There may be others even more prolific in their writings than these three men, George Orwell, H. G. Wells, and Jules Verne, but none have hit the mark as accurately as they have. If we put them together in a room and let them talk to each other and write down their ideas, we’d probably get another glimpse into the future, maybe 3 or 4 centuries hence, such was their intellect and imagination.
Jules Verne, who died in 1905, was one of the most-quoted authors of all time, behind Shakespeare and Agatha Christie, who shared the top spot. In particular, his flights of fancy, if you will, took us into the depths of the oceans in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in the submersible called the Nautilus. We traveled to the Moon in From The Earth To The Moon, as well as “flying” around Africa in Five Weeks In A Balloon. We investigated the core of our planet in Journey To The Center Of The Earth. You could be one of the most well-traveled persons ever, just by reading his works, but if traveling was all you got, then you missed another part of him. He was an author, and truly gifted, but he was a visionary, along with the others mentioned. He saw things as being entirely possible AND plausible. I suppose that we would have eventually done the things that Verne envisioned and wrote about, but when you consider that he died in 1905, you have to know that his work must have had some effect on the scientists and engineers that came after him. Captain Nemo, of the Nautilus, had nothing on our Navy’s Admiral Rickover. Rickover was the driving force behind our first nuclear-powered submarine and the other ships that followed in that path.
Herbert George Wells, better known as H.G. Wells, was another one that is considered to be one of the most influential writers of his, or most other, times. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch of our imagination to think that he was influenced by the discoveries and inventions of the time, that we sort of take for granted now…and since he died in 1946, it is entirely possible and plausible that he knew of the discoveries and inventions about which he wrote. There is a thread that runs through his major works, and it is science, with fiction thrown in. A futurist, a term I wish I had invented, he wrote a number of utopian works and foresaw the advent of aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web. Would there one day be something like The Time Machine, so that we could travel both forward and backward in time? That particular story, a tad on the dark side, showed us that all might not be the peaches-and-cream world of the future we would prefer. Anyone, and I am among them, could see themselves, or not see themselves, as The Invisible Man. This concept has intrigued scientists for centuries, I would imagine. Invisibility is not that far away, at least in the arena of war machines and if they can do it with tanks(which he foresaw), it could be done with other vehicles as well. The War Of The Worlds showed us that it is entirely possible that other beings exist in the galaxy and, as portrayed, may not be friendly even though they are far advanced from us. His novel, The Shape Of Things To Come, accurately predicted both the rise of and the fall of the European Union. In 1933, Wells predicted in The Shape of Things to Come that the world war he feared would begin in January 1940, a prediction which ultimately came true four months early, in September 1939, with the outbreak of World War II. The Man Who Could Work Miracles was a combination of light-hearted science with a dire prediction as well. All in all, Wells was regarded as an enormously influential figure; the critic Malcolm Cowley stated: “by the time he was forty, his influence was wider than any other living English writer”.
And that brings us to the last of this most influential trio, George Orwell, whose birth name was Eric Arthur Blair. Perhaps the darkest of predictors, he died in 1950, many years short of his spectacular work, “1984. Animal Farm was another eye-opening piece, from the viewpoint of the animals, and when they take over, but it might have been his stint in the Indian Imperial Police that formed the basis for 1984. That work has seen many of its “catch phrases” such as “big brother”, the “thought police”, and “newspeak” become part of our language… and carrying the same intent as well, sad to say. Born into an upper-middle-class family, in India, his family moved to England in 1904 and I suspect that’s where most of his “opinions” were formed, possibly with the exception of 1984. An “Orwellian” idea, that of Big Brother, has been creeping onto the world stage in little baby-steps, but it is coming and there’s no doubt about that. The film “V For Vendetta” is very close to his concept in 1984, sad to say. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see more of it coming true in the next generation or two.
Parting shot: A trio of visionaries, truly. Good luck, you Earthlings!