- Aldiss, Brian W. “The Origin of the Species: Mary Shelley.” Billion Year Spree; the True History of Science Fiction. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973. 7-39. Print.
Aldiss argues that science fiction is “the search for a definition of man and his status in the universe which will stand in our advanced but confused state of knowledge (science), and is characteristically cast in the Gothic or post-Gothic mould.” (8). SF began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Though Frankenstein preceded The Origin of Species and its paradigm, it was affected by the ruffling’s of Erasmus Darwin’s Zoonomia. Viktor cannot look upon his creation with delight because he has made only a reflection of his inner, uncanny self. Aldiss argues this is science fiction because of its innate estrangement of vanity, the grotesque desire of the human as an imperfectly evolved species attempting to create the perfect species. Viktor tries to evade death and thereon misses the clearest message of Erasmus’ early writings on a theory of evolution. Mary, according to Aldiss, is making a premonition to this coming time of estrangement in society, when we will look with dread at nothing after death. She looks to the future and thinks how we might respond to it.
- Aldiss, Brian W. “The Man Who Could Work Miracles: H.G. Wells.” Billion Year Spree; the True History of Science Fiction. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973. 113-133. Print
Following with his definition of science fiction, Aldiss argues that Wells’ monsters are not different species from humanity; they are not horror, but “terror” (119). Like the terror evoked in Frankenstein of the “monster,” Wells’ creations are externalized representations of the plausible capacity of humans to do evil. They are in the same grim mirror as Frankenstein is in the Gothic. Aldiss argues The War of the Worlds is science fiction: we are in the present; deductions are made and verified with plausible and mild extrapolations of modern scientific understandings; and society is criticized in the form of how humanity is defined in character and status in the cosmos. Where Aldiss appears negligent is in his insistence that monsters (or non-humans) are solely representations of ourselves. This may be. The Martians may have come from the same seed of life as life on Earth, but they are nonetheless driven by the same “vast pitiless mechanism” as Wells remarks at the close of The Island of Dr. Moreau. What makes The War of the Worlds terrifying is not solely that the Martians are imperialism manifest, but that there are things out there which can conquer us, and we are not prepared, for we quarrel amongst ourselves over dominion, as they may quarrel over ours. It is, unlike Frankenstein, a story of similarities rather than contrasts.
- Brake, Mark, and Neil Hook. “Aliens and Time in the Machine Age.” International Journal of Astrobiology 5.04 (2006): 277-86. Web.
Brake et al. argue science is naturally estrangement. And such, science fiction is the application of estrangement and science to form narrative. They argue that Lytton’s utopia in The Coming Race is unsettling to the narrator because the Vril-ya are no longer human; the Vril-ya have attained a civilization void of corruption and competition through the direct and prolonged application of science. Because the narrator is not of the same species, he has different desires, and those desires regress back upon him and drag him back to the surface. On Wells, Brake et al. follow close to Wells’ own argument in The Man from the Year Million that the interest of humanity should not be what we are or where we’ve been; rather, we should look to where we’re going. The Victorian terror was that science had shown humanity their proposed fate, and humanity went mad. In response, humanity attempted to dominate over nature. In The Time Machine, humanity gained control over all fauna and flora except themselves, splitting into two species, the decadent as prey and the laborious as predator. In The War of the Worlds, Wells, again, projects the inhumanity of the alien on humanity itself.
- Lane, Christopher. “Bulwer’s Misanthropes and the Limits of Victorian Sympathy.” Victorian Studies 44.4 (2002): 597-624. Web.
There was a pervading lack of sympathy among many members of Victorian society. This lack of sympathy was a product of competition and capitalism. Bulwer-Lytton began writing because he believed stories would resuscitate emotion in the people of his times. By the time he writes The Coming Race, Bulwer-Lytton has rebelled against his youth and praises aggression as a social motivator. Lane argues that Tish rejects the peaceful Vril-ya because Tish thrives on the misery-inducing competition of Victorian misanthropy. Tish cannot tolerate the Vril-ya tranquility because of its similarities with the static ennui of death, the absence of action. So, Tish returns to conquer his dread. Yet, his return is not without revelation: the Vril-ya, according to Lane, will conquer us with sympathy, instead of imperialist necessity.
While Lane makes sound arguments, the contours of Vril-ya society are tranquil, but the Vril-ya people are not. Their constitution is flawed and riddled with conquer: they keep the vril-less “savages” at bay in the dark and routinely squander them. They are methodical and misanthropic.
- Mazlish, Bruce. “A Triptych: Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, Rider Haggard’s She, and Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 35.04 (1993): 726-45.
The Vril-ya are an advanced civilization with a power to destroy our own, yet they bore Tish and lack greatness in his eye. The Vril-ya mock and satirize Darwin by remarking on the preposterous notion that they descended from frogs. According to Mazlish, Bulwer-Lytton’s fear in The Coming Race is the preservation of the less fit, awaiting coming domination. The solution for Bulwer-Lytton is the proliferation of the Englishmen and empire, which Mazlish argues possess the unrestrainable passions of the eternal feminine. Arising from the erotic passions of man crawls the beast with the hunger for conquer.
Mazlish suggests Victorian society feared being overrun by lesser peoples. In effect, they justified conquer of those deemed lesser. However, The Coming Race speaks differently and suggests the greater fear is being surmounted by a greater species.
- Worth, Aaron. “Imperial Transmissions: H. G. Wells, 1897–1901.” Victorian Studies 53.1 (2010): 65-89.
Worth argues that the Martians fill in for the British colonial power in The War of the Worlds by turning Britain into a space of colonization. The Martian technologies of communication, transport, and perceptive technologies have developed into weapons: their transport is called a gun which shoots “missile” pods; their sun-telegraph-like signaling device is now a deadly heat ray; and their bodies have become colonial centers of methodical minds. They have become their technology. The consistent focus on expansionist (spatial) technology leads to the Martians decline. In the Time Machine, Worth argues that duration is also a form of temporal expansion. With time, we genetically expand, and only time can show us that. To expand temporally is to adapt. It is vital to permanence to perceive both spatially and temporally where a civilization is going.
- Huxley, Thomas H. “The Struggle for Existence in Human Society” Ed. Nicholas Ruddick. The Time Machine. Ontario: Broadview Literary Texts, 2001. 161-62. Print.
Huxley argues several points which clarify the evolutionary trajectory of humanity and non-humans in Victorian SF texts. He reminds us that evolution has no set trajectory and any change in a species over time, be it a regression or degeneration of old traits or a proliferation of new traits, such a change was necessary for the species survival. Evolution can be seen as an anthropomorphism of the human intellect. In that, evolution is methodical logic. This text is vital because it emphasizes evolutions pure existence as a mechanism of survival. The text compares with Wells depiction of the Martians as the cool, methodical, unsympathetic creatures, reminiscent of the vast pitiless mechanism of evolution and empire.
- Nordau, Max. “Degeneration.” Ed. Nicholas Ruddick. The Time Machine. Ontario: Broadview Literary Texts, 2001. 210-11. Print.
Nordau argues fin-de-siècle is the emancipation from traditional discipline. In all cases, Nordau argues that fin-de-siècle is the end of a long-standing order, a decimation. For the Victorians, this can be seen as the demise of the societal structure of religion. Traditions which lasted millennia had deconstructed, and the people were left with nothing to fill in the gap. The Victorians give way to fin-de-siècle and impose imperialism on the world to try and rebuild a structure. Victorian SF shows us continually how this new order will either produce an unsympathetic Martian species entirely made of a brain, or would produce a degenerate, regressed species as seen in the Eloi and Morlocks, both echoing the demise of either a sympathetic order or the return to the pre-structured human civilizations.