bahahahahaha) we'll take a look at other classics that have helped to develop one of the subgenres we love so dearly.

The Time Machine is available EVERYWHERE. If you need help looking, check out:

Barnes & Noble


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