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|The Time Machine|
First edition cover
|Author||H. G. Wells|
|Cover artist||Ben Hardy|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|Text||The Time Machine at Wikisource|
|The Time Machine|
First edition cover
|Author||H. G. Wells|
|Cover artist||Ben Hardy|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|Text||The Time Machine at Wikisource|
The Time Machine is a science fiction novella by H. G. Wells, published in 1895. It is generally credited with the popularisation of the concept of time travel by using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively. The term "time machine", coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle. This work is an early example of the Dying Earth subgenre.
The Time Machine has since been adapted into two feature films of the same name, as well as two television versions, and a large number of comic book adaptations. It has also indirectly inspired many more works of fiction in many media.
Wells had considered the notion of time travel before, in an earlier work titled The Chronic Argonauts. This short story was published in his college's newspaper and was the foundation for The Time Machine. Wells frequently stated that he had thought of using some of this material in a series of articles in the Pall Mall Gazette, until the publisher asked him if he could instead write a serial novel on the same theme; Wells readily agreed, and was paid £100 (equal to about £10,000 today) on its publication by Heinemann in 1895. The story was first published in serial form in the January to May numbers of The New Review (newly under the nominal editorship of W. E. Henley). The first book edition (possibly prepared from a different manuscript) was published in New York by Henry Holt and Company on 7 May 1895; an English edition was published by Heinemann on 29 May. These two editions are different textually, and are commonly referred to as the "Holt text" and "Heinemann text" respectively. Nearly all modern reprints reproduce the Heinemann text.
The story reflects Wells's own socialist political views, his view on life and abundance, and the contemporary angst about industrial relations. It is also influenced by Ray Lankester's theories about social degeneration, and share many elements with Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel Vril. Other science fiction works of the period, including the Edward Bellamy novel Looking Backward and the later film Metropolis, dealt with similar themes.
The book's protagonist is an English scientist and gentleman inventor living in Richmond, Surrey, identified by a narrator simply as the Time Traveller. The narrator recounts the Traveller's lecture to his weekly dinner guests that time is simply a fourth dimension, and his demonstration of a tabletop model machine for travelling through it. He reveals that he has built a machine capable of carrying a person, and returns at dinner the following week to recount a remarkable tale, becoming the new narrator.
In the new narrative, the Time Traveller tests his device with a journey that takes him to 802,701 A.D., where he meets the Eloi, a society of small, elegant, childlike adults. They live in small communities within large and futuristic yet slowly deteriorating buildings, doing no work and having a frugivorous diet. His efforts to communicate with them are hampered by their lack of curiosity or discipline, and he speculates that they are a peaceful communist society, the result of humanity conquering nature with technology, and subsequently evolving to adapt to an environment in which strength and intellect are no longer advantageous to survival.
Returning to the site where he arrived, the Time Traveller is shocked to find his time machine missing, and eventually works out that it has been dragged by some unknown party into a nearby structure with heavy doors, locked from the inside, which resembles a Sphinx. Later in the dark, he is approached menacingly by the Morlocks, ape-like troglodytes who live in darkness underground and surface only at night. Within their dwellings he discovers the machinery and industry that makes the above-ground paradise possible. He alters his theory, speculating that the human race has evolved into two species: the leisured classes have become the ineffectual Eloi, and the downtrodden working classes have become the brutish light-fearing Morlocks. Deducing that the Morlocks have taken his time machine, he explores the Morlock tunnels, learning that they feed on the Eloi. His revised analysis is that their relationship is not one of lords and servants but of livestock and ranchers. The Time Traveller theorizes that intelligence is the result of and response to danger; with no real challenges facing the Eloi, they have lost the spirit, intelligence, and physical fitness of humanity at its peak.
Meanwhile, he saves an Eloi named Weena from drowning as none of the other Eloi take any notice of her plight, and they develop an innocently affectionate relationship over the course of several days. He takes Weena with him on an expedition to a distant structure that turns out to be the remains of a museum, where he finds a fresh supply of matches and fashions a crude weapon against Morlocks, whom he fears he must fight to get back his machine. He plans to take Weena back to his own time. Because the long and tiring journey back to Weena's home is too much for them, they stop in the forest, and they are then overcome by Morlocks in the night, and Weena faints. The Traveller escapes only when a small fire he had left behind them to distract the Morlocks catches up to them as a forest fire; Weena is presumably lost in the fire, as are the Morlocks.
The Morlocks use the time machine as bait to ensnare the Traveller, not understanding that he will use it to escape. He travels further ahead to roughly 30 million years from his own time. There he sees some of the last living things on a dying Earth, menacing reddish crab-like creatures slowly wandering the blood-red beaches chasing butterflies in a world covered in simple lichenous vegetation. He continues to make short jumps through time, seeing Earth's rotation gradually cease and the sun grow larger, redder, and dimmer, and the world falling silent and freezing as the last degenerate living things die out.
Overwhelmed, he returns to his laboratory, arriving just three hours after he originally left. Interrupting dinner, he relates his adventures to his disbelieving visitors, producing as evidence two strange flowers Weena had put in his pocket. The original narrator takes over and relates that he returned to the Time Traveller's house the next day, finding him in final preparations for another journey. The Traveller promises to return in half an hour, but three years later, the narrator despairs of ever learning what became of him.
A section from the eleventh chapter of the serial published in New Review (May, 1895) was deleted from the book. It was drafted at the suggestion of Wells's editor, William Ernest Henley, who wanted Wells to "oblige your editor" by lengthening the text with, among other things, an illustration of "the ultimate degeneracy" of humanity. "There was a slight struggle," Wells later recalled, "between the writer and W. E. Henley who wanted, he said, to put a little 'writing' into the tale. But the writer was in reaction from that sort of thing, the Henley interpolations were cut out again, and he had his own way with his text." This portion of the story was published elsewhere as "The Grey Man". The deleted text was also published by Forrest J Ackerman in an issue of the American edition of Perry Rhodan.
The deleted text recounts an incident immediately after the Traveller's escape from the Morlocks. He finds himself in the distant future of an unrecognisable Earth, populated with furry, hopping herbivores. He stuns or kills one with a rock, and upon closer examination realises they are probably the descendants of humans/Eloi/Morlocks. A gigantic, centipede-like arthropod approaches and the Traveller flees into the next day, finding that the creature has apparently eaten the tiny humanoid. The Easton Press edition of the novel restores this deleted segment.
Significant scholarly commentary on The Time Machine began from the early 1960s, initially contained in various broad studies of Wells's early novels (such as Bernard Bergonzi's The Early H.G. Wells: A Study of the Scientific Romances) and studies of utopias/dystopias in science fiction (such as Mark R. Hillegas's The Future as Nightmare: H.G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians). Much important critical and textual work was done in the 1970s, including the tracing of the very complex publication history of the text, its drafts and unpublished fragments. A further resurgence in scholarship came around the time of the novel's centenary in 1995, and a major outcome of this was the 1995 conference and substantial anthology of academic papers, which is collected in print as H.G. Wells’s Perennial Time Machine: Selected Essays from the Centenary Conference, "The Time Machine: Past, Present, and Future" (University of Georgia Press, 2001). This publication then allowed the development of a study guide book (meant for advanced academics at Masters and PhD level), H.G. Wells's The Time Machine: A Reference Guide (Praeger, 2004). The scholarly journal The Wellsian has published around twenty articles on The Time Machine, and the new US academic journal devoted to H.G. Wells, The Undying Fire has published three since its inception in 2002.
Although the Time Traveller's real name is never given in the original novel, other sources have named him.
I held up my hand; I had an inspiration. "No. I will use—if you will permit—Moses." He took a deep pull on his brandy, and gazed at me with genuine anger in his grey eyes. "How do you know about that?" Moses—my hated first name, for which I had been endlessly tormented at school—and which I had kept a secret since leaving home!
This is a reference to H.G. Wells's story "The Chronic Argonauts", the story which grew into The Time Machine, in which the inventor of the Time Machine is named Dr. Moses Nebogipfel; the surname of Wells's first inventor graces another character in Baxter's book (see above).
The CBS radio anthology Escape adapted The Time Machine twice, in 1948 starring Jeff Corey, and again in 1950 starring John Dehner. In both episodes a script adapted by Irving Ravetch was used. The Time Traveller was named Dudley and was accompanied by his sceptical friend Fowler as they travelled to the year 100,080.
In 1994 an audio drama was published on CD by Alien Voices, starring Leonard Nimoy as the Time Traveller (named John) and John de Lancie as David Filby. John de Lancie's children, Owen de Lancie and Keegan de Lancie, played the parts of the Eloi. The drama is approximately two hours long. Interestingly, this version of the story is more faithful to Wells's novella than either the 1960 film or the 2009 film.
In 2000, Alan Young read "The Time Machine" for 7th Voyage productions, Inc.
Robert Glenister starred as the Time Traveller, with William Gaunt as H. G. Wells in a new 100-minute radio dramatisation by Philip Osment, directed by Jeremy Mortimer as part of a BBC Radio Science Fiction season. This was the first adaptation of the novel for British radio. It was first broadcast on 22 February 2009 on BBC Radio 3 and later published as a 2-CD BBC audio book.
The other cast members were:
The adaptation retained the nameless status of the Time Traveller and set it as a true story told to the young Wells by the time traveller, which Wells then re-tells as an older man to the American journalist Martha whilst firewatching on the roof of Broadcasting House during the Blitz. It also retained the deleted ending from the novel as a recorded message sent back to Wells from the future by the traveller using a prototype of his machine, with the traveller escaping the anthropoid creatures to 30 million AD at the end of the universe before disappearing or dying there.
The first visual adaptation of the book was a live teleplay broadcast from Alexandra Palace on 25 January 1949 by the BBC, which starred Russell Napier as the Time Traveller and Mary Donn as Weena. No recording of this live broadcast was made; the only record of the production is the script and a few black and white still photographs. A reading of the script, however, suggests that this teleplay remained fairly faithful to the book.
In 1960, the novel was made into an American science fiction film by the same name (also known promotionally as H.G. Wells's The Time Machine) in which a man in Victorian England constructs a time-travelling machine which he uses to travel to the future. The film starred Rod Taylor, Alan Young and Yvette Mimieux.
The film was produced and directed by George Pal, who also filmed a 1953 version of Wells's The War of the Worlds. The film won an Academy Award for time-lapse photographic effects showing the world changing rapidly. Pal had always intended to make a sequel to his 1960 film. A remake was made in 2002 when Simon Wells (born 1961), great-grandson of H.G. Wells, working with executive producer Arnold Leibovit, directed a film with the same title.
In 1993, Rod Taylor hosted "Time Machine: The Journey Back" reuniting him with Alan Young and Whit Bissell, featuring the only mini-sequel to Mr. Pal's classic film, written by the original screenwriter, David Duncan. In the special were Academy Award Winners, Wah Chang and Gene Warren.
Sunn Classic Pictures produced a television film version of The Time Machine as a part of their "Classics Illustrated" series in 1978. It was a modernization of the Wells' story, making the Time Traveller a 1970's scientist working for a fictional US defence contractor, "the Mega Corporation". Dr. Neil Perry (John Beck), the Time Traveller, is described as one of Mega's most reliable contributors by his senior co-worker Branly (Whit Bissell, an alumnus of the 1960 adaptation). Perry's skill is demonstrated by his rapid reprogramming of an off-course missile, averting a disaster that could destroy Los Angeles. His reputation secures a grant of $20 million for his time machine project. Although nearing completion, the corporation wants Perry to put the project on hold so that he can head a military weapon development project. Perry accelerates work on the time machine, permitting him to test it before being forced to work on the new project.
The 1960 film was remade in 2002, starring Guy Pearce as the Time Traveller, a mechanical engineering professor named Alexander Hartdegen, Mark Addy as his colleague David Filby, Sienna Guillory as Alex's ill-fated fiancée Emma, Phyllida Law as Mrs. Watchit, and Jeremy Irons as the Uber-Morlock. Playing a quick cameo as a shopkeeper was Alan Young, who featured in the 1960 film. (H.G. Wells himself can also be said to have a "cameo" appearance, in the form of a photograph on the wall of Alex's home, near the front door.)
The film was directed by Wells's great-grandson Simon Wells, with an even more revised plot that incorporated the ideas of paradoxes and changing the past. The place is changed from Richmond, Surrey, to downtown New York City, where the Time Traveler moves forward in time to find answers to his questions on 'Practical Application of Time Travel;' first in 2030 New York, to witness an orbital lunar catastrophe in 2037, before moving on to 802,701 for the main plot. He later briefly finds himself in 635,427,810 with toxic clouds and a world laid waste (presumably by the Morlocks) with devastation and Morlock artifacts stretching out to the horizon.
It was met with generally mixed reviews and earned $56 million before VHS/DVD sales. The Time Machine used a design that was very reminiscent of the one in the Pal film, but was much larger and employed polished turned brass construction, along with rotating quartz/glasses reminiscent of the light gathering prismatic lenses common to lighthouses (In Wells's original book, the Time Traveller mentioned his 'scientific papers on optics'). Hartdegen becomes involved with a female Eloi named Mara, played by Samantha Mumba, who essentially takes the place of Weena, from the earlier versions of the story. In this film, the Eloi have, as a tradition, preserved a "stone language" that is identical to English. The Morlocks are much more barbaric and agile, and the Time Traveler has a direct impact on the plot.
In Time After Time, H.G. Wells invents a time machine and shows it to some friends in a manner similar to the first part of the novel. However, he does not know that one of his friends is Jack The Ripper. The Ripper, fleeing police, escapes to the future (1979), but without a key which prevents the machine from returning home. When it does return home, Wells follows him in order to protect the future (which he imagines to be a utopia) from The Ripper.
In season 3 episode 20 "The Last of Eden" the Sliders land on a world very reminiscent of the book "The Time Machine" where there are two distinct species of humanoids, one group lives above ground while the others live below and access to the sub surface is in the "forbidden zone". Shortly after arriving there is an earthquake and Wade is sucked below the surface and when the others try to seek help from the locals to get her out they are informed by a leader of the group that informs them of the laws, "do not dig the earth" and "do not go into the forbidden zone". When Quinn finds a local willing to help, they travel to the sub surface where they find a group of mutated people who were trapped beneath the surface when the "gineers" set up a gimble type device to keep the surface elevated.
The Time Machine was featured in an episode of the PBS children's show Wishbone, entitled "Bark to the Future". Wishbone plays the role of the Time Traveller, where he meets Weena, takes her to an ancient library, and confronts the Morlocks. The parallel story has Wishbone's owner, Joe, relying on a calculator to solve percentage problems rather than his own intellect, recalling the mindset that created the lazy Eloi.
The 2011 Syfy direct to TV film, Morlocks, is extremely loosely based on The Time Machine. In this film, a failed scientist, Dr. James Radnor (David Hewlett), has invented a time portal that goes into the future. There, a race of monsters known as Morlocks have destroyed humanity. There are no Eloi in this film, except that the military time travel project is known as Project E.L.O.I.
Classics Illustrated was the first to adapt The Time Machine into a comic book format, issuing an American edition in July 1956. This adaptation faithfully abridges the original, but adds one additional destination to the Time Traveler's adventure. Before returning home to his own time, the Time Traveler stops the machine three hundred years in the future, or approximately the year 2200 AD. Upon his arrival, he is quickly drugged with a truth serum by a group of men who meet him and is ushered into an interrogation room. They are aware of the existence of time machines, which have long been outlawed. The Time Traveler finds a society that appears to be a technocracy. He learns that in the early 21st century, the world's natural resources had become completely squandered, and the air was poisoned with pollution. A group of four scientists formed the "World Science Governing Board" to save the planet from ecological devastation. Power was handed over to them by all world governments, and they ushered in an era of peace and longevity. Unfortunately, conflict broke out one generation later when the children of the Founding Four tried to seize power instead of holding elections. The world split into two opposing forces, constantly at war. Suddenly, an alarm is sounded in the interrogation room. The opposing army was launching an attack. In the panic, one of the future men tries to steal the time machine, but the Time Traveler is able to hit him over the head with an iron bar he had used to fend off the Morlocks. The Time Traveler then returns to his own time.
The Classics Illustrated version was published in French by Classiques Illustres in Dec 1957, and Classics Illustrated Strato Publications (Australian) in 1957, and Kuvitettuja Klassikkoja (a Finnish edition) in November 1957. There were also Classics Illustrated Greek editions in 1976, Swedish in 1987, German in 1992 and 2001, and a Canadian reprint of the English edition in 2008.
In 1976 Marvel Comics published a new version of The Time Machine, as No.2 in their Marvel Classic Comics series, with art by Alex Niño. From April 1990 Eternity Comics published a three-issue mini-series adaptation of The Time Machine, written by Bill Spangler and illustrated by John Ross - this later appeared as a collected trade-paperback graphic novel in 1991.
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Wells's novella has become one of the cornerstones of science-fiction literature. As a result, it has spawned many offspring. Works expanding on Wells's story include:
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