Tuesday, January 7, 2014

SFnal back story

I've encountered many debates about the beginnings of SF. Perhaps you have, too.

Some feel SF's roots are to be found in the novels of Verne and H. G. Wells. Others suggest we look back a bit further, to Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. Moving in a different direction, yet others declare SF as a genre began more recently, in the era of the pulp magazines, characterizing earlier works with elements of SF as pre-genre novels written for a mainstream audience.

Verne: From the Earth to the Moon
And then (from The Telegraph), there's an assertion of an SF novel from the ancient world. See: "Is this the first ever sci-fi novel?"

Interstellar warfare, travel to distant planets and alien reproduction: all familiar elements of modern science fiction. But all of them also appear in a little-known text written in Ancient Greek, in the second century AD.

In a talk at last week's Cambridge Festival of Ideas, senior lecturer Dr Justin Meggitt claimed that the first ever work of science fiction was in fact written by a Greek-speaking Syrian author, in Ancient Rome.

True History by Lucian of Samosata is ostensibly a parody of Ancient Roman travel writing. But with characters venturing to distant realms including the moon, the sun, and strange planets and islands, it has a surprising amount in common with modern sci-fi novels and films.

The article goes on to suggest other (perhaps) early SF from centuries before the usual candidates.

Speaking of centuries before modern times ... Saudi Arabia: Popular sci-fi novel banned: Bookstores told by authorities to stop selling the novel H W J N. It's "about a genie who falls in love with a human, and is a best-seller in Saudi Arabia."

Want to support the author against censorship? Check out HWJN (English Edition) on Amazon.

Censorship is one way to lose books. There are others. I found it sad to read (from io9) Great Lost Manuscripts of Science Fiction. Lost works by by L. Frank Baum, Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, and other big names in the genre ... it's enough to make a grown fan weep.

Finally (courtesy of SFWA), a wholly nonscientific but still thought-provoking survey and essay by hard SF author Mark Niemann-Ross, on Who Reads Science Fiction? Not just you and me.

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