Blog Post #1011 March 7th, 2018 Author Spotlight: H.G. Wells


Author Jeff W. Horton


Blog Post #1011

March 7th, 2018

Author Spotlight: H.G. Wells




Author Name:                 H.G. Wells

Birthdate:                          September 21, 1866

Where:                                 Bromley, England

Died:                                      August 13, 1946


First Novel Published:   The Time Machine         1895

Some other novels by Wells:

The Wonderful Visit                                1895

The Island of Doctor Moreau             1896

The Wheels of Chance                            1896

The Invisible Man                                      1897

The War of the Worlds                            1898

When the Sleeper Wakes                        1899


Like Leonardo da Vinci there’s been only one H.G. Wells, a man of great vision, able to accurately predict a number of future events. In 1901 Wells published a non-fiction book entitled Anticipations. Wells foresaw several military conflicts, the coming of globalization, the rise of major cities and the subsequent growth of suburbs. Wells also correctly predicted the splitting of the atom and the creation of the atomic bomb.

Wells was born into a family of modest means. His father was a professional player and ran a small hardware shop. When the shop failed, the mother went to work as a housekeeper while Wells and his brothers were apprenticed to a draper. Wells disliked the trade, however, and left it for a teaching opportunity when he had the chance. This also afforded him the opportunity to also further his own studies, and he won a scholarship to attend college at the Normal School of Science where his studies focused on sciences like physics, astronomy, and the like. It was here that Wells also began to focus on his writing as well. Within a few years Wells published his first novel, The Time Machine, which propelled him to fame and success as a novelist, and he wrote prolifically from then on for most of his life.

I don’t even recall which H.G Wells story I read or watched on television first. In all likelihood I watched a movie based on one of his novels first, and I suspect it was most likely the original War of the Worlds movie made back in the 1950s. As I recall, however, I also read several of his novels as a boy, including Food of the Gods, so it could well have been a book, I just don’t recall. I recall only that I’ve enjoyed his stories for as long as I can remember, and for that I will always be grateful to Mr. Wells.

As so many people worldwide have either read novels by H, G, Wells like The Invisible Man, or the Island of Dr. Moreau, or The Time Machine, or The War of the Worlds, or seen movies based on the novels, or remakes of the movies, or television series based on the novel, or spinoffs, etc. it goes without saying that reviewing any of them would be mostly pointless. What I thought might be more interesting is to recount what happened in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey on Halloween of 1938. It’s possible some of you may not be as familiar with this story.

A Halloween episode of the Mercury Theatre on The Air series aired on Sunday, October 30, 1938, over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds.

“The War of the Worlds is an episode of the American radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on Sunday, October 30, 1938, and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds (1898). It became famous for allegedly causing mass panic, although the scale of the panic is disputed as the program had relatively few listeners.

         The first two-thirds of the one-hour broadcast was presented as a series of simulated news bulletins. The first news update interrupted a program of dance music to report that a series of odd explosions had been spotted on Mars, which was followed soon thereafter by a seemingly unrelated report of an unusual object falling on a farm in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. Martians emerged from the object and attacked using a heat ray during the next interruption, which was followed by a rapid series of news reports describing a devastating alien invasion taking place across the United States and the world. The illusion of realism was furthered because the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a sustaining show without commercial interruptions, and the first break in the program came almost 30 minutes into the broadcast. Popular legend holds that some of the radio audience may have been listening to Edgar Bergen and tuned in to The War of the Worlds during a musical interlude, thereby missing the clear introduction that the show was a drama, but research beginning in the 2010s suggests this only happened in rare instances. 

         In the days following the adaptation, widespread outrage was expressed in the media. The program’s news-bulletin format was described as deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast and calls for regulation by the Federal Communications Commission. The episode secured Welles’ fame as a dramatist.”

         As I read the recounting of the Mercury Theatre broadcast it occurred to me to check the dates and sure enough, H.G. Wells would be alive for another eight years after the radio broadcast aired. As I pondered this I could only imagine what a seventy-two-year-old Wells must have thought when he heard the news, that a radio broadcast based on a science-fiction novel he’d written years earlier about an alien invasion had caused mass-panic in a small town in New Jersey. I wondered whether he’d simply chuckled at the ridiculous American yanks, before pouring himself a nightcap and going to bed.

So, I did some further research and found that Indeed, H.G. Wells did offer some comments on the broadcast and, ironically enough, he did so in a radio interview with Orson Welles, when the two of them were in San Antonio together two years after the broadcast, just before Halloween of 1940.  You can listen to the interview for yourself by clicking on the link below; enjoy!


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