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The New Accelerator by H. G. Wells

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The New Accelerator by H. G. Wells (2006).  Dir. Gemma Jenkins.  Perf. Robert Bathurst.  BBC Radio 4 Extra 26 January 2015.  BBCiPlayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007jzbk to 25 February 2015.

 

Written in 1901, “The New Accelerator” is a first person narrative concerning the invention of an elixir that enhances an individual’s physical and cognitive processes.  Although such changes are not perceivable by that person, the external world nonetheless seems to be frozen in time and space: only loud noises or sudden movements (such as the cracking of a whip) can be heard.

 

The drug proves so powerful that individuals can easily singe their clothing as they walk, so fast do they move.  On the other hand such movements might make the process of breathing rather difficult.

 

Like many of Wells’s science fiction tales, “The New Accelerator” looks forward to a world of infinite progress, one where human beings are transformed into quasi-deities.  This can make them feel as if they possess superhuman powers – a quality that can be both positive and negative in effect.  The story is a good example of the author’s skepticism at the end of the Victorian era, where almost unprecedented changes in the industrial and scientific landscape had a profound effect on people’s lives.

 

Robert Bathurst’s reading was almost matter-of-fact tone, as if the consequences wrought by the elixir were happening every day.  This vocal technique drew our attention to the side-effects of scientific discovery; we can become so blasť about it that we often forget the human side to all our experiments.