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Drawing The Line

First, courtesy of ursulav, the only review of Riddick you need to see. My testicles swelled an additional 10% from reading it. Yours will too.

This week in the comments to the book post, we had a guy asking if Jules Verne and Mary Shelley should be covered as Bronze Age SF, to which I replied with a curt "No".

Call me a Neanderthal Chauvinist, but as far as I'm concerned, SF begins right here in America with a guy named Hugo Gernsback. Gernsback was what our Japanese cousins would term a "technology otaku", perpetually excited about newfangled stuff like radio, rockets, and where the development of these revolutionary new inventions was going to take mankind. He even created a new term to describe the fiction that talked about these technologies: scientifiction, he called it, and thumped the drum for it in Amazing Stories and other pulp magazines filled with stories about new technologies, iron-thewed engineers and courageous scientists and cowboys swapping laser fire with Indians on Mars, robots, spaceships, aliens, all that "crazy Buck Rogers stuff". Most of it was poorly written dreck, of course (Sturgeon's Law applied then as it does now) but it laid the foundation for all the SF that came afterward, which is why every year the Worldcon hands out these really cool awards and calls them the Hugos.

Before Hugo, there was really no separate category for SF. It was treated just like any other crappy pulp fiction, or in the case of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, hifalutin literature. You had Edisonades and Tom Swift and other such Young Inventor things, but nobody lumped it together with all the other proto-SF and called it science fiction or scientifiction or speculative fiction or any of that. After Hugo, of course, SF went into its own little ghetto and (mostly) stayed there until Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas tore down the walls and fandom won the culture war. But that's another story, much like the colonials'* reaction to this new literature.

*England, Australia, Europe and other places SF is allegedly read, per the late Bob Tucker.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Sep. 7th, 2013 07:40 pm (UTC)

...if the theme is people dealing with bizarre problems in rigorous accordance with the best current understanding of how the Universe works, the earliest example I can think of offhand is the Iliad.

Swift did it too.

So did Melville.

Before the rise in popularity of the notion that "smart people aren't any more important than the people who work for them," this was called "literature". Gernsback was responsible for resurrecting it, and gave it a name of its own.

This has been my view for many years. It has the virtue of explaining why Marxist SF always turns out really stupid.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )