More Sequels to The Time Machine

For my 41st birthday I received a splendid copy of Time Machine II, among other things. I quite appreciate this; it’s long out of print and seems to command something of a premium online. It’s also a very enjoyable novel.

This seems to be a sequel to an earlier film adaptation from the same author, George Pal, rather than a sequel to H.G. Wells’s novel. But the differences are minor. Overall it’s well plotted and well written, with something of a wrenching ending which is mildly thought provoking and at all events an audacious curveball to throw at the reader.

Time Machine II probably ranks among my favorite three or four of the various sequels to The Time Machine which I have read so far.

Of others which I have read in the four years since my first post about this minor hobby:

  • The Space Machine by Christopher Priest is a good novel, though it has more connections with War of the Worlds than with The Time Machine.
  • Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter also involves little time travel, no Time Traveler, and even the Morlocks are fairly replaceable and undefined baddies—but they play that role in an Arthurian steampunk story which is quite entertaining.
  • Given their mutual presence in 1890s London, someone had to bring together Sherlock Holmes and the Time Traveler eventually. “The Richmond Enigma” by John DeChancie, published in the 1995 anthology Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, does so. The story is something of an also-ran among many better works in the anthology. It offers little beyond a by-the-numbers acting-out of its central meetup. The most imaginative feature is a brief coda, which adds value to the story, but in something of a tacked-on fashion.
  • Wikipedia does not yet list the above short story, but it does list a kind of “bonus scene” added to an Illustrated Classics adaptation by Shirley Bogart. For what it’s worth, I came across a copy of this at the Bookshop in Lakewood so I have read it as well.

Having read 10 of these derivative works, now, are there any general statements which come to mind?

Let’s see, Morlocks seem to be nearly as interesting to authors as the time machine itself. They feature in at least half of these stories, and apparently in others which I have not yet read, as well. They feature in two stories from which the Time Traveler himself is absent.

Even though the Eloi get much more space in the original novel, they seem to interest other authors considerably less, with the exception of Weena. A persistent desire seems to exist to give the Time Traveler another chance with his doomed admirer of the future; this is natural enough I suppose, since it’s time travel, but I have to say that multiple authors’ proposal that the Time Traveler had a sexual relationship with Weena is a little unsettling. In the original story, Weena seems childlike in both physical and intellectual development, so it would be a real stretch to imagine consent here. It’s also unconvincing that human and Eloi, separated by 800,000 years, could reproduce.

Nearly every author who picks up the story of the Time Traveler starts from the premise that he returned to the distant future of 802,701, though. The ending of the original story does not give any clear indication of when the Time Traveler intended to go for proof of time travel. Yet I suppose that this preference, too, is natural enough: the distant futures described in The Time Machine are unique to it, whereas there’s little incentive to write a journey into the past as a Time Machine sequel.

Most elements in the original story, other than the denizens of 802,701, seem to offer more work than opportunity for a writer. The story, like most stories of Sherlock Holmes, is told through an intermediary. This has created something of a smaller version of “the game” played in many derivative works about Holmes: what backstory about a rediscovered manuscript shall the author concoct to frame his or her primary story?

Unlike Holmes, though, the Time Traveler is also a much less completely developed character. His unknown name is just the most prominent example of this.

I suppose it’s a testament to the story, and to Wells’s larger reputation, that such a relative plethora of authors have been drawn nonetheless to speculate on the unresolved fate of the Time Traveler, as well as the natures of Eloi and Morlock.

The technology to save Earth’s climate

Today I saw this on Twitter, and really as far as I know there’s nothing farfetched or new, here:

I got into a brief back-and-forth with someone about the suggestion that “new technology” is where to look for hope. This notion bugs me; basically, it amounts to saying “I want this hard problem resolved for me by a new factor which doesn’t currently exist.”

This is the reality of most “technology” responses to the climate crisis. They aren’t responses, at all, but instead attempts to sidestep the issue.

That said, it occurred to me that in some sense, the reality is that we do need some incredible advancements in “technology” to survive the climate crisis.

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The Hurricane Warning

The extent, and the momentum, of corrosion in our society seems increasingly beyond rational problem solving.

I extend the recent string of deep pessimism, here, without enthusiasm. It would be nice to concentrate for a while on something else, again.

But I try, try to keep up with major events of the day, and lately this has been both very high-volume, and increasingly horrifying as they seem to gather into something like a destructive force of nature.

I’m not sure how much detail to go into, here. I’m not sure whether or not I can persuasively explain the impression of recording the reports of society going off the rails, daily for two and a half years, to someone who has not gone through the same experience.

Suffice to say that, with this experience as background, I am lately losing the ability to see relevant solutions to scale with the problems, which can credibly be accomplished by any kind of rational planned response.

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A republic worth keeping

The American right strives to subvert representative democracy, with a curated electorate that will protect the privileges of a white, patriarchal ownership class, regardless of popular will.

This has been a dedicated project for at least 50 years, and is poised to shift America further toward that end, perhaps very soon.

Contemplating that possibility today, it occurred to me that this is actually much like the reality of America’s republic at its very outset.

Morton Halperin ends a new Slate article with a familiar story about Ben Franklin, and a familiar message:

When the Constitution was being drafted behind closed doors, many feared that the Framers would create a monarchy. As Benjamin Franklin left the hall as the meeting was ending, they shouted at him: “What is it?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Our ability to do so is being tested now. We must seize the moment to reestablish the republic that we were given.

We were given a republic which functioned to subvert representative democracy, with a curated electorate to protect the privileges of a white, patriarchal ownership class. We have not kept that republic, exactly, but I think the contemporary Republican Party is reestablishing it to a significant extent, and that this is the real threat, for all of Trump’s attraction to kingship.

We should not reestablish that original republic. We should, instead, reckon honestly with what it was, and with the long and far from finished efforts which went into creating a system of government worth defending.

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Playing from way behind

It is strange living in this moment, watching the capture and corruption of the most powerful institutions in our society, at the same time as day to day life mostly continues as though completely unconnected.

That’s an illusion. A few weeks ago a friend, who knows better, casually said something about how “well, life goes on, anyway.” I could have made a lot of responses. One which I didn’t make, but might have, is a comparison with The Lord of the Rings films. For all that “The Scouring of the Shire” is an important part of the novel, its absence from the films combined with Meriadoc’s warning about the possibility of such an outcome is haunting on its own. He was absolutely right that the safety of the Shire was in danger, and significantly, it was in danger from something that most of its people would never even notice until it was absolutely too late.

Had Sauron secured the One Ring, it would have meant the end of the Shire. Unstoppable armies would have burned it to the ground within months, or at most a year or two, inevitably. But that fate was being decided, with finality, while most of the persons at issue were carrying on normal life in total ignorance of the peril.

In a sense, Americans have had comparatively ample warning, yet most don’t really notice it, and “normal life” carries on. Even though what’s happening right now is locking in severe negative consequences.

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Book tour, radio, and living history

On Tuesday, I journeyed to Ames for a one-stop “book tour,” speaking at the Ames Library about Hancher vs. Hilton: Iowa’s Rival University Presidents.

Apparently it went well. People seemed pleased with my presentation. Which is particularly validating, given that the audience included people who had been present six decades ago for more than one of the book’s colorful anecdotes.

We also added one anecdote, or quote at least, from President Hilton who reportedly once summed up his relationship with President Hancher by saying “every time he opened his mouth, I put my foot in it.” Which if self-effacing was certainly self-aware as well.

I also found myself reintroduced to my college adviser, whom I had not seen for 20 years.

Also, though this was my only stop for this “book tour,” it was in another sense just the prelude to a further exploration of Hancher vs. Hilton which begins next week. The KHOI “Community Bookshelf” program will air an interview with me, followed by Mark Slagell reading from the book over several shows.

You can listen online at archive.khoifm.org

Thanks so much to Mary, Mary, Mary, KHOI and the Ames Library.

Thank you, Lakewood renters

To the tens of thousands of other renters in our city of Lakewood, I would like to say: thank you.

Thank you, renters, for being literally the greater part of Lakewood. More than half of this community lives in rental housing, including me.

I have heard renters maligned, treated with suspicion, and referred to like we are a “foreign” presence here. Yet renters are actually the majority of the people around us, at the park or doing the grocery shopping, e.g.

Additionally, many of the absolute hands-down best people I have known during 11 years in Lakewood have rented their homes. People who improve this community as volunteers, leaders, activists, entrepreneurs. It would be a sadder and poorer city without these involved citizens here, demonstrating how much they care about their home: Lakewood.

So thank you Lakewood renters. Thank you for voting, paying taxes, raising families, supporting local businesses. Thank you for sharing and shaping the community we are all part of.

Thank you, renters, for being here.

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How Republicans divide & denigrate using identity

Today, Ohio state Representative Kyle Koehler decided to share a nonsubstantive meme mocking US Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. The thread which followed illustrates two very important lessons.

  • Over and over in his replies, Koehler refers to the “silly ideas” of Ocasio-Cortez. Yet he argued at length without citing a single one. Even after being explicitly called out on that. The word “ideas,” here, is just a fig leaf intended to disguise an ad hominem attack as a policy critique.
  • After pointing out that his nonsubstantive swipe targets a female person of color, rather than any of the other people who share her ideas—and that this is part of a pattern from the GOP—he protests that “you’re the one bringing up race and gender.”
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Senate, a long perspective

The Senate is a terrible institution, intrinsically, but that’s really no more or less than we ever should have expected, given its origins.

I could write at length about the problems with the United States Senate, with its origins, and with the very concept of a senate. But lately I have been musing on one, somewhat ironic, feature of this institution which seems likely to preside over the wrecking of America (with characteristic pomp and puffery).

A quick search online supports my sense that the framers of America’s Constitution had the Roman Republic very explicitly in mind, and that the existence of America’s senate is thus the product of conscious reference to Rome, and its.

From the perspective of history, I submit, the notable feature of the Roman Republic is its takeover from within by a series of tyrants, never reversed right up through the collapse of the Roman state—despite the continued existence of the Roman Senate throughout.

The Framers’ big model for thinking about how a republic could work, in other words, fell to autocrats who found a senate to be no obstacle, and in some ways even a very willing partner to autocracy.

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Halfway to 2040

It occurs to me this evening that I have now traveled through half of the four-plus decades which separated 1998, when I was in college watching Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, from the year 2040.

I suppose that beyond this I’m just belaboring the obvious, but it was 42 years away.

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