“The Adventure of the Inertial Adjustor” — Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter is a six-time nominee for the Hugo Award, and a winner of the Philip K. Dick, British SF, and John W. Campbell Memorial awards. His short work has been collected in The Hunters of Pangaea and Traces, and his latest novel, Flood, was released in May. Other books include the Time’s Tapestry and Destiny’s Children series, and the Time Odyssey series, which was co-written with Arthur C. Clarke. Baxter is also the author of the Xeelee Sequence, and several standalone novels, such as The H-Bomb Girl, and The Time Ships, an authorized sequel to H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine.

H. G. Wells is a towering figure in the history of science fiction. His work was pivotal in defining many of the themes—time travel, space exploration, alien invasion, invisibility, genetic engineering—that would be mined by later writers. He was also a famous political activist, and his work demonstrates the power of science fiction to grapple with contemporary issues (War of the Worlds was an attack on European colonialism, The Time Machine a broadside against the British class system). Wells is also important to science fiction fans because he published the first rulebook for tabletop wargaming, which was instrumental in the development of pen & pencil role-playing games (such as Dungeons & Dragons) and the immensely popular computer versions that followed. Wells, who spent his later years frustrated at his inability to change the world, would no doubt be astounded to see what a vast influence his thought and writings have had, though he’d probably also be astounded to see, four hundred years after Galileo, how many people still believe that more weight causes an object to fall faster. Wells appears as a principal character in our next Sherlock Holmes case, an adventure like something right out of a scientific romance.