Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Sarah C. Alexander
As one of the founders of modern science fiction, H. G. Wells was obsessed with aviation. For its main research question, this thesis investigates, what is the significance of aviation in the work of Wells? Firstly, I analyze Wells’s initial mixed feelings toward the potential of aviation. On one hand, he demonstrated the positive possibility of flying machines in “A Story of the Days to Come” (1899); on the other, he reflected a more pessimistic attitude through his negative predictions in Anticipations (1901) and A Modern Utopia (1905). Secondly, Wells conveyed an entirely dystopian outlook toward the future of flight through three successive works that experiment with potential abuses of the excessive power of aviation. The War in the Air (1908) predicted the catastrophic effects of airplanes in the coming World Wars, Tono-Bungay (1909) depicts how aviation can be abused by wealthy individuals to avoid criminal justice, and The Sleeper Awakes (1910) explores what human flight might look like during a revolt against an authoritarian dictator in sociopolitical control because of a hyper-capitalist society. Third, Wells’s forecasting about the future of aviation made a drastic shift toward utopia, as he anticipated that his vision of a world state would only be possible in the aftermath of the collapse of civilization brought on by aerial warfare. In The World Set Free (1914), Wells invented the idea of atomic bombs, but he also predicted Utopia to emerge in the wake of the devastation. Similarly, the Earthlings of Men Like Gods (1923) travel across dimensions three millennia into the future to a parallel universe called Utopia in which aviation has become a staple of everyday life.
Number of Pages
Slowik, Noah, "The Future of the Air: H. G. Wells and the Aviation of Utopia" (2023). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1708.