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  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2017/10/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , answered prayers, , anthony trollope, , , , , , , , , h.g. wells, j. g. ballard, , joan weigall, , , , , , , , , the adventures of huckleberry finn, the macdermots of ballycloran, , , , , through the looking glass, , why I want to f*ck ronald reagan   

    15 of the Most Infamous Deleted Chapters in History 

    Revision is a vital aspect of creation; all authors delete, re-write, and occasionally burn entire manuscripts with tears streaming down their faces. Most of the time, deleted chapters occur so early in the writing process that they’re not relevant—or interesting. They’re just the cost of doing literary business. Sometimes, though, the story behind excised material is almost as interesting as the finished version of the book it comes from. The fifteen chapters listed here didn’t make it into the published version of the book—but that hasn’t stopped them from being part of the conversation.

    Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
    Heller’s classic 1961 novel, one of the funniest, darkest, and most complex ever written, took about eight years to write—and remains the defining work of Heller’s career. Put simply, if you’re discussing Joseph Heller, you’re discussing Catch-22, and even Heller seemed to accept this towards the end of his life. Much of his late output was directly connected to his first novel, and in 2003 he published the collection Catch as Catch Can which contained two deleted chapters from Catch-22: “Love, Dad” and “Yossarian Survives” (both of which had been previously published). The chapters provide some background on Nately and Yossarian while offering some of Heller’s most savage mockery of the military—and both chapters work perfectly well as standalone stories, making them perhaps the rare examples of chapters deleted from books because they were too good.

    Dracula, by Bram Stoker
    Stoker’s novel is one of the most influential in all of history, but it originally ended a bit differently from the version you’re familiar with. A deleted chapter detailed Dracula’s castle literally falling apart as he dies. It’s not very long—a grace note, really—and there are several theories as to why Stoker excised it very close to its publication. Some people think he might have been envisioning a sequel and wanted to hedge his bets. Others think he might have worried about being accused of stealing the concept from Edgar Allan Poe. Whatever the reason, reading the chapter does change the tone of the novel just enough to make it significant.

    The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
    Wilde’s only novel originally contained a great deal of homosexual imagery, sexual allusions, and other edgy stuff that made his publisher’s head explode. So his editor forced him to cut a great deal of this “objectionable” material. Even so, the book created a stir upon publication, as it still contained passages that outraged a lot of people, and so Wilde revised the book a second time in an effort to make it acceptable. Wilde’s reward was a novel everyone is still reading and, of course, a few years in jail simply for being a homosexual. In 2011 the uncensored version of the book was finally published with the deleted chapters restored, so you can now read the book in all its dirty glory.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
    In the early versions of Dahl’s beloved book there were actually eight kids brought into Wonka’s factory, and they had some different adventures—including the original chapter 5, which brings the children and their parents into the Vanilla Fudge Room, where a literal mountain of fudge is worked on by Wonka’s servants with picks and hammers, sending boulders of fudge down to the floor where they’re grabbed by cranes and sent on wagons into a hole in the wall. Sounds delightful until two of the kids and their parents ignore Wonka’s warnings and ride the wagons to what they think will be fudge heaven. Instead, Wonka reveals that the fudge is tipped out of the wagons into a machine that pounds it thin then chops it up. Dahl’s publisher thought this was a bit too nasty for kids, and so the chapter was deleted and didn’t see the light of day until 2014.

    The Martian, by Andy Weir
    The Martian by Andy Weir went through a lot of revision. The original version posted on Weir’s website—still available online if you know where to look—is very different from the final version. A few years ago Weir went on Reddit for an unannounced, secret “Ask Me Anything” session and revealed the original epilogue of the story, which featured Mark Watney cursing at a child who asks him if he’d return to Mars if they asked him. It’s actually kind of a delightful ending, and one we wish they would have included in the movie.

    Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
    The original ending of Dickens’ famous novel was kind of dark and sad: Pip and Estella meet years after the events of the novel, but instead of a bittersweet moment implying a future for the two, both are simply bitter, and they part on savage terms. Dickens liked this ending because he thought it was unexpected and original, but his Beta Readers disagreed, so he changed the chapter to the version we’re all familiar with. After publication he went back and revised the final line, coming up with the perfect “I saw no shadow of another parting from her.”

    Why I Want to F*ck Ronald Reagan, by J. G. Ballard
    In the late 1960s, Ronald Reagan was something new: one of the first “media politicians” who knew that how you said something was more important than what you said, as well as one of the first “far right” politicians in mainstream politics. Although a decade and a half from the presidency, he made an impact that J.G. Ballard found interesting, and he wrote a short work styled as an academic paper describing bizarre experiments to measure Reagan’s sexual appeal. It was meant to be challenging and confrontational—and it sure was. It was originally included in Ballard’s collection The Atrocity Exhibition, but the American publisher of the book actually destroyed the entire printing rather than let it loose on the country. Let that sink in: the publisher destroyed every copy of the book rather than publish this. If there’s a better reason to read it, we’re unaware.

    A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
    It’s well-known that the last chapter of Burgess’ novel was deleted before it was published in the United States; the publisher thought the “softer” ending in which Alex starts to mature and see that his behavior in the earlier portions of the book was wrong would turn off American readers. Indeed, many still prefer the way the book ended in the truncated version, which is also the beat Stanley Kubrick’s classic film version ends on: Alex dreaming of violence, thinking “I was cured all right.”

    The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
    Wells’ novel about a man who invents a time machine established not just one of the sturdiest sci-fi tropes of all time, but a template for the modern speculative novel. Wells’ publisher insisted he add a section showing mankind’s ultimate evolutionary fate, and Wells obliged under protest, writing a chapter in which the time traveler escapes the Morlocks by traveling into the distant future, where he encounters small mammals which he determines are the descendants of humanity. Wells never liked it and had it removed as soon as he was able, and while the story, which you can read under the standalone title “The Grey Man,” is interesting, the book is much better without it.

    Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
    Lewis Carroll’s sequel to Alice in Wonderland is more Alice than Alice in many ways. The illustrator working on the book sent Carroll a note saying he wasn’t inspired by the “wasp chapter”, and suggested none-too-subtly that if Carroll were looking to cut the book down a bit, the Wasp part would be the place to start. No one knew what he was referring to, however—until 1976 when the missing “Wasp in a Wig” chapter was put up for auction. One problem, however: no one has ever been able to verify that this was actually written by Carroll. Reading it, the reason people have doubts is pretty clear: it’s awful. Either Carroll cut the one example of bad writing he ever managed…or he didn’t write it.

    Picnic at Hanging Rock, by Joan Weigall
    Weigall’s 1967 novel was a sensation at the time, despite the fact that it literally had no ending. The story of college students who disappear while visiting Hanging Rock in Australia was originally ended with a pretty crazy explanation of everything that happened, but Weigall’s publisher suggested the book might do better without the, um, crazy part and so the final chapter was deleted (you can read it here if you want), meaning that the story just stops, and no explanation is offered at all for the mystery. This actually fueled the book’s success, making it into a “must read” at the time. If the Internet had existed in 1967, this book would have broken it.

    The MacDermots of Ballycloran, by Anthony Trollope
    Trollope had very low expectations for his first novel, and these were borne out when it didn’t do very well. Although the novel has gained in reputation since its initial lackluster publication, you have to be careful to get the original 1847 version, because Trollope later hacked his book to death in an effort to…improve it, we guess? He deleted three chapters and changed a great deal of what makes the original novel interesting (mainly the Irish dialects, politics, and the character flaws). The revised version isn’t nearly as good, and the three missing chapters are, ironically, some of the best writing in the book.

    Answered Prayers, by Truman Capote
    Capote’s transformation from brilliant writer to alcoholic gadfly took about twenty years, and in that time he continuously accepted advances and signed contracts for Answered Prayers, a novel he never got around to finishing. Four chapters were published in magazines (the first, “La Côte Basque 1965,” was so obviously based on his real-life friends and acquaintances Capote pretty much lost every friend he had) and they’re pretty hefty, amounting to a novel’s worth of text if put together. But several other chapters have been referenced in Capote’s correspondence—and he claimed he’d written the final chapter first so he’d know where he was going—that have yet to turn up anywhere.

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
    Twain, never one to be typical, wasn’t satisfied to delete a mere chapter, instead opting to delete 665 manuscript pages, essentially an entire shadow version of his all-time classic novel. Twain paused work on the book for three years, and scholars have long argued over where exactly he broke off and what he changed when he returned to the book. The deleted chapters contain plenty of material not present in the final book, and have proved invaluable in trying to determine Twain’s intentions and process.

    Persuasion, by Jane Austen
    Austen was one of the most meticulous writers of all time, and put a lot of effort into revising her novels. Persuasion is one of the few in which we can compare early drafts to see how the novel developed, and Austen’s deleted chapters show a ruthless approach to improving the pacing of the plot and the creation of her characters. Assembling earlier versions of the novel show what her original inspiration was, how her ideas changed as she worked, and cast some light on the sausage-making underneath the charming and compelling narratives Austen created.

    Did we miss any famous deleted chapters?

    The post 15 of the Most Infamous Deleted Chapters in History appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2016/11/21 Permalink
    Tags: bad technology, dave eggars, , , h.g. wells, , , , rudy ricker,   

    8 Books About Technology Run Amok 

    Technology is here to stay. Anyone who imagines they retain the basic survival skills of their forebears has never lived through an extended blackout, marked by staring dully at blank screens, dead microwaves, and the puddle of melt dripping out of your refrigerator. To paraphrase Madonna, we’re all material beings living in a material world that runs on AC power and lithium batteries. The penetration of technology into our lives does cause plenty of perfectly legitimate anxiety—we all have our “Luddite” moments when it scares us, how much we rely on our gadgets. Tapping into that primal fear, these eight stories offer up tales of technology run amok that will make any Luddite feel smugly justified—and the rest of us, plenty disturbed.

    Player Piano, by Kurt Vonnegut
    Vonnegut is a master at presenting horrific, dystopian, and disturbing premises with so much cranky humor, you almost forget how awful his imagined worlds were. In Player Piano, automation has made human labor in almost any form obsolete. While that sounds pretty good on a Monday morning when the alarm goes off, what it means in practice is billions of people all over the world living on welfare and bored out of their minds. In a world where self-driving trucks are delivering our beer, we’d all best start making plans for how to fill our spare time when all we have is spare time.

    Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
    You may not think of this book as a story of technology—but at its heart, the premise cuts right to our modern-day, streaming-addicted lifestyle: a film that is so entertaining people can’t stop watching it, and in fact, would rather starve to death than do so. The Entertainment, as its called, is one of those simple ideas that haunts you, especially when you’re about to cue up your fifth Black Mirror episode of the day instead of standing up and accomplishing something (something aside from watching all of Black Mirror, I guess).

    The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells
    More than a century after its publication, Wells’ classic novel retains its power to horrify—a power that only increases as medicine advances. The question of whether or not we should do some of the things medical science is now capable of—or will shortly be capable of—will never be an easy one to answer. While Moreau’s insane experiments on animal/human hybrids may be a bit far-fetched no matter how far genetic science advances, the story demonstrates in horrific fashion just how much suffering awaits us if we ever decide that things like ethics and morals are holding back our ability to control the fundamental biology that makes each species unique—and makes us us.

    The Ware Tetralogy, by Rudy Rucker
    Robots in rebellion. Robots in rebellion living on the Moon. Who consume the brains of human beings in order to transform them into robots. Rucker’s classic series of cyberpunk novels doesn’t shy away from presenting an alternative to the sober, civilized robots in the Asimovian mode, constrained by Three Laws. Instead, his “Boppers” are woke, fiercely dedicated to natural selection, and ready to fight for what they see as theirs—which should scare the pants off of anyone who ever thought having a robot around the house would be cool.

    Trucks, by Stephen King
    This bonkers short story, which was turned into the bonkers film Maximum Overdrive, never really offers a sound explanation for how or why all the machines of the world suddenly become self-aware (and violently opposed to humanity). Instead, in classic King style, the story focuses on the horror of discovering just how surrounded you are by machinery you do not actually have any control over. All we have to do is glance out the window at all the cars parked outside to understand just how much trouble we’d be in if some alien force did animate the machines.

    Cell, by Stephen King
    King doesn’t go for subtlety in this 2006 novel either. When a mysterious signal broadcast to every cell phone turns the majority of the population into mindless, violent monsters, madness ensues. As society collapses, a few lucky (or unlucky) survivors try for safe havens, and King’s magic touch elevates the premise into a terrifying story predicated on our increasing interconnectedness. That connection we now share with almost everyone in the world should terrify us to some extent, because it’s a signal we can neither control or predict.

    The Circle, by Dave Eggers
    Eggers’ 2013 novel tackles the one piece of technology billions of us use on a daily basis—Facebook and its sibling social media platforms. Eggers zeros in on the real horror of these services: the transactional nature that our privacy takes on. Trading our information—our likes, dislikes, movements, and opinions—for a few scraps of convenient photo sharing and communication code is what horrifies him, and what will horrify you as you read this novel, and realize just how close we already are to the terrible world he describes.

    Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    The idea of extending your life always seems like a good one. If you could have some replacement organs grown so that your spoiled kidney, liver, or heart could be swapped out without any chance of rejection, why wouldn’t you? Except, of course, when you think about the sad, short lives of your clones, born and raised solely to keep your replacement parts warm until you need them. A lot of sci-fi presents technology as clean and sterile—encased in Apple-like white boxes. But the real horror of technology gone mad will be the visceral blood-and-guts cost.

    The post 8 Books About Technology Run Amok appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • John Bardinelli 5:30 pm on 2015/05/26 Permalink
    Tags: author on author shade, , byron, gore vidal, h.g. wells, , , keats, lillian helman, mary mccarthy,   

    5 Author Rivalries That Make Reading Even More Fun 

    Some authors fit the stereotype of artists toiling at their craft in silence. Others just can’t keep their pens to themselves, stirring up trouble by tossing their opinions around on every subject under the sun. Both groups produce some amazing work, but boy is it a lot more fun to read about the second. Nothing like a good quarrel to spice up…well, just about everything. Hey, it worked for Jerry Springer!

    H.G. Wells vs Henry James
    Henry James (The Portrait of a Lady) and H.G. Wells (The Time Machine) were best buds at the turn of the 20th century. One of their favorite activities was to debate the art of fiction, a practice that inspired many a spirited letter from each author. Wells upped the ante in 1915 when he released Boon, a full-length work of satire that painted a harsh caricature of James and his labored, word-heavy writing style. Here’s a tasty excerpt directly discussing James:

    “His vast paragraphs sweat and struggle; they could not sweat and elbow and struggle more if God Himself was the processional meaning to which they sought to come.”

    If that nugget didn’t make him feel the burn, perhaps a colorful metaphor involving a hippo will:

    “It is a magnificent but painful hippopotamus resolved at any cost, even at the cost of its dignity, upon picking up a pea which has got into a corner of its den.”

    Gotta remember it the next time I get into a freestyle rap battle.

    Byron vs Keats
    One of the classic rivalries in the world of literary feuds, featuring the high-minded Lord Byron squaring off against John “Son of a Stableman” Keats. Each poet disliked the other’s work on an aesthetic level, which is fair game, but Keats carried an additional burden of envy because Byron’s work was more popular (he insisted it was because Byron’s audience was a bunch of undemading aristocrats). The rivalry brewed for several years with jabs by each poet in private letters to family and friends. The most famous dig comes from Keats in a letter to his brother:

    “You speak of Lord Byron and me—There is this great difference between us. He describes what he sees—I describe what I imagine—Mine is the hardest task.”

    The way Keats paints Byron’s work, I half expect to see a shopping list with an elegant “Written by Lord Byron” at the bottom.

    Gore Vidal vs Truman Capote
    Gore Vidal had so many rivalries going he probably kept a separate rolodex to track them. One of his more entertaining squabbles was with Breakfast at Tiffany’s writer Truman Capote, who he once called a “dumpy little lowbrow.” Capote responded by saying he was sad about Gore. “Sad that he has to breathe every day.” Capote attempted to reconcile with Vidal before his death, but to no avail. In fact, after he passed Vidal said it was a “good career move.”

    Mary McCarthy vs Lillian Hellman
    Most author rivalries are born of literary origins. One thinks the other’s style is derivative, the other thinks the first is an untalented oaf, that sort of thing. McCarthy and Hellman made sure they had something big to fight about before starting their feud: the Moscow Trials. In the late 1930s the two authors found themselves occupying opposing ideologies. Things simmered for a solid 40 years, finally coming to a head when McCarthy made a comment about Hellman on The Dick Cavett Show:

    “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”

    Instead of handling it like an author and writing an eloquent “nuh-uh” retort, Hellman sued for libel. Not as entertaining for us, but a lot more practical.

    Mark Twain vs Jane Austen
    Mark Twain had a lot to say about a lot of things, and he was never shy about expressing it. He joined Wells’ camp in disliking Henry James’ wordiness, noting that once you put one of James’ books down, you simply can’t pick it back up. Because it’s heavy, see? Yeah, you saw.

    Twain didn’t limit his witty criticisms to his contemporaries. One of my favorite author to author zingers is aimed at Jane Austen, who passed nearly two decades before Twain was born:

    “Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

    Austen wasn’t around to offer a riposte, but honestly, how could anyone top that?

    What are your favorite literary rivalries?

  • Jeff Somers 7:30 pm on 2014/09/26 Permalink
    Tags: blood music, , dying inside, forgotten books, greg bear, h.g. wells, john wyndham, , Robert Silverberg, , the day of the triffids, the integral trees, the shape of things to come   

    5 Forgotten Sci-Fi Novels That Deserve to Be Rediscovered 

    integraltreesBooks fade away. The center cannot hold. Even books that were best sellers, that were made into movies, that dominated pop culture for decades, can suddenly find themselves fading from public consciousness. It’s worse in science-fiction, because the genre has always labored under the pressure to be ahead of its time, which is no easy feat (just ask the guy who invented the Segway). But that doesn’t mean these forgotten books aren’t worth reading. Here are 5 sci-fi books that time has forgotten, but you shouldn’t:

    Dying Inside, by Robert Silverberg
    Perfectly titled, this tale of a telepath who has lived a lazy life relying on his mental powers suddenly starting to lose his ability—as we all may one day lose our sight or hearing—is subtly powerful. At first blush it seems a bit dull, and finding sympathy for the protagonist, who has wasted an incredible ability, is difficult. But his humanity gives the story its power, as he finally accepts his loss and learns to live without his gift. The final line is haunting: “Until I die again…hello, hello, hello, hello.”

    Blood Music, by Greg Bear
    It’s difficult to believe how thoroughly everyone outside of SF fandom seems to have forgotten this 1985 novel, the most recent entry on this list. While it has dated in the same way as William Gibson’s contemporary work, Bear’s study of nanotechnology, the nature of observable reality, and the crooked, unpredictable path life follows as it evolves through new and unexpected environments remains thoughtful, powerful, and a little bit scary. For a time, Blood Music was taught in college courses, but today it’s slid into the first stages of obscurity—which is a terrible shame.

    The Shape of Things to Come, by H.G. Wells
    While nothing written by H.G. Wells will likely ever be fully forgotten, most people are only familiar with his most famous works. The Shape of Things to Come, structured as notes written by a diplomat in the 22nd century, details a fictional future history spanning the period from 1940 to the year 2036. The novel was the basis for a much more conventional, successful 1936 film. Sadly, today even the great Wells has suffered from our collective short memories. This is one of those older works that seem hopelessly clichéd today—because it actually established certain tropes in the first place.

    The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham
    The bones of this story are just as effective today as they were when it was published more than 60 years ago. After a strange meteor shower, most of the population is rendered blind. Society descends into chaos as mobile, carnivorous plants called triffids hunt the hapless survivors, and sighted people are kidnapped and chained to the blind to act as guides. Thrillingly written and neatly plotted, the story feels like a modern Doctor Who without the whimsy, and still resonates decades later, but the book has sunk into obscurity, at least in the U.S. (it remains a bit more popular in its native England).

    The Integral Trees, Larry Niven
    One of Niven’s novels that doesn’t have the word “Ringworld” in the title, this mid-’80s novel is a prime example of a sci-fi novel designed to work within accepted scientific knowledge: it imagines a world that could possibly exist, and extrapolates how people would survive there. Set in a reality where only a narrow band of atmosphere is dense enough to support life, the titular trees grow in the air, drifting and buffeted by high winds, occasionally being knocked out of position and out of the habitable zone. When a group of descendants of an ancient colonization craft find themselves trapped on a section of tree quickly drifting into dangerous territory, their attempts to survive lead to some fascinating revelations.

    What’s your favorite forgotten classic?

  • Maurie Backman 7:30 pm on 2014/08/18 Permalink
    Tags: 20000 leagues under the sea, , , h.g. wells, , , , , , literary vacations, , , ,   

    6 Books That Should Have Inspired Their Own Theme Parks 

    Gullivers TravelsFirst there was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which continues to draw countless visitors to Universal Orlando, and this week, we learned that Disney is building a Star Wars theme park for fans who have been longing to immerse themselves in George Lucas’s fictional universe. Given the popularity of theme parks nowadays, we thought we’d suggest some of our own based on our favorite books. Though we don’t expect to see these built anytime soon, we know we’d sure pay good money for a chance to escape to any one of them.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s World of Candy Delights
    (Based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl)
    Imagine a theme park where you can swim in a chocolate river, munch on samples from a gumdrop tree, and pick edible flowers to nibble. All you need to get in is a golden ticket—which you wouldn’t have to win, but rather just purchase at the gate—to explore this magical world of sugary goodness.

    Moby Dick’s Water World
    (Based on Moby Dick, by Herman Melville)
    At this exciting, interactive waterpark, you’ll get a chance to swim with and chase after (mechanical) whales in the expansive open ocean pool. Experience the thrills of rides such as Captain Ahab’s Wave Chaser and the winding, twisting Harpoon Slide. And don’t worry about getting hungry or thirsty; there’s a good chance you’ll find a Starbucks on the premises.

    The Magical World of Oz
    (Based on The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum)
    Gather up some friends and get ready to follow the yellow brick road through its many twists and turns. Wear your walking shoes, because you’ll need to explore this theme park completely on foot. Along the way, you may face a run-in with a disgruntled witch, but if you manage to find the wizard, you’ll be entered into a daily drawing where one lucky winner scores an all-expenses-paid trip to Kansas. Best of all, this park is dog-friendly, so you can bring your favorite canine friend along for the journey.

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Adventure
    (Based on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne)
    At this underwater theme park, you’ll get to visit a series of submarines and explore their inner workings while observing a host of aquatic wildlife with the occasional sea monster thrown in. Scuba-certified visitors can also take advantage of the park’s deep sea dive feature, where they can witness wonders such as breathtaking corals and exotic marine creatures.

    The Time Machine Time Travel Experience
    (Based on The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells)
    This theme park is a little unique in that there’s only one ride to go on, and you never really know where it’ll take you. Perhaps you’ll be sent back to Victorian times, or be propelled millions of years into the future to a world that’s hardly recognizable. No matter where the time machine takes you, rest assured—you’ll be able to purchase a souvenir print of your unique journey as you exit through the gift shop.

    Gulliver’s World of Wonders
    (Based on Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift)
    At this theme park, you can travel to a series of different worlds and expand your horizons like never before. Experience the thrills of towering over the locals, or walking among giants, or seeing live talking horses in action. One low-cost fee buys you a ticket to the adventure of a lifetime.

    Which of your favorite books do you think could inspire its own dedicated theme park? 

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