Short story: “The Man Who Could Work Miracles” by H.G. WellsFebruary 9, 2010
The Book: “The Man Who Could Work Miracles” from The Time Machine and Other Stories by Herbert George (H.G.) Wells. First published in 1898. The edition read was published in 1969 (copyright 1963) by Scholastic Book Services.
The Setting: Earth, unspecified present.
The Story: A skeptic with a silly name, George McWhirter Fotheringay, suddenly discovers that reality obeys his every command. Hijinks ensue. Fotheringay turns a cane into a rosebush, sends a policeman to hell and, later, to San Francisco. Concerned about the policeman’s well being, Fotheringay seeks the advice of the local clergyman. The clergyman and Fotheringay strike upon the idea of using the miraculous powers for good, ignoring the policeman. They creep about in the dead of night, reforming drunkards, turning beer to water, and curing the vicar’s wart. But they need more time to do good! So the clergyman suggests that Fotheringay stop the earth turning, so that time stops. But it all goes terribly wrong…
The Science: The science is good! I know, because I asked the internet. Not the miracles, mind you. The “force of will” behind the miracles is not scientifically sound, but the consequences of stopping the earths rotating suddenly is accurate. Everything on the face of the earth would go flying off, there would be a horrific wind, and, essentially, the earth would get torn apart and everything would die. A+ on this one, Mr. Wells.
The Reaction: A fun little story. Like literary popcorn shrimp. Tasty, but not filling. I really like Fotheringay; he never thought to go mad with his power, and he was very concerned about rectifying his single major abuse of power. Just the sort of fellow who ought to have the power of miracles, if anyone should. Although maybe he ought to have a better grasp of physics…
The Cover: See The Time Machine.
Next Up: The War of the Worlds by, you guessed it, H.G. Wells.