Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gaiman on Wells

Neil Gaiman has an essay in The Times (London) about the continued relevance of H.G. Wells. He notes Wells' template-making ability (his motifs have been used endlessly), and contrasts the novels with Wells' science-fiction short stories, of which he writes: "They work because they lack, sometimes, plot, often, character. What they have instead is brevity and conviction. The world of the finest of Wells’s short stories is one of possibilities, of breakthrough in science or society or of the unknown which change the world."

Gaiman suggests that we view Wells' science fiction stories "as if they were postcards from an alternate future that is already past," (quite a nice turn of phrase, that), and quotes the author's own view of writing short fiction: "it may be horrible or pathetic or funny or beautiful or profoundly illuminating, having only this essential, that it should take from 15 to 50 minutes to read aloud. All the rest is just whatever invention and imagination and the mood can give – a vision of buttered slides on a busy day or of unprecedented worlds. In that spirit of miscellaneous expectation these stories should be received."

The Times piece is excerpted from Gaiman's introduction to a collection of Wells short stories being published this month, The Country of the Blind and Other Selected Stories (Penguin Classics).