Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Father of Steampunk - HG Wells

HG Wells

Herbert George Wells (HG Wells) was born 21 September 1866 and became famous for writing science fiction – science fiction that a 100 years later have come true. He had a vision, a real vision, and it came across in his writing.

Wells also tackled other genres in his day – contemporary fiction, politics and social commentary. Often, Wells is referred to as one of the fathers of science fiction, but it could be argued he is also one of the founding fathers of steampunk.

What's steampunk? Start with Queen Victoria (1837-1901) add a dash of setting of your choice, pepper in some funky gadgets like datamancers, transmogrifiers, and whuzzies, throw in a pinch of soot, and top it off with a handful of coal. Don't forget your goggles – you've got steampunk.

Wells grew up in Kent, but a broken leg left him bedridden when he was 8, so he turned to books and writing to get him through, cultivating his creative imagination.

His parents' marriage was rocky, but he managed to get a scholarship. Wells admitted growing up very hungry and pictures of him as youth show him very thin.

He earned a B.S. in Zoology in 1890. Though he was married, twice, Wells had several affairs and several children by his mistresses.

Interestingly, his first non-fiction bestseller talked about what life would be like in the year 2000. What did he get right? Trains and cars would help people move out of the city to suburbs, morals in women and men would decline, and a there would be a European Union. What did he miss? No successful aircraft until 1950; and submarines wouldn't work. These thoughts were published in 1901 under the mouthful: "Anticipations of the Reactions of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought."


Interestingly, at the time they were written, Wells' early novels were referred to as scientific romances. What were some of these novels?

The Time Machine
The Island of Doctor Moreau
The Invisible Man
The War of the Worlds
Just to name a few…

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so much, he was a socialist. Knowing that he'd grown up poor and hungry, maybe he thought the government could have helped him out more.


Wells died in August 1946, 79 years old, so he was alive during Orsen Welles infamous broadcast of "The War of The Worlds." At the time of the broadcast, Wells was surprised by the widespread panic it caused.


I remember watching Gene Rodenberry say that Star Trek, with its futuristic setting, allowed him to make commentary on his life and times in such a way that people would actually have to stop and reflect.

I think the same could be said for HG Wells. His science fiction settings allowed us to see futuristic/speculative worlds, and in fact, many of his writings voice social commentary. The Time Machine, for example, has the traveler visiting the Morlocks and the Eloi. (The haves and haves not)

Steampunk demands the same creativity and imagination that Wells displayed in his writing, and he was writing during the time frame a steampunk novel should take place. He was a steampunk contemporary.

Perhaps what's earned him the "father of steampunk" is the depth of his writing, his vision, and his ability to be prolific. It is, however, a title I feel he's earned in light of his life, how he lived, and how his writing has inspired others.

Before I go, let me share one of my favorite HG Wells quotes: If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.



  1. Steph,
    Fascinating blog about HG Wells. Alot I didn't know. Take care and I wish you every success! *Hugs*

  2. Diana, thanks so much for visiting. He lead an incredible life and his imagination resonates with us today.


  3. I loved reading HG Wells. His stories were so ahead of their time. I have just recently begun to read Steampunk--love it.
    I wish you every success, Steph. Victorian Scoundrel looks like a wonderful story.

  4. Great post, Steph - I love H.G Wells and all his wonderful imagination.

  5. Thank you, Steph. This really helps me to get an idea of what steampunk is. What's amazing is I've read many of those books, or seen the stories on TV (or heard it on the radio, as in War of the Worlds...)

  6. I love HG Wells. It's amazing how his work was so far ahead of his time. What an imagination or did he really have a time machine. lol
    I wish you the very best with your Steampunk adventure. I loved the story and can't wait for more!