ABSTRACT

The strange is menacing because it looms in the future of man. Wells masterfully translates some of man's oldest terrors - the fear of darkness, monstrous beasts, giants and ogres, creepy crawly insects, and Things outside the light of his campfire, outside tamed nature - into an evolutionary perspective that is supposed to be validated by Darwinian biology, evolutionary cosmology, and the fin-de-si~cle sense of a historical epoch ending. Wells, a student of T.H. Huxley, eagerly used alien and powerful biological species as a rod to chastize Victorian man, thus setting up the model for all the Bug-Eyed Monsters of later chauvinistic SF. But the most memorable of those aliens, the octopuslike Martians and the antlike Selenites, are identical to 'The Man of the Year Million' in one of Wells's early articles (alluded to in The War of the Worlds): they are emotionless higher products of evolution judging us as we would judge insects. In the froal analysis, since the aliens are a scary, alternative human future, Wellsian space travel is an optical illusion, a variation on his seminal model of The Time Machine. The function of his interplanetary contacts is quite different from Verne's liberal interest in the mechanics of locomotion within a safely homogeneous space. Wells is interested exclusively in the opposition between the bourgeois reader's expectations and the strange relationships found at the other end: that is why his men do land on the Moon and his Martians on Earth.