H.G. Wells predicts the future in his 1897 novella, ‘A Story of the Days to Come.’ Published around the same time as his more popular novel ‘The Invisible Man,’ ‘A Story of the Days to Come’ is a tragic look at what urbanization, technological advancement and class warfare can do to idealistic individuals. This novella is today’s Throwback Thursday, a column where ScienceFiction.com looks at sci fi classics of the past.
‘A Story of the Days to Come’ was originally published between June and October of 1897 in the British literary journal, ‘The Pall Mall Magazine.’ All five chapters of the novella were later published in 1899 in ‘Tales of Space and Time’ a collection of Wells’ short stories.
The story takes place in London during the 22nd century. Filled with tens of millions of people, London is now a megalopolis where mega-corporations control everything. People get from one place to another via moving sidewalks and air travel. No one lives in the countryside, and society is divided into three distinct classes. The lower class literally lives underground while the middle and upper classes reside in gargantuan skyscrapers.
Elizabeth, the daughter of an upper class official of a mega-corporation, falls for Denton, a middle class worker employed at what essentially seems like an airport. (It’s referred to as “a stage for flying-machines”). After her father fails to hypnotize her into choosing a richer suitor, Elizabeth and Denton secretly marry. Deciding they don’t belong in an urban environment, the couple relocates to the abandoned countryside only to find their way back to London when they realize they can’t survive.
In London, Elizabeth and Denton run out of money and descend from the middle-class to the lower class. They live underground becoming what’s known as Labour Serfs. They suffer heartache and begin to contemplate whether or not to continue with their lives.
‘A Story of the Days to Come’ is an interesting read. Oddly enough, Wells’ future London reminded me a little of New New York from ‘Futurama.’ In ‘Tales of Space and Time’, the novella follows ‘A Story of the Stone Age’ about the first caveman to fashion a weapon and assume authority over his tribe. It’s an engaging journey to go from a time before history was written to a time where history has yet to be written.
You can read ‘A Story of the Days to Come’ and the rest of ‘Tales of Space and Time’ on Project Gutenberg.