LonCon3 #4: English PEN lecture on H.G. Wells by Audrey Niffenegger

Audrey Niffenegger & H.G. Wells

This lecture is the first in a series of annual lectures held in honour of former PEN President, the author, visionary and human rights campaigner, H.G. Wells. H.G. Wells foresaw the creation of the worldwide web, most particularly in a series of talks and essays which he first published in 1936 under the title ‘World Brain’. The PEN/H.G. Wells lecture will showcase visionary writing and new thinking that embodies the spirit of the pioneering writing and activism of H.G. Wells. The inaugural lecture will be given by Audrey Niffenegger.

H.G. Wells published more than 80 books. He disapproved of eugenics and foresaw the age of Wikipedia – free shared encyclopaedic knowledge available to all. Niffenegger expressed curiosity at what Wells would think of the internet, of the porn, of the self-Googlers and trolls. He was pessimistic about the future of humanity so perhaps he wouldn’t be too surprised. He wanted his epitaph to read: I told you so, you damn fools.

Most of the lecture concentrated on Niffenegger’s favorite Wells story “The Door in the Wall” about the recurring appearance of a white wall with a green door, behind which was a bright and joyful garden paradise that Lionel Wallace experienced only once as a child and thus started a lifelong obsession to visit there again. However, the door only appears when Lionel wasn’t looking for it and was too busy to walk through. ‘The rational beats up the creative’ when Lionel’s father disbelieves his young son’s tale of wide-eyed wonder through the green door.

‘We’re suspicious of solitude,’ Niffenegger says. We’re constantly trying to put an economic value on the arts and in turn we neglect to nurture our creativity, our pursuit of happiness and rarely take the time to smell the roses.


Q. What is she working on at the moment?
A. Audrey is writing a sequel to The Time Traveler’s Wife and is working on a book called The Chincilla Girl in Exile about a nine-year-old girl with hypertrichosis (also known as werewolf syndrome) which means an abnormal excess of body hair.

Q. What’s the biggest threat to the arts?
A. Amazon

This lecture was recorded and will be posted along with a transcript at some point. We were told to check Twitter and English PEN’s website for more information.

Other articles reporting on the lecture:


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