‘The Argonauts of the Air’ (1895)
by H G Wells,
in Selected Short Stories.
“… this story, which was written only to tell how the first of all flying-machines was launched and flew.”
In the last decade of the 19th century men like Otto Lilienthal and Sir Hiram Maxim experimented with gliders and heavier-than-air craft to attempt the conquest of the air. Maxim effectively stopped practical trials after an unfortunate accident in 1894, leaving it to fiction writers to imagine how the first powered flight might turn out until the Wright Brothers actually achieved success in 1903.
H G Wells rose to the occasion in his short story ‘The Argonauts of the Air’, first published in 1895, the year following when Maxim ceased his trials. He borrowed some aspects from Maxim’s abandoned flying-machine, but sited his craft’s launch track southwest of London rather than to the east.
Are the Wellsian engineers more successful than Maxim’s? Do his argonauts actually make it into the air? The writer leaves us guessing right to the final page or so.Continue reading “The first desperate struggle”