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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 5: The Topos of Science – The Fantastic Transposition of Social Fiction

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Chapter 5:  The Topos of Science – The Fantastic Transposition of Social Fiction

The Character Sketch Re-Contextualized by Scientific Motivation

Wells’s fantastic short stories with a quasi-scientific motivation of the fantastic confrontation invariably transform the precepts of social fiction through transposition of fictional reality by means of other conventions. “The Time Machine” is taken as part of the late Victorian “impulse to reconfigure social realities in dream geographies” (Warner xvii). One of the main genre areas of such influence is that of the character sketch, the convention so much used also in Wells’s mimetic and antimimetic short stories and discussed partly in Chapter Two of this book. (I discuss the detailed aspects of the application of this genre convention in the short story “The Crystal Egg” in my essay “Character Sketch and its Fantastic Transformations”.) The fantastic short stories can also be featured with the tensional disproportion between the downgraded character format, reinforced by the subplots of domestic affairs and concerns, and the grand scale of the little man’s vision. This Wells’s method of composition is attained by the novel application of quasi-scientific motifs. This is noticed by Orwell when he comments upon the Wellsian character type and his fate:

The ultimate subject-matter of H. G. Wells’s short stories is, first of all, scientific discovery, and beyond that the petty snobberies and tragicomedies of contemporary English life, especially lower-middle-class life […] The alternation between ambitious Utopian themes and light comedy, almost in...

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