Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Time Machine Part III

There is a tiny Canadian connection to H.G. Wells's The Time Machine. Early in Chapter 1, the Time Traveller mentions a recent talk on the fourth dimension given by Simon Newcomb. Newcomb, who was born in Wallace, Nova Scotia in 1835, became, after moving to the US as a young man, one of the most respected scientists of his day.

The talk was given at the December 28, 1893 annual meeting of the New York Mathematical Society and was published in Nature 49 (February 1, 1894).

Here are a couple of mid century paperback editions of The Time Machine. The Airmont cover has the oddest version of the machine that I've seen. The Berkely edition's cover is by Richard Powers, one of the masters of SF illustration. The scene here, unlike most illustrations of the story, is of the Time Traveller's final trip to the far future:

"The darkness grew apace; a cold wind began to grow in freshening gusts from the east. And the showering white flakes in the air increased in number. From the edge of the sea came a ripple and whisper. Beyond these lifeless sounds the world was silent. Silent? It would be hard to convey the stillness of it. All the sounds of man, the bleating of sheep, the cries of birds, the hum of insects, the stir that makes the background of our lives - all that was over. As the blackness thickened, the eddying flakes grew more abundant, dancing before my eyes; and the cold of the air more intense. At last, one by one, swiftly, one after the other, the white peaks of the distant hills vanished into darkness. The breeze rose to a moaning wind. I saw the black central shadow of the eclipse sweeping toward me. in another moment the pale stars alone were visible. All else was rayless obscurity. The sky was absolutely black.

A horror of this great darkness came on me. The cold, that smote to my marrow, and the pain I felt in breathing overcame me. I shivered, and a deadly nausea seized me. Then like a red hot bow in the sky appeared the edge of the sun. I got off the machine to recover myself. I felt giddy and incapable of facing the return journey. As I stood sick and confused I saw again the moving thing upon the shoal - there was no mistake now that it was a moving thing - against the red water of the sea. It was a round thing, the size of a football perhaps, or, it may be, bigger, and tentacles trailed down from it; it seemed black against the weltering blood-red water, and it was hopping fitfully about. Then I felt I was fainting. But a terrible dread of lying helpless in that remote and awful twilight sustained me while I clambered into the saddle."

Berkely 380 - 1957

Berkeley 380 back

Airmont CL44 - 1964

Airmont CL44 back

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