08 January 2011


Locus Focus: Take Thirty-Five!

Welcome to "Worlds of Tomorrow" Day!
Ready to look into the future?

When I started Locus Focus, the following was one of the settings I knew I'd feature someday. Which means it has taken about 254 days for me to get around to it. (I like being right on schedule. Don't you? =P)

As for the next few days (easily counted on one's fingers and toes), tell me what you think of this prospective schedule:

29 January: "Worlds of Tomorrow" Challenge: The Movie Edition
Same principle: pick a futuristic setting, but get it from a movie.

5 February: Theme Challenge Day
I can't decide between romantic settings (because it's February, after all) and crime scenes (because modern Valentine sentiment makes me want to murder someone). Just let me know whether you'd like to be sweet or cynical next month, and I'll be an accommodating hostess.

And would you like "Wizarding World Day" for J.K. Rowling's settings to fall in late February or early March? Or does the idea of "Wizarding World Day" not appeal at all? Let me know, please . . .

The Palace of Green Porcelain
The Time Machine
by H.G. Wells

Within the big valves of the door--which were open and broken--we found, instead of the customary hall, a long gallery lit by many side windows. At first glance, I was reminded of a museum. The tiled floor was thick with dust, and a remarkable array of miscellaneous objects was shrouded in the same grey covering. Then I perceived, standing strange and gaunt in the centre of the hall, what was clearly the lower part of a huge skeleton. I recognised by the oblique feet that it was some extinct creature after the fashion of the Megatherium. The skull and the upper bones lay beside it in the thick dust, and in one place, where rain-water had dropped through a leak in the roof, the thing itself had been worn away . . .

To judge from the size of the place, this Palace of Green Porcelain had a great deal more in it than a Gallery of Palaentology; possibly historical galleries; it might be, even a library!

I could go on and on about the symbolism of this great setting, starting with the skeleton of the Megatherium . . . but I'll spare you all and keep this short. =P

Many of the Action-Adventure classics which come down to us from the Victorian era feature strange and exotic "lost worlds": complex societies thriving in isolated settings or the tantalising ruins of long-dead civilisations. Victorian readers were a curious lot who liked learning about different cultures--and a pampered class who enjoyed the comforts of steadily advancing technology. Their fascination with lost worlds came from their complacency with their own, in which it was a very good time to be English. H.G. Wells' highly original take on this convention must have hit them in some very sensitive places.

For when Wells' Time Traveller ends up thousands of years in the future, he, too, stumbles upon the ruins of a long-dead civilisation. But unlike all the other explorers of his age, he has the dark privilege of recognising it as his own.

A slight digression . . . One of my current non-reading activities is helping my tutee Rain Dancer do some research into the Victorian era. She has to be a kind of news reporter covering the "Leisure" beat, and so she needs to know what the Victorians did for fun. There are many answers to that question, of course, but her favourite, so far, is the Great Exhibition, the first World's Fair, which ran for six months in 1851 and featured art, machinery, raw materials and other curiosities from all over the world. And if I had a time machine, I know I'd want to see it: there is something about it that captures so perfectly the vibrant best of the Victorian soul. Wells was born too late for this huge, one-of-a-kind fair, but I still wonder if he had its Crystal Palace home in mind when he envisioned the Palace of Green Porcelain, formerly a museum and now a kind of masoleum of the mind.

I went . . . into another and still larger [gallery], which at the first glance reminded me of a military chapel hung with tattered flags. The brown and charred rags which hung from the sides of it, I presently recognised as the decaying vestiges of books. They had long since dropped to pieces, and every semblance of print had left them. But here and there were warped boards and cracked metallic clasps which told the tale well enough. Had I been a literary man, I might, perhaps, have moralised on the futility of all ambition. But as it was, the thing which struck me with keenest force was the enormous waste of labour to which this sombre wilderness of rotting paper testified. At the time I will confess that I thought chiefly of the Philosophical Transactions and my own seventeen papers upon physical optics.

Oh, that poor library--all its books reduced to serving the theme that British civilisation has been completely futile. The earth now belongs not to the great explorers, scholars and engineers, heirs to a great legacy of science and philosophy . . . but to brutes who live in caves and the innocents they cannibalise for food. And in the desolation of this once-proud testament to the human intellect, the last man of science left in the world--possibly the greatest scientific mind of his age--has no greater delight than the matches which can give him fire . . . and a broken lever which he can use as a club.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

This Week's Other Locus:

Yann Martel's Boat @ Birdie's Nest

Image Source: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells


Birdie said...

Oh noes! Destroyed libraries are the saddest thing in the world. I weep for all that lost knowledge and entertainment.

My locus focus this week is not on theme--I explain that in the post. Sorry! Also, for February, I'd be willing to do whichever, but if you stick with the romance setting, we could always do crime scenes or dystopias in March.

Kate said...

Great post! Can you believe I've never read this? I was caught passing notes to a friend in 4th grade while my teacher was reading it to the class, and have been scarred about it ever since.

I read a lot of romance, so would be keen to do a romantic setting in February, but would happily to a crime scene some other time too!

Enbrethiliel said...


Well, it seems that everyone in the world is more romantic than I, so Romantic Settings it shall be! LOL!

Birdie: That's all right. =) I had a spot of trouble myself with this theme and really don't think I'll be doing it again. =P (On the other hand, old challenges like "Subterranean Settings" definitely deserve a reprise, don't you think?)

Kate: Oh, what an awful memory! =( I had a similar traumatic experience when I was in the same grade--and the teacher even made me cry in front of the class. I'm so lucky that good books weren't involved, because I wouldn't want that memory all over an innocent read!

But I do hope that you get to read this in the future (Hahaha . . .) because it is really good. =)