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21 September 2016
It is 150 years ago, today, that the founding father of British Science Fiction was born, in Bromley in Kent. His father was a shopkeeper and professional cricketer and his mother a former domestic servant. After working as a draper’s apprentice and pupil-teacher, Wells won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in 1884, studying biology under Thomas Huxley. He was awarded a first-class honours degree in biology and resumed teaching but had to retire owing to ill-health.
His first published work was a biology text book in 1893, but two years later he published the work that would make his name, The Time Machine. And the rest, as they say, is history . . .
It is simply impossible to overstate Wells’s importance to the SF field. To quote The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Wells was:
the most important of all nineteenth-century sf writers in English, both in the UK and in America, where his early sf was also widely published from 1895 on. His sf was also important later in the evolution of Genre SF in America, through the purchase in the 1920s of several of these early novels and tales by Hugo Gernsback for republication in Amazing and elsewhere. Throughout his UK career, until at least 1940, he remained central to the evolution of the Scientific Romance, his influence on J D Beresford, S Fowler Wright, Olaf Stapledon, Arthur C Clarke and later authors being unmistakable.
Happy 150th birthday, Mr Wells!