21 October 2016

The Diversity of Crewmember Surnames in All Five Star Trek Series: A Statistical Analysis

Lt. Singh (TOS, Indian)
In my post from last Friday, I argued that the original Star Trek made a marked effort to give characters names with non-British/Irish origins. Not an enormous effort, perhaps, but something of one. Ex Astris Scientia did an analysis of all human characters listed in the 3rd edition of the Star Trek Encyclopedia, and concluded that 60% of the surnames names were of British/Irish derivations. The writer of that article argues that "[n]o present-day American phone book has such a low share of non-British/Irish names," and that "[t]he situation is worsening with Enterprise where there seem to exist no humans outside the USA at all."

J.-L. Picard (TNG, French)
In my post, I said, "What I kind of suspect, though, is that the ratio is actually better in the original Star Trek than in the later series." But was this actually true? Were the creators of Star Trek better at depicting a diverse future in the 1960s than they were in the 2000s? (Keeping in mind, of course, that surname origin is presumably a crude measure of diversity.) I decided to crunch the data and figure out for myself.

20 October 2016

Review: Justine by Lawrence Durrell

Trade paperback, 236 pages
Published 2011 (originally 1957)

Previously read January 2007 and June 2008
Acquired June 2014
Reread November 2014
Justine by Lawrence Durrell

I love this book, and when I was assigned to teach a class on The Modern Novel (major novels after 1900), I knew I wanted to teach it. Many of my students sort of bounced off it: it's a difficult book to follow, and it was late enough in the semester that I don't think all of my students were being particularly careful readers. (The class average on the four-question quiz was 39%, even when I scored it out of three!) We ended up having to spend one of our four class sessions just discussing what was going on in it. Yet I don't regret my decision to teach it for an instant. Indeed, I wish I could teach a whole course on The Alexandria Quartet. Probably you'd want to read Justine twice over to make it really work.

One of the reasons I love it is that, like many postmodern novels, Justine is about the act of reading itself. At one point our anonymous first-person narrator reads a book that was "in the first person singular, and was a diary of Alexandrian life as seen by a foreigner in the middle thirties," a day-to-day account of life in Alexandria "accurate and penetrating" (52). This description could, of course, be applied to Justine itself, and he seeks answers in its pages. Reading art gives us insight into what we have experienced.

But when we try to render events into comprehensible narratives, we reduce their power. The character Clea argues, "It is our disease […] to want to contain everything within the frame of reference of a psychology or a philosophy" (65). Despite being told this, the narrator still attempts to do it. "[E]verything is susceptible of more than one explanation" (65), yet the narrator is constantly seeking to find the answer, the explanation that will finally allow him to comprehend Justine. He's doomed to failure, of course, as is everyone else who has tried to figure out Justine. If you stick to science, you'll get no further than the fact that "man […] is just a passage for liquids and solids, a pipe of flesh" (81): true but useless.

Justine presents hope for the novel as a project, however. Our narrator has written Justine, and he has invented a new literary form in doing so. There are two times he sums up his approach the most effectively I think. On one occasion, he does it negatively, explaining why all his previous novels had not succeeded: "In art I had failed (it suddenly occurred to me at that moment) because I did not believe in the discrete human personality. ('Are people', writes Pursewarden, 'continuously themselves, or simply over and over again so fast they give the illusion of continuous features—the temporal flicker of old silent film?') I lacked a belief in the true authenticity of people in order to successfully portray them" (180). Ever since I first read the book, I've loved that parenthetical question by Pursewarden. It is why Justine is more a stream of incidents than a narrative: because that is all we are.

The narrator solves his problem as much as he can by devising a new way of writing, one he casually (as with Pursewarden's observation above) just drops into a parenthetical: "What I most need to do is to record experiences, not in the order in which they took place—for that is history—but in the order in which they first became significant to me" (102). That is Justine, and that is one of the reasons it is beautiful.

That said, the form of the novel, even the postmodern novel still generates explanations. Hence the reason for the book's three sequels: each in turn reveals that the books before it were not the explanation of the events they covered. "[E]verything is susceptible of more than one explanation," after all. Durrell pushes at the limits of novelistic form, and manages to create a beautiful example of one all at once.

Also, given the title of the course, I had to appreciate this line: "The modern novel! The grumus merdae [specks of excrement] left behind by criminals upon the scene of their misdeeds" (124).

19 October 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman Spin-Offs, Part XXXIV: Dead Boy Detectives: Ghost Snow

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2015 (contents: 2014-15)
Borrowed from the library
Read April 2016
Dead Boy Detectives, Volume 2: Ghost Snow

Writer – story: Toby Litt
Penciller – layouts – story: Mark Buckingham
Finishers: Ryan Kelly, Al Davison, Emma Vieceli, Victor Santos
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Todd Klein

The second (or fourth, depending on how you count) and final volume of Dead Boy Detectives pays off some plot threads left dangling from the previous volume. Dead boy Charles Rowland meets the half-sister he never knew he had, a Buddhist monk with a rationalist daughter. His sister tells him his father may have directly caused the dead of his mother, so it's up to the Dead Boy Detectives to investigate with the help of new friend Crystal Palace. At the same time, Crystal's comatose childhood friend Rosa is trapped in the dimension of the half-dead, the Neitherlands, along with another one of her friends, Hana, where a mysterious power is amassing to invade our reality. But Rosa's parents are read to pull the plug on her life support, which could doom both her and the universe.

There's a lot going on in this book, apparently.
from Dead Boy Detectives #8 (art by Mark Buckingham & Ryan Kelly)

I kind of like this set-up for the Dead Boy Detectives. Crystal Palace is great, as is Charles's skeptical rationalist niece, and the two cats that are each half a philosopher are fun. I'm less into the Buddhist sister, though at least Litt stops her from being a serene cliche. But I'd rather see the dead boys out in the world solving supernatural mysteries, not plunging the depths of their own backstories: I don't think we gain anything from Charles's family being anything other than an ordinary human family. Their deaths should have been an entry point into a weird world after banal yet horrifying lives, and involving Charles's family so much with ghosts and murder plots and mystical meditations undercuts that; it's like how Steven Moffat Doctor Who companions all have these complicated backstories where they're splintered across time or grow up near cracks in reality when Russell T Davies showed us all they really need is a life boring enough to want to leave it behind. This is a good set-up, but it's only being used to generate insular stories.

18 October 2016

Review: The Transformers Classics, Vol. 3 by Bob Budiansky, Don Perlin, et al.

Comic PDF eBook, 308 pages
Published 2012 (contents: 1987-88)
Acquired August 2014
Read April 2016
The Transformers Classics, Vol. 3

Written by Bob Budiansky, Steve Parkhouse
Pencils by Don Perlin, John Ridgway, Mike Collins, Jose Delbo
Inks by Brett Breeding, Ian Akin & Brian Garvey, Jim Fern, John Ridgway, Mike Collins, Dave Hunt
Letters by Janice Chiang, Rick Parker, Pat Brosseau, Richard Starkings, Jack Morelli, Diana Albers, Bill Oakley
Colors by Nel Yomtov, Gina Hart & Josie Fermin

Previously I claimed that every volume of Bob Budiansky's run on The Transformers had one real standout story that made it worthwhile. This is sort of true of vol. 3 of The Transformers Classics: "Man of Iron" is probably the best story of the Marvel Transformers series full stop... but it's not by Bob Budiansky. The UK creative team of Steve Parkhouse, John Ridgway, and Mike Collins (all familiar to me thanks to their work on Doctor Who Magazine) step in for a two-part story that is just incredible. Written almost entirely from the perspective of the human characters (the Autobots are investigating information about a ship beneath a castle in the UK), the story is entirely unlike any other Transformers story I've ever read: moody and frightening. The Transformers are inscrutable alien robots, even when in scenes written from their perspective.

I like the idea that the Transformers' names are codenames because their names are unpronounceable by humans. As far as I know, this has never been used anywhere else. (Though Tom Scioli's Transformers vs. G.I. Joe has them communicating in indecipherable electronic codes.)
from The Transformers #33 (script by Steve Parkhouse, art by John Ridgway)

The story is told from the point-of-view of a child for large chunks, something often pooh-poohed by Transformers fans (including myself), but in the hands of these master craftsmen, that only makes the story even more frightening:
I don't think I would want to wake up to this outside my bedroom window.
from The Transformers #33 (script by Steve Parkhouse, art by John Ridgway)

The end of the first issue is even a terrifying kidnapping scene, as Jazz drives off with an unwilling Sammy while all his mother can do it watch. The second issue explains the Transformers a little bit more, but makes them cold and ruthless-- the Decepticons never speak, and the whole thing ends with a big blow-'em-up battle that is utterly-uncartoonish, and the death of two faithful Autobots who'd been waiting for the Ark for a thousand years.

Deadly and silent-- the worst the Marvel Decepticons have ever been.
from The Transformers #34 (script by Steve Parkhouse, art by Mike Collins)

It's a triumph of tone, and the best Transformers comic I'd read up to this point.

The rest of the book is... not as great. Grimlock becomes the leader of the Autobots, which should be hilarious and awesome, but just makes the Autobots look like indecisive incompetents who'll bow to anyone with a mildly strong will. The book does introduce my favorite Decepticon leader, Ratbat, a fuel auditor. From his base on Cybertron, he audits the Decepticon operation and determines it's wasting too much resources for too little profit, and assumes control by cutting off supplies if the Decepticons don't run things his way. On the other hand, his plan to mind-control America's greatest manufacturer of gasoline into building car washes that hypnotize their users into driving at night to a Decepticon base and siphon off their excess fuel isn't exactly an elegant plan itself.

I was also a little annoyed to discover that though the Headmasters spin-off series has a major impact on the events of the parent book, it's collected in The Transformers Classics, Vol. 7. Its issues really ought to have been woven into this one, in a sort of "meanwhile, elsewhere..." fashion like the original readers would have experienced it. As it is, a ton of new characters from Headmasters pop up out of nowhere and have a major influence on the plot.

Next Week: Bob Budiansky plots the climax to his run on The Transformers, in Classics, Vol. 4!

17 October 2016

H. G. Wells at 150: The Picshuas of H. G. Wells

Science fiction without any picshuas: I review the eighth Doctor's latest adventure on audio, Doom Coalition 3.

Hardcover, 251 pages
Published 2006
Acquired and read July 2016
The Picshuas of H. G. Wells: A Burlesque Diary
by Gene K. Rinkel & Margaret E. Rinkel

When reading Wells's Experiment in Autobiography, I was entertained but frequently perplexed by the "picshuas" he included: the sketches he would draw for his second wife, Jane, on letters, in her diary, on scraps of paper, and on the title pages of the books he presented her. The Rinkels' book collects many of the picshuas, with a higher quality of reproduction than in the Experiment, and some time spent deciphering Wells's handwriting, contextualizing them in a narrative of the domestic life of H. G. and Jane. Sometimes I felt like I was drowning in details, but the picshuas themselves and the Rinkels' interpretation thereof always carried me through. The Rinkels usually call the duo Bins and Bits, using their nicknames from the picshuas, a nice touch that makes the picshuas seem like an alternate world of sorts.

Bins's bravery was apparently not enough to save their picnic from being colonized by cows.
(from Picshuas of H. G. Wells, p. 26)

There is a lot of cute stuff here, like Bins and Bits going for a picnic and being accosted by cows, or Bits demanding the waves not hit their coastal home, Cnut-style, or Bins looking on nervous as Bits reads his latest manuscript (she was a strong critic, and a strong manager, of his writing career). I wish we knew more about Jane and how she felt about her husbands' affairs: a couple of the picshuas depict her as an avenging air-ship. Was this an attempt to paper over a serious rift, or a harmless bit of fun? The Rinkels also manage to explain all of Wells's weird nicknames for his wife (in addition to Jane and Bits, there's also "P.C.B."!). Wells is a pretty gifted sketch artist, I think, able to evoke a lot with just a few lines.

Death from above!
(from Picshuas of H. G. Wells, p. 152)
Other good ones I could have scanned: the triumph of Bits and Bins when they get their first garden vegetable, everyone falling asleep when Bins gets to lecture at the Royal Institution.

The Rinkels indicate that only the sketches from Bins to Bits count as picshuas (answering a question I had after reading H. G. Wells & Rebecca West, which also includes a number of doodles by Wells), and say that you could fill a whole 'nother book with the existing non-picshua sketches. I'd read it, but ten years on with no sign of it, its existence seems unlikely to me.

Next Week: But who was Jane? I try to find out by reading The Book of Catherine Wells.

14 October 2016

Giotto, Rahda, and Singh: Diversity of Names in the Original Star Trek

Recently, a group of fans created a list of the names ascribed to Star Trek television characters in non-television sources. Like, say, Commander Giotto, security chief on the original Enterprise (from "The Devil in the Dark"), who has received the first names Barry, Antonio, and Salvatore in various novels. Or, even, characters with no on-screen name, like the original chief medical officer on Voyager, whom the novelization named Fitzgerald and another book named Bist.

My theory: Giotto was always changing his name to make it harder for Captain Kirk to assign him landing party duty. That's how he got to be the oldest redshirt and thus security chief.

It got me thinking about the naming practices of the original Star Trek (not for the first time). Something that I don't like in the original series novels is when authors give characters the first names of the actors who play them. Not only is it unimaginative, it is often contra the spirit of the original series, which had a commitment to diversity, including in naming: a lot of background characters in the original show have markedly "ethnic," non-Anglo names, like Esteban Rodriguez and Karl Jaeger, but many of the actual actors did not. Rodriguez was played by Perry Lopez, but Jaeger by a guy named Richard Carlyle. So giving Ensign Rahda (evidently a misspelling of the Indian surname "Radha") the first name Naomi because she was played by an actress named Naomi Pollack doesn't seem quite in the proper spirit, given that Naomi is a Hebrew name.

Rahda has even more first names than Giotto: Manjula, Naomi, Sitara, and Tora. Weirdly, two of them come from different novels by the same writer.

One should note that despite its commitment to diversity in character naming, the original Star Trek didn't always cast members of the relevant ethnicity. Naomi Pollack, for example, played Rahda in one episode and a Native American character in another, but the actress was the founder of a San Francisco-based Jewish theatre group, and Pollack is a Polish surname, so she was probably a Polish Jew. Blaisdell Makee, a Hawai'ian actor, appeared as two different Enterprise crew members in his time: one named Singh and one named Spinelli!

Hawai'ian, Indian, or Italian? Up to you, apparently.

The website Ex Astris Scientia has a good article about the predominance of British names in Star Trek; the writer listed all human last names from Star Trek and classified them as either "British/Irish," "Rest of the world," and "Uncertain or multiple possibilities." If you take a look, you will see that the names are overwhelmingly British/Irish. What I kind of suspect, though, is that the ratio is actually better in the original Star Trek than in the later series. I'd be curious to see if that's true, but I don't have the time right now to crunch the data. To Be Continued...?

13 October 2016

Review: Victorian Detective Fiction and the Nature of Evidence by Lawrence Frank

Hardcover, 249 pages
Published 2003
Borrowed from the library
Read January 2013
Victorian Detective Fiction and the Nature of Evidence: The Scientific Investigations of Poe, Dickens, and Doyle
by Lawrence Frank

Lawrence Frank discusses how the methods of detectives in Victorian fiction parallel actual scientific methodologies. For example, Holmes explicitly connects his methodology to science in “The Five Orange Pips,” where he compares himself to the paleontologist Georges Cuvier: “As Cuvier could correctly describe a whole animal by the contemplation of a single bone, so the observer who has thoroughly understood one link in a series of incidents, should be able to accurately state all the other ones, both before and after.” Like a scientist, Holmes’s eye of reason takes in sights unknown to the eye of the body. Frank points out that Doyle had Holmes refer to “the scientific use of the imagination,” a reference to an essay by John Tyndall “of which Doyle himself need not have been fully aware” (19), the idea being by then so ingrained in British culture. Frank’s discussion of the Holmes stories (133-201) emphasizes the way that Holmes “reads” the world around him in a similar way to natural historians such as Darwin; his chapter “Reading the Gravel Page: Lyell, Darwin, and Doyle” (154-75) is especially compelling and useful. Frank explores to what extent detectives like Holmes really were emulating the methods of science, and what kind of science it was-- even Holmes finds that some things are beyond the reach of the scientific method.

12 October 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman Spin-Offs, Part XXXIII: Dead Boy Detectives: Schoolboy Terrors

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2014 (contents: 2013-14)
Borrowed from the library
Read April 2016
Dead Boy Detectives, Volume 1: Schoolboy Terrors

Writer – story: Toby Litt
Penciller – layouts – story: Mark Buckingham
Inkers: Gary Erskine, Andrew Pepoy
Finishers: Russ Braun, Victor Santos
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Todd Klein

They've had a couple of confusingly-titled standalones to their names already,* but the Dead Boy Detectives have finally landed an ongoing series, some twenty years after the characters originally debuted in The Sandman (and almost as long since they became detectives in The Children's Crusade). I'm not sure why, but I committed to reading every Sandman spin-off years ago, so here I am!

Schoolboy Terrors contains three stories. The first, "Run Ragged," is a short tale of the two ghost boys (Edwin, d. 1910s, and Charles, d. 1990s) helping find a lost dead cat; events quickly spiral out of control and they end up enrolled in a creepy school. This is fun, if inconsequential stuff: like Jill Thompson did in her run on the characters, Toby Litt and Mark Buckingham extract a lot of humor from the two boys' interactions with girls. (Charles is obsessed, Edwin less so.)

Weirdly, after the first story sets up these girls and their claim on the Dead Boy Detectives' treehouse, they basically don't turn up again except very briefly, and then we get a whole story about the boys making a different female friend. Not sure what that's about.
from Time Warp vol. 2 #1 (art by Mark Buckingham & Victor Santos)

School turns out to be a fruitful setting for the Dead Boy Detectives (Thompson's run was also set in one), as in the title story, they end up traveling to St. Hilarion's, the very school in which both boys died, eighty years apart. They're there to protect Crystal Palace, the daughter of a performance artist who likes MMORPGs but is possibly being set up as the receptacle for demons coming through from another dimension. I like the idea of taking the boys back to the scene of their demise, but it shows up one of the fundamental difficulties of the Dead Boy Detectives premise. What happened to these boys was terrible and gruesome-- they were both killed by bullies-- but the inclination is to put them into light-hearted goofy adventures. The plot in "Schoolboy Terrors" is about kids being killed so demons can use their bodies, sure, but the writing and especially Buckingham's art emphasizes the goofiness more than anything else, and the danger is all "fantasy violence," not realistic violence. Yet the boys have this fundamental, disturbing trauma in their backstories that is difficult to reconcile with their ongoing adventures, and bringing them back to the scene of their deaths makes that disjunction hard to ignore. Neil Gaiman is actually pretty good at mixing horror with childlike whimsy, but Toby Litt is not as talented a writer (no slight to him, of course).

11 October 2016

Review: The Transformers Classics, Vol. 2 by Bob Budiansky, Don Perlin, et al.

I just realized I've been neglecting to mention my work at USF the past couple weeks, which have seen four of my reviews materialize: The New Counter Measures: Who Killed Toby Kinsella? (Christmastime during the Three-Day Week), Doctor Who: Aquitaine (the Doctor meets a robot butler who can butle with the best of them), The Avengers: The Lost Episodes, Volume 6 (Steed and Keel fight crime in the streets of London, at a shipyard, and at a fun fair), and Doctor Who: The Peterloo Massacre (the Doctor visits North and South, only it really happened).

Comic PDF eBook, 284 pages
Published 2011 (contents: 1986-87)
Acquired August 2014
Read March 2016
The Transformers Classics, Vol. 2

Written by Bob Budiansky, Len Kaminski 
Pencils by Don Perlin, Graham Nolan, Herb Trimpe
Inks by Al Gordon, Keith Williams, Tom Morgan, Vince Colletta, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey
Letters by Janice Chiang, Bill Oakley, Hans Iv
Colors by Nelson Yomtov

Even within the bounds of what you can or should do with comic books based on a toyline, The Transformers is not and never will be great. There are just too many characters with too little personality to distinguish them from one another, and more are constantly being introduced, meaning you never get to know anyone long enough to care about them. Plus, Bob Budiansky's plots range from bizarre to far-fetched: this volume features a Decepticon plot to steal music from a rock concert, an out-of-work comic book writer hired by the government to pretend to be a terrorist controlling the Autobots and Decepticons, a group of Decepticons who go rogue to leave graffiti on human monuments, and Optimus Prime committing suicide when non-player characters are accidentally killed when he has a videogame duel with Megatron. This isn't great comics; it's not even great hokum.

I love the idea that Megatron is so convinced that Optimus is not dead, he kills himself to get one over on Optimus.
from The Transformers #25 (script by Bob Budiansky, art by Don Perlin and Ian Akin & Brian Garvey)

(You do, I think, have to give Budiansky credit for never settling into a repetitive status quo: the Decepticons are always shifting their leadership and plans throughout the series. I'd take Shockwave over Megatron as leader any day.)

Terrifying death by acid disintegration, that's what this kid's comic needs.
from The Transformers #17 (script by Bob Budiansky, art by Don Perlin & Keith Williams)

That said, every now and again, Budiansky hits it out of the park; each volume of The Transformers Classics usually has one story that sticks out above the rest, and vol. 2 actually has two. The first is "Return to Cybertron," a two-part tale that shows what life has been like on Cybertron since the Ark left three million years or so ago. In a word, it's completely terrible: it's a huge contrast between this and the kind of wacky hijinks this title is usually populated with. It's a gritty story of a world where the Autobots are barely hanging on under the cruelty of a Decepticon dictatorship, where most robots don't even have the energy or parts to resist. Characters can die here, and their deaths have real emotional consequences. If only Budiansky's run was always like this, it would have been incredible. (Though, perhaps, not very uplifting.)

This is definitely a euphemism for something sexual.
from The Transformers #20 (script by Bob Budiansky, art by Herb Trimpe and Ian Akin & Brian Garvey)

This volume actually has two very good stories, the other being "Showdown!" After a big Autobot/Decepticon battle, the Autobot Skids is left for dead, stuck in his vehicle mode (a van), where he's found by Charlene, a grocery store cashier who dreams of a better life, and who needs a new car. Charlene has Skids repaired, and, tired of war, Skids decides to lay low and just act as her van. Of course, circumstances force him to reveal himself to her-- but they decide they like the arrangement and become fast friends. It's a story of two different sides. In one sense, it's a cute slice-of-life tale. In another sense, it's the story of a wounded soldier trying to escape an endless war that has caused him nothing but pain and anguish. It's at once adorable and weighty, and it's probably Budiansky's second-best work on the Marvel Transformers title.

Next Week: The nadir and the peak of The Transformers, in Classics, Vol. 3!

10 October 2016

H. G. Wells at 150: H. G. Wells & Rebecca West

September might be over, but my celebrations of the 150th birthday of H. G. Wells aren't! I continue my investigations of the life of the man with

Hardcover, 215 pages
Published 1974
Acquired March 2009
Read June 2016
H. G. Wells & Rebecca West by Gordon N. Ray

Wells doesn't say a whole lot about the disintegration of his relationship with Rebecca West in H. G. Wells in Love: Postscript to an Experiment in Autobiography. West was one of three women who bore him a child (that he knew of). Wells couches the end of their relationship in terms of his concept of "the Lover-Shadow," the ideal lover of whom all actual lovers are only a reflection, and thus one perpetually seeks. After one of their separations, he reports, "I was secretly in intense misery and haunted to an extraordinary extent by the thought of Rebecca. At that time I was feeling too acutely to observe myself. But I see now that Rebecca had become for me the symbol of the Lover-Shadow and that I was unable to conceive of it in any other form than hers-- or exist without it. I began to see her on balconies, away across restaurants. Any dark-haired woman would become Rebecca for me. I felt I must at any cost get her back to me and get back to her. I sent her a telegram [...] suggesting we should [...] make another try at a life together. But Rebecca was now inflexibly in revolt."

Published ten years before Wells's take on the relationship in the Postscript was finally released, Gordon Ray's H. G. Wells & Rebecca West reconstructs the relationship between the two from the existing letters, supplemented by interviews with Dame Rebecca herself. Most of the letters that survive are those from Wells to West, leading to a necessarily incomplete account. Wells's perspective comes from the moment, as expressed in the letters, while West's comes in retrospect, meaning it is more considered. But it is what it is.

My impression is of two very intelligent people, drawn to each other yet unable to coexist for any length of time. I wish we had West's letters, because Wells often comes across as unpleasant and condescending, yet we don't have her words to judge his responses by. As the relationship goes on, things get worse and worse between them, and I feel like Wells wanted something West could never give him. Wells wanted another version of his second wife, Jane, a helpmeet who would help him execute his great work, except this one would also have sex with him. But the very things that drew him to West meant she could never supply him with that; she would never subjugate herself to his desires, even though biology and finances meant that she was the one who had to take care of their child together.

Wells actually uses that child as a weapon against her late in their relationship, alternately threatening to take him away from her and to stop seeing him altogether, depending on his whims. It's hard to blame her for being "inflexibily in revolt" given how much of an asshole he could be, and his reaction to feeling "intense misery" seems to be to make her feel that way, too. Wells was not always an emotionally mature man, to say the least.

Dinner party: H. G. Wells, Thomas Hardy, Rebecca West, Mrs. Hardy
Thomas Hardy is just going on and on about "skellingtons" he found when he built his house; West can only go, "Lovely, lovely" in response. Mrs. Hardy is depressed.
(from H. G. Wells & Rebecca West, p. 95)

It's not all misery. There are cute doodles by Wells (I wonder if he called them "picshuas" as he did the doodles he drew for Jane), and they clearly were two intelligent people enjoying each others' intellectual, emotional, and sexual company when their relationship began. But I feel like the seeds of their relationship's disintegration were planted early, even if took them a while to realize it.

Next Week: I delve into the relationship between H. G. and Jane by unearthing The Picshuas of H. G. Wells!