Science Fiction

Portrait

Science fiction as a genre deals with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology. As our knowledge of science has progressed, the themes and plots of science fiction have changed accordingly, so that fans sometimes make a distinction between "hard-core" science fiction, in which everything has to accord with the scientifically possible, and other forms which treat the science more "flexibly". In either case, the science is not as important as the consequences of that science for society or mankind, making science fiction often a vehicle for commentary on the world of today.

Historical antecedents

Historically, the origins of Science Fiction are a matter of opinion, but claims may be made for The True History, by Lucian of Samosata from the 2nd century A.D., about a trip to the moon; Kepler's Somnium (The Dream) [1634]; Francis Godwin's The Man in the Moone [1638]; Cyrano de Bergerac's Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon [1656]; and Voltaire's Micromégas [1752]. Although these are more properly works of fantasy than science fiction, and certainly lack scientific credibility, it is surely no coincidence that most of these feature a journey to the moon, it being the most obvious example to us of another world, and therefore a source of speculation about who might inhabit such a world.

From the early 19th century, as scientific ideas began to attract popular interest, works with a stronger basis in science appeared, the first of these being Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in 1818, a warning of the consequences of "playing God".

Also influential were the works of Edgar Allan Poe, who produced a number of works exploring science, in addition to his gothic and macabre fiction. (He may also lay claim to have invented detective fiction.) His Hans Phall tells of a journey to the Moon by balloon, while several other tales explore aspects of the Hollow Earth theories which were popular at the time.

And at last we come to the imaginings of Jules Verne, where the known science of his day is extrapolated to such brilliant creations as Captain Nemo and the Nautilus in Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Although it is interesting to note that he too begins his career with a journey to the Moon, and a Hollow Earth adventure.

Flammarion, Camille, 1842–1925
Jefferies, Richard, 1848–1887
Doyle, Arthur Conan, 1859–1930
Wells, H. G. (Herbert George), 1866–1946
Stapledon, Olaf, 1886–1950

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