Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice
Edited By Michael J. Griffin and Tom Moylan
H.G. Wells’s First Utopia: Materiality and Portent
← 162 | 163 → DAN SMITH
Imagine yourself looking out onto a silent landscape of verdant hills and lush vegetation, punctuated by magnificent yet seemingly derelict palaces. After having embarked on a perilous journey and traveling far, perhaps further than anyone before, you have found yourself, as much by accident than design, in this uncharted place. You are effectively alone here, or at least the only one of your kind. This land is disturbingly strange and unfamiliar, its alterity emphasized by the great distance traversed. Yet although different, it still has some kind of vital connection to your point of origin, and forces you to think as much of home as of the scene before you.
This sketch relates to a particular form of narrative contrivance. It fits into the specific tradition of utopian fiction, not so much a loosely defined genre as it is an uncanny and recurring specter. Alternatively, it could be seen as a kind of chronic hunger that nags away from within the history of social reflection. Or maybe this type of persistent fantasy could be seen as a form of that universal peculiarity of human experience and desire – the overstepping of boundaries.1
The inventor of this particular fantasy was H.G. Wells. Consistently engaged in shaping ideas relating to modes of social reform, Wells’s career was animated by the appearance of utopias.2 These both mirrored his idiosyncratic brand of socialism and stepped beyond it as his futuristic ← 163 | 164 → visions took their...
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