Star Begotten: A Biological Fantasia

Overview

In his 1898 War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells imagined aliens from Mars descending to Earth with violent intentions. In Star Begotten, first published in 1937, the suspicion arises that the Martians may have returned—this time using cosmic rays to alter human chromosomes. The protagonist Joseph Davis, an author of popular histories, grows fearfully obsessed with rumors of the Martian plan. He considers the possibility that mutation may have already occurred, and that his child, his wife, and even he may already be ...
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Overview

In his 1898 War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells imagined aliens from Mars descending to Earth with violent intentions. In Star Begotten, first published in 1937, the suspicion arises that the Martians may have returned—this time using cosmic rays to alter human chromosomes. The protagonist Joseph Davis, an author of popular histories, grows fearfully obsessed with rumors of the Martian plan. He considers the possibility that mutation may have already occurred, and that his child, his wife, and even he may already be Martians. An ironic and often comic novel, Star Begotten portrays discoveries in evolutionary biology and contemplates the benefits as well as the horrors of mutation. This new annotated edition situates the novel in its literary and historical contexts, explains its place in Wells’s late development, and highlights its importance as a precursor to the dark comedies of delusion by writers like Robert Sheckley and Philip K. Dick.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Mr. Wells is the most persuasive of living writers… He knows that we sigh for a sane world of unlimited possibilities. He catches us on the full wave of our wish… Star Begotten is the most mature of his fantasies.” —V.S. Pritchett, The New Statesman and Nation
Publishers Weekly
edited by John Huntington and first published in 1937, the Martians of The War of the Worlds (1898) may have returned to Earth. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Wells revisits the Martian invasion scenario, this time (1937) not in metal war machines but with cosmic rays turning humans into Martians. Though the story is somewhat comical, Wells always has a serious point disguised in his sf format. Wesleyan offers a scholarly, annotated edition. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819567291
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 9/12/2006
  • Series: Early Classics of Science Fiction
  • Pages: 172
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

H. G. Wells
H.G. WELLS (1866–1946) pioneered the “scientific romance” in such novels as The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and The Invisible Man. JOHN HUNTINGTON is professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the author of books including The Logic of Fantasy: H.G. Wells and Science Fiction.

Biography

Social philosopher, utopian, novelist, and "father" of science fiction and science fantasy, Herbert George Wells was born on September 21, 1866, in Bromley, Kent. His father was a poor businessman, and young Bertie's mother had to work as a lady's maid. Living "below stairs" with his mother at an estate called Uppark, Bertie would sneak into the grand library to read Plato, Swift, and Voltaire, authors who deeply influenced his later works. He shoed literary and artistic talent in his early stories and paintings, but the family had limited means, and when he was fourteen years old, Bertie was sent as an apprentice to a dealer in cloth and dry goods, work he disliked.

He held jobs in other trades before winning a scholarship to study biology at the Normal School of Science in London. The eminent biologist T. H. Huxley, a friend and proponent of Darwin, was his teacher; about him Wells later said, "I believed then he was the greatest man I was ever likely to meet." Under Huxley's influence, Wells learned the science that would inspire many of his creative works and cultivated the skepticism about the likelihood of human progress that would infuse his writing.

Teaching, textbook writing, and journalism occupied Wells until 1895, when he made his literary debut with the now-legendary novel The Time Machine, which was followed before the end of the century by The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, books that established him as a major writer. Fiercely critical of Victorian mores, he published voluminously, in fiction and nonfiction, on the subject of politics and social philosophy. Biological evolution does not ensure moral progress, as Wells would repeat throughout his life, during which he witnessed two world wars and the debasement of science for military and political ends.

In addition to social commentary presented in the guise of science fiction, Wells authored comic novels like Love and Mrs. Lewisham, Kipps, and The History of Mister Polly that are Dickensian in their scope and feeling, and a feminist novel, Ann Veronica. He wrote specific social commentary in The New Machiavelli, an attack on the socialist Fabian Society, which he had joined and then rejected, and literary parody (of Henry James) in Boon. He wrote textbooks of biology, and his massive The Outline of History was a major international bestseller.

By the time Wells reached middle age, he was admired around the world, and he used his fame to promote his utopian vision, warning that the future promised "Knowledge or extinction." He met with such preeminent political figures as Lenin, Roosevelt, and Stalin, and continued to publish, travel, and educate during his final years. Herbert George Wells died in London on August 13, 1946.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The War of the Worlds.

Good To Know

In 1891, Wells married his cousin Isabel. However, he eventually left her for one of his brightest students, Amy Catherine, whom he married in 1895.

Wells was once interviewed on the radio by an extremely nervous Orson Welles. The two are unrelated, of course.

Many of Wells's novels became film adaptations, including The Island of Dr. Moreau, filmed in 1996 by Richard Stanley and John Frankenheimer, and The Time Machine, filmed in 2002 by Wells's great-grandson, Simon Wells.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Herbert George Wells (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 21, 1866
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bromley, Kent, England
    1. Date of Death:
      August 13, 1946
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Note on the Text
The Mind of Mr Joseph Davis is Greatly Troubled
Mr Joseph Davis Learns about Cosmic Rays
Mr Joseph Davis Wrestles with an Incredible Idea
Dr Holdman Stedding is Infected with the Idea
Professor Ernest Keppel takes Up the Idea in his Own Peculiar Fashion
Opening Phases of the Great Eugenic Research
The World Begins to Hear about the Martians
How These Star Begotten People may Presently Get Together
Professor Keppel is Inspired to Foretell the End of Humanity
Mr Joseph Davis tears up a Manuscript
Notes to Introduction
Notes to Star Begotten
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