"I flung myself into futurity": H.G. Wells’s Deleuzian time machine

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review

Abstract

H.G. Wells’s 1895 novel The Time Machine is generally acknowledged to be the first appearance in popular culture of a time travel vehicle that moves selectively through time at the behest of its human controller, and this device has subsequently become ubiquitous in science fiction and popular culture. Although frequently using a more complex structure (include time-loops and paradoxes not featured in Wells’s text), all subsequent time travel narratives are hence derived from Wells’s time traveller who “flung [him]self into futurity” (Wells, Time Machine 17), and could be argued to still be existing (i.e. utilising time) within the context of a Wellsian universe. So great is Wells’s influence upon the time travel genre that when such a device is utilised in fiction, Wells is often posited as a literal personification of the idea; to cite but a few examples; the film Time After Time (1979), Michael Moorcock’s novel The Hollow Lands (1975), television shows such as Dr Who (1963-), Futurama (1999-) and Warehouse 13 (2009-), and the video game Prototype (2009) all feature Wells in a variety of different representational forms. However, what is significant in these various examples is that Wells’s persona is not that of a character in the traditional sense, but more a manifestation of his time travel concept itself. To this end, this chapter conceptualises Wells and his time travel device via the medium of the philosophies of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. In this poststructural context, Wells is positioned as a “conceptual persona”, a figure that “accompanies concepts . . . through whom thought moves” (Deleuze, Philosophy 63). In the performance of a Deleuzoguattarian reading of a selection of time travel narratives spanning a range of media (such as those mentioned above), the employment of concepts such as “Difference”, “Eternal Return” and “The Virtual” are employed to conceptualise that more than a mere “reading” or “interpretation”, such texts perform a Deleuzian “production” of Wells, positioning him in a new philosophical space, a new and entirely Deleuzian “plane of immanence.” It is hence demonstrated how Wells and his time travel device are manifest in time travel narratives subsequent to The Time Machine in accordance to the Deleuzoguattarian remit that “the creation of concepts in itself calls for a future form, for a new earth and people that do not yet exist” (Deleuze, Philosophy 108).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTime Travel in Popular Media: Essays on Film, Television, Literature and Video Games
EditorsMatthew Jones, Joan Ormrod
Place of PublicationNorth Carolina
PublisherMcFarland
Pages51-62
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9780786478071
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2015

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