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H. G. Wells: The Literary Traveller in His Fantastic Short Story Machine

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Halszka Leleń

The book offers a thorough study of the literary tensions and two-world structure of the fantastic short stories by H. G. Wells (1866–1946). It exposes trickster games in the storytelling and pinpoints Wells’s staple methods of artistic composition – the mounting of various literary tensions built upon the body of traditional, dexterously combined genre elements and innovative topoi.
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Chapter 4: Splinters of Scientific Discourse and Aesthetic Vistas from the Laboratory

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Chapter 4:  Splinters of Scientific Discourse and Aesthetic Vistas from the Laboratory

The Topos of Science – Modifying Conventions of the Dream Vision and the Exotic Adventure

At the time of the launch of his career, Wells was in search of opportunities to establish his position as a writer, and he later reflected how he started to engage with the short form that promised large sales: “I became quite dexterous in evolving situations and anecdotes from little possibilities of a scientific or quasi-scientific sort” (qtd. in Coelsch-Foisner 176). The texts with quasi-scientific motivation of the access to the fantastic world, which will be discussed in Chapters Four to Six of this book, combined the motif of science with some devices derived from the travel-fiction genre. This is particularly prominent in “The Time Machine” and “In the Abyss,” where the protagonist undertakes a journey to different and hitherto inaccessible realms of the mimetic world. The transgression of these spatio-temporal borders is only made possible by the development of science, and it leads to some adventures of an epic type. The short stories rework, in fictional terms, the adventures in the setting sketched by Wells in his early scientific essay “Life in the Abyss” (1894). The time when Wells was writing his short fiction was a period of the rapid development of science, and his understanding of science and ability to artistically exploit this field were something which gave an impetus to his career (Ivor...

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