|Author||H. G. Wells|
|Cover artist||Ben Hardy|
|Publisher||William Heinemann (UK)|
Henry Holt (US)
|Text||The Time Machine at Wikisource|
The Time Machine is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novella by H. G. Wells, published in 1895. The work is generally credited with the popularization of the concept of time travel by using a vehicle or device to travel purposely and selectively forward or backward through time. The term "time machine", coined by Wells, is now almost universally used to refer to such a vehicle or device.
Utilizing a frame story set in then-present Victorian England, Wells' text focuses on a recount of the otherwise anonymous Time Traveller's journey into the far future. A work of future history and speculative evolution, Time Machine is interpreted in modern times as a commentary on the increasing inequality and class divisions of Wells' era, which he projects as giving rise to two separate human species: the fair, childlike Eloi, and the savage, simian Morlocks, distant descendants of the contemporary upper and lower classes respectively. It is believed that Wells' depiction of the Eloi as a race living in plenitude and abandon was inspired by the utopic romance novel News from Nowhere (1890), though Wells' universe in the novel is notably more savage and brutal.
In his 1931 preface to the book, Wells wrote that The Time Machine seemed "a very undergraduate performance to its now mature writer, as he looks over it once more", though he states that "the writer feels no remorse for this youthful effort". However, critics have praised the novella's handling of its thematic concerns, with Marina Warner writing that the book was the most significant contribution to understanding clarify] before Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, with the novel "[conveying] how close he felt to the melancholy seeker after a door that he once opened on to a luminous vision and could never find again".[
The Time Machine has been adapted into two feature films of the same name, as well as two television versions and many comic book adaptations. It has also indirectly inspired many more works of fiction in many media productions.
Wells had considered the notion of time travel before, in a short story titled "The Chronic Argonauts" (1888). This work, published in his college newspaper, 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 £12,000 today) on its publication by Heinemann in 1895, which first published the story in serial form in the January to May editions of The New Review (newly under the nominal editorship of W. E. Henley). Henry Holt and Company published the first book edition (possibly prepared from a different manuscript) on 7 May 1895; Heinemann published an English edition 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 shares many elements with Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel Vril, the Power of the Coming Race (1871). It is also thought that Wells' Eloi race shares many features with the works of other English socialists, most notably William Morris and his work News from Nowhere (1890), in which money is depicted as irrelevant and work is merely undertaken as a form of pleasure. Other science fiction works of the period, including Edward Bellamy's novel Looking Backward: 2000–1887 (1888) and the later film Metropolis (1927), dealt with similar themes. In his later reassessment of the book, published as the 1931 preface to The Time Machine, Wells wrote that the text seemed to him "a very undergraduate performance to its now mature writer, as he looks over it once more", though he also claims that "the writer feels no remorse for this youthful effort". His preface also notes that the text has "lasted as long as the diamond-framed safety bicycle, which came in at about the date of its first publication", and is "assured it will outlive him", attesting to the power of the book.
Based on Wells's personal experiences and childhood, the working class literally spent a lot of their time underground. His own family would spend most of their time in a dark basement kitchen when not being occupied in their father's shop. Later, his own mother would work as a housekeeper in a house with tunnels below, where the staff and servants lived in underground quarters. A medical journal published in 1905 would focus on these living quarters for servants in poorly ventilated dark basements. In his early teens, Wells became a draper's apprentice, having to work in a basement for hours on end.
This work is an early example of the Dying Earth subgenre. The portion of the novella that sees the Time Traveller in a distant future where the sun is huge and red also places The Time Machine within the realm of eschatology; that is, the study of the end times, the end of the world, and the ultimate destiny of humankind.
Holt, Rinehart & Winston re-published the book in 2000, paired with The War of the Worlds, and commissioned Michael Koelsch to illustrate a new cover art.
The book's protagonist is a Victorian English scientist and gentleman inventor living in Richmond, Surrey, identified by a narrator simply as the Time Traveller. Similarly, with but one exception (a man named Filby), none of the dinner guests present are ever identified by name, but rather by profession (for example, "the Psychologist") or physical description (for example, "the Very Young Man").
The narrator recounts the Traveller's lecture to his weekly dinner guests that time is simply a fourth dimension and demonstrates a tabletop model machine for travelling through the fourth dimension. He reveals that he has built a machine capable of carrying a person through time, and he 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. At first he thinks nothing has happened but soon finds out he went five hours into the future. He continues forward and sees his house disappear and turn into a lush garden. The Time Traveller stops in A.D. 802,701, 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, and adhere to a fruit-based diet. His efforts to communicate with them are hampered by their lack of curiosity or discipline. They appear happy and carefree but fear the dark, and particularly moonless nights. Observing them, he finds that they give no response to mysterious nocturnal disappearances, possibly because the thought of it alone frightens them into silence. After exploring the area around the Eloi's residences, the Time Traveller reaches the top of a hill overlooking London. He concludes that the entire planet has become a garden, with little trace of human society or engineering from the hundreds of thousands of years prior, and that communism has at last been achieved.
Returning to the site where he arrived, the Time Traveller is shocked to find his time machine missing and eventually concludes that it has been dragged by some unknown party into a nearby structure with heavy doors, locked from the inside, which resembles a Sphinx. Luckily, he had removed the machine's levers before leaving it (the time machine being unable to travel through time without them). Later in the dark, he is approached menacingly by the Morlocks, ape-like troglodytes who live in darkness underground and surface only at night. Exploring one of many "wells" that lead to the Morlocks' dwellings, he discovers the machinery and industry that makes the above-ground paradise of the Eloi possible. He alters his theory, speculating that the human race has evolved into two species: the favoured aristocracy has become the intellectually degraded Eloi, and their mechanical servants have become the brutal light-fearing Morlocks.
Deducing that the Morlocks have taken his time machine, he explores the Morlock tunnels, learning that due to a lack of any other means of sustenance, they feed on the Eloi. 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 dubbed "The Palace of Green Porcelain", which turns out to be a derelict museum. Here, the Time Traveller finds a fresh supply of matches and fashions a crude weapon against Morlocks, whom he must fight to get his machine back. 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 for the night. They are then overcome by Morlocks in the night, whereby Weena faints. The Traveller escapes when a small fire he had left behind them to distract the Morlocks turns into a forest fire; Weena and the pursuing Morlocks are lost in the fire and the Time Traveller is devastated over his loss.
The Morlocks open the Sphinx and use the time machine as bait to capture the Traveller, not understanding that he will use it to escape. He reattaches the levers before 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 enormous butterflies, in a world covered in simple lichenous vegetation. He continues to make jumps forward 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 goes back to the machine and returns to his own time, arriving at the laboratory just three hours after he originally left. He arrives late to his own dinner party, whereupon, after eating, the Time Traveller relates his adventures to his disbelieving visitors, producing as evidence two strange white flowers Weena had put in his pocket.
The original narrator then takes over and relates that he returned to the Time Traveller's house the next day, finding him preparing for another journey and promising to return in a short time. However, the narrator reveals that he has waited three years before writing and stating the Time Traveller has not returned from his journey.
A section from the thirteenth chapter of the serial published in New Review (May 1895, partway down p. 577 to p. 580, line 29) does not appear in either of the 1895 editions of 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 Final Men" (1940) and "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 in a frost-covered moorland with simple grasses and black bushes, populated with furry, hopping herbivores resembling kangaroos. 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 Dover Press and Easton Press editions of the novella restore 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 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 novella's centenary in 1995, and a major outcome of this was the 1995 conference and substantial anthology of academic papers, which was collected in print as H.G. Wells’s Perennial Time Machine. This publication then allowed the development of a guide-book for academic study at Master's and Ph.D. level: H.G. Wells's The Time Machine: A Reference Guide.
The scholarly journal The Wellsian has published around twenty articles on The Time Machine, and a U.S. academic journal The Undying Fire, devoted to H.G. Wells studies, has published three articles since its inception in 2002.
The name Eloi is the Hebrew plural for Elohim, or lesser gods, in the Old Testament.[dubious ]
Wells's source for the name Morlock is less clear. It may refer to the Canaanite god Moloch associated with child sacrifice. The name Morlock may also be a play on mollocks – what miners might call themselves – or a Scots word for rubbish, or a reference to the Morlacchi community in Dalmatia.
The Time Machine can be read as a symbolic novel. The time machine itself can be viewed as a symbol, and there are several symbols in the narrative, including the Sphinx, flowers, and fire.
The CBS radio anthology Escape adapted The Time Machine twice, in 1948 starring Jeff Corey, and again in 1950 starring Lawrence Dobkin as the traveller. A script adapted by Irving Ravetch was used in both episodes. The Time Traveller was named Dudley and was accompanied by his skeptical friend Fowler as they travelled to the year 100,080.
In 1994, an audio drama was released on cassette and CD by Alien Voices, starring Leonard Nimoy as the Time Traveller (named John in this adaptation) 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 and is more faithful to the story than several of the film adaptations. Some changes are made to reflect modern language and knowledge of science.
In 2000, Alan Young read The Time Machine for 7th Voyage Productions, Inc., in 2016 to celebrate the 120th Anniversary of H.G. Wells's novella.
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 novella 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 US journalist, Martha, whilst firewatching on the roof of Broadcasting House during the Blitz. It also retained the deleted ending from the novella 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.
On 5 September 2017, Big Finish Productions released an adaptation of The Time Machine. This adaptation was written by Marc Platt and starred Ben Miles as the Time Traveller.
Platt explained in an interview that adapting The Time Machine to audio was not much different from writing Doctor Who, and that he could see where some of the roots of early Doctor Who came from.
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.
Main article: The Time Machine (1960 film)
In 1960, the novella was made into a US science fiction film, also known promotionally as H.G. Wells's The Time Machine. 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.
In 1993, Rod Taylor hosted Time Machine: The Journey Back reuniting him with Alan Young and Whit Bissell, featuring the only sequel to Mr. Pal's classic film, written by the original screenwriter, David Duncan. In the special were Academy Award-winners special effect artists Wah Chang and Gene Warren.
Main article: The Time Machine (1978 film)
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's story, making the Time Traveller a 1970s 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.
Main article: The Time Machine (2002 film)
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 Traveller 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 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 glass reminiscent of the Fresnel 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 Traveller has a direct impact on the plot.
Main article: Time After Time (1979 film)
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 novella. 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 remaining in the future. 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 turn, the film inspired a 2017 TV series of the same name.
Classics Illustrated was the first to adapt The Time Machine into a comic book format, issuing an American edition in July 1956.
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 #2 in their Marvel Classics Comics series, with art by Alex Niño. (This adaptation was originally published in 1973 by Pendulum Press as part of their Pendulum Now Age Classics series; it was colorized and reprinted by Marvel in 1976.)
In 1977, Polish painter Waldemar Andrzejewski adapted the novel as a 22-page comic book, written in Polish by Antoni Wolski.
From April 1990, Eternity Comics published a three-issue miniseries adaptation of The Time Machine, written by Bill Spangler and illustrated by John Ross — this was collected as a trade paperback graphic novel in 1991.
In 2018, US imprint Insight Comics published an adaptation of the novel, as part of their "H. G. Wells" series of comic books.