Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The pre-Hugo Age of Science Fiction

For the last 2 months I have been showcasing some of my favorite science fiction series. We have seen around ten of them. There are many more I would like to cover. But that might get monotonous. So I end that series here and shall revisit that series later with a few more of them. Now I would like to move on to a different theme: what I shall call the pre-Hugo Science Fiction.

Science fiction as an independent genre is supposed to have come to its own in 1926 with Hugo Gernsback staring the first magazine entirely dedicated to science fiction: Amazing Fiction. However even today, if a general reader is asked to name two science fiction authors, he or she is more likely to name Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, both pre Hugo writers rather than the grandmasters of science fiction: Isaac Asimov, Robert Henlein or Arthur C Clarke.  While Jules Verne and H.G. Wells specialized in science fiction, there were other authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, R.L. Stevenson and Mark Twain who have explored themes that can be classified under science fiction. For the next few weeks I would like to showcase some of the classical authors who have explored science fiction themes.

The idea is to see what kind of futuristic concepts were explored by the authors of the past as against what is being explored by the science fiction authors of today. Also seeing how some of the things imagined by these authors of the past have come to fruition in the current day can probably help us overcome our skepticism whether what current crop of science fiction writers will at all become a reality tomorrow. It would also be fascinating to see how ideas have evolved over the years in parallel to evolution of actual science over the ages.

Of course in some ways one can argue that science fiction has existed right from the time fiction has existed and I would not dispute that. Any story that talks of science and technology beyond that which exists during that age can definitely be considered science fiction. For instance, I remember writing an essay for one of college courses arguing Indian Classics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata can be considered as science fiction of their time. I however would not go so much back in time. In this series, I confine myself to a century or so before science fiction officially became a genre of its own. 

Coming up Next Tuesday: Jules Verne: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow?

4 comments:

  1. So, we are in for H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), R.L.Stevenson (Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Doyle (Challenger novels), Olaf Stapledon et al?

    Are you including Fantasy in this? That is a bit of a poser - since myth and fantasy are tough to segregate - Le Morte du Arthur and all :) There are authors like E.R. Eddison and C.S. Lewis who predate Tolkien in adult fantasy; and in YA fantasy, of course, we again have C.S. Lewis as well as Frank Baum - not to mention Alice in Wonderland - long before Rowling.

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  2. No, Suresh - Will stick to pure science fiction. Fantasy and YA Fantasy I will take up separately. Olaf Stapleton is a new one for me. Maybe I should have a guest post from you for that one.

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  3. That is going to be a focused and engaging analysis (and discourse) Karthik, Origins of science fiction as a distinctly different genre may be traced back to Thomas More's Utopia and Francis Bacon's New Atlantis -the hunt for alternative worlds or realities by humans.

    Battle Speed, then! I am all eyes and ears.

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    1. Thanks Umashankar. May once again request for your contribution if you have time. I have been long wanting to read Utopia while first time hearing of New Atlantis.

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