Science Fiction

This is a collection of essays about Science Fiction literature: I have essays on film and television elsewhere on my site. They are generally still in the process of completion as they are interconnected in several ways, and as I add to one, I’ll add to the others.

The Origins of Science Fiction looks at the ”fantastic voyages” that are often regarded as ”proto-sf” or at least important precursors to science fiction. These include Thomas More‘s Utopia (1516), Francis Godwin‘s The Man in the Moone (1638), Cyrano de Bergerac‘s Other Worlds (1657) and Jonathan Swift‘s Gulliver’s Travels (1726, revised 1735). These are generally satirical in intent.

19th Century Utopias discusses the massively popular precursor to science fiction. Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and the early apocalyptic sf novel The Last Man (1826).

Discussions include features on Edward Bulwer-Lytton‘s best-selling gothic utopia The Coming Race (1871), Samuel Butler‘s Erewhon: or, Over the Range (1872) and Erewhon Revisited Twenty Years Later, Both by the Original Discoverer of the Country and by His Son (1901); Edward Bellamy‘s technocratic utopias Looking Backward 2000-1887 (1887) and Equality (1897); and William Morris‘ pastoral classic News from Nowhere (1890).

The Scientific Romance discusses Jules Verne Voyages Extraordinaire including A Journey to the Center of the Earth (Voyage au centre de la Terre, 1864), From the Earth to the Moon (De la Terre à la Lune, 1865), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, 1870) and Around the Moon (Autour de la Lune, 1870) and H. G. Wells‘s The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), When the Sleeper Wakes (1899, revised as The Sleeper Awakes, 1910), The First Men in the Moon (1901), and The World Set Free (1914). There will also be a discussion of George Chetwyn Griffith‘s near future war novels The Angel of the Revolution (1893) and it’s sequel Olga Romanoff (1895).

Richard Jefferies’ post-apocalyptic classic After London; or, Wild England (1885) and M. P. Shiel‘s the apocalyptic The Purple Cloud (1901, revised 1929) and Olaf Stepledon‘s Last and First Men (1930) Sirius (1935) and Star Maker (1937)

Modernist sf discusses Karel Čapek‘s play RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots) (1920) and War with the Newts (1936), and Yevgeny Zamyatin‘s dystopian satire We (1921).

With The ‘Pulps’ we move into sf as a fully fledged genre. Hugo Gernsback‘s novel Ralph 124C 41+ (1911) and his more important role as founder and editor of the pulp magazine Amazing Stories the first magazine devoted to science fiction – or ‘scientifiction’ as he called it. Important writers of this period included Edgar Rice Burroughs (A Princess of Mars, 1917, and The Land that Time Forgot, 1918) and E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith.

Other important writers of this era included Philip Francis Nowlan, author Armageddon 2419 A.D. (the novel which first introduced Buck Rogers, 1928) and the considerably more literary Leigh Brackett.


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