The Works of H. G. Wells (Atlantic Edition)/Preface to Volume 5

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In this volume "The Food of the Gods" takes the first place. It is quite out of its chronological order—it was not written until 1904—but it is put here because it is in direct continuity with the line of thought developed in the preceding volume. "The Food of the Gods" is the idea of the first chapter of "Anticipations" and of the essay upon "Locomotion and Administrative Areas," transmuted into fantasy. It is a dream version of the "de-localised" persons and things. It puzzled, and therefore irritated, most of the reviewers extremely.

The forcible juxtaposition of these hard ideas and this grotesque story has been made with an eye to criticism, which, because of the multiplicity and carelessness of the writer's output, has so far missed the plain development of his thought. Here you have the completest statement of the conception that human beings are now in violent reaction to a profound change in conditions demanding the most complex and extensive readjustments in the scope and scale of their ideas. This conception is the key to nearly all the writer's work, to his novels quite as much as to his fantastic stories and sociological and political essays. Temperamentally he is egotistic and romantic, intellectually he is clearly aware that the egotistic and romantic must go. And seeing that this collected edition attempts for the first time to give a view of his work as a whole and of his ideas as a system, he has seized the opportunity to put into the same cover with "The Food of the Gods," and in the sharpest contrast with it, "The Sea Lady," which was written in 1901-2. In all his later novels, the reader will find more or less of the "Food of the Gods" getting itself mixed into the dietary of his intelligent characters, and the scaly, beautiful, irrelevant "Sea Lady" out of the primordial seas flapping her tail to their confusion. She flapped her way into the writer's imagination upon Sandgate beach one day in 1900, just upon that part of it which is shown in the frontispiece.