A Modern Utopia
|Author:||H. G. Wells; Gregory Claeys (Notes by, Editor); Francis Wheen (Introduction by, Foreword by); H Wells; G. Claeys (Editor)|
A Modern Utopia is a classic science fiction novel by H.G. Wells. Because of the complexity and sophistication of its narrative structure, H.G. Wells's A Modern Utopia (1905) has been called not so much a modern as a postmodern utopia. The novel is best known for its notion that a voluntary order of nobility known as the Samurai could effectively rule a "kinetic and not static" world state so as to solve "the problem of combining progress with political stability. In his preface, Wells forecasts (incorrectly) that A Modern Utopia would be the last of a series of volumes on social problems that began in 1901 with Anticipations and included Mankind in the Making (1903). But unlike those non-fictional works, A Modern Utopia is presented as a tale told by a sketchily described character known only as the Owner of the Voice. This character "is not to be taken as the Voice of the ostensible author who fathers these pages," Wells warns. 4] He is accompanied by another character known as "the botanist." Interspersed in the narrative are discursive remarks on various matters, creating what Wells called in his preface "a sort of shot-silk texture between philosophical discussion on the one hand and imaginative narrative on the other.." 5] In addition, there are frequent comparisons to and discussions of previous utopian literature. 6] In terms of Northrop Frye's classification of literary genres, A Modern Utopia is not a novel but an anatomy. 1] In his later Experiment in Autobiography (1934) Wells said: 'It was the first approach I made to the dialogue form', adding 'the trend towards dialogue like the basal notion of the Samurai, marks my debt to Plato. A Modern Utopia, quite as much as that of More, derives frankly from the Republic.' The premise of the novel is that there is a planet (for "No less than a planet will serve the purpose of a modern Utopia" 8]) exactly like Earth, with the same geography and biology. Moreover, on that planet "all the men and women that you know and I" exist "in duplicate." 9] They have, however, "different habits, different traditions, different knowledge, different ideas, different clothing, and different appliances." 10] (Not however, a different language: "Indeed, should we be in Utopia at all, if we could not talk to everyone?").