Science Fiction

History of Science Fiction

Science Fiction is literature exploring the limits of future civilization. Some of the most important forerunners of this literary genre were:

  • JULES VERNE (1828–1905): Voyage au centre de la Terre (1864), Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (1869), Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (1873);
  • H. G. WELLS (1866–1946): The Time Machine (1895), The War of the Worlds (1898), A Modern Utopia (1905), The Sleeper Awakes (1911);
  • SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE (1859-1930);
  • JACK LONDON (1876–1916): The Iron Heel (1907), The Valley of the Moon (1913).

The term Science Fiction goes back to the U.S. magazine Amazing StoriesThe magazine of Scientification, which was first published in 1926 by Science Fiction author HUGO GERNSBACK. Short narrations published in cheap magazines, as what came to be derogatorily called pulp fiction, made Science Fiction popular to a large audience. Early Science Fiction combined adventure with future developments in science and technology. Widespread disillusionment after World War II gave Science Fiction a warning function, considering the question: What will human life be like if present developments continue? Warnings are expressed by dystopian literature, which points out the threatening aspects of progress and presents an unpleasant imaginary future world.

Categories of Science Fiction

Soon Science Fiction fell into two groups:

  • Fantasy fiction, which creates imaginary worlds of distant times and completely ignores the real world, e.g. in space opera.
  • Speculative fiction, which offers realistic visions of future life and at the same time comments on the present.

The latter type has brought forth texts of a high literary standard, presenting believable characters in interesting situations. Its tendency is to warn readers not to give in to the fascinations of future perspectives but to be aware of the dangers involved.

Themes of Contemporary Science Fiction

Science Fiction themes are extrapolations of current trends in science, technology and society, e.g.:

  • Nuclear power, its possibilites and its hazards (e. g. RAY BRADBURY, The Other Foot, 1951);
  • Visions of life after a nuclear catastrophe (e. g. Ray BRADBURY, August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains,1975; WALTER VAN TILBURG CLARK, The Portable Phonograph, 1941); or after a natural catastrophe (JOHN BRUNNER, The Windows of Heaven, 1956);
  • Medical advance and population growth with its social, economic and psychological consequences (e. g. KURT VONNEGUT, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, 1953, and Welcome to the Monkey House, 1968);
  • Technological progress and pollution: its consequences on nature and on health, e.g. DAVID ALEXANDER, The Disposal Unit Man;
  • Communications: the possibilities of making contact versus the hazards of manipulation and control (e.g. KURT VONNEGUT, Harrison Bergeron, 1961; RAY BRADBURY, Fahrenheit 451, 1953).

In order to be able to produce consistent Science Fiction, an author must have a profound knowledge of scientific methods, of today's research and of the future effects science may have on human life. Many authors of Science Fiction are scientists themselves, H. G. WELLS was a biologist, ISAAC ASIMOV was a chemist.

Often the plot of Science Fiction stories follows one of these patterns:

  • Man versus man
  • Man versus himself
  • Man versus nature
  • Man creates something and afterwards loses control over his product (based on the classical Promethean Myth: The fable of the Titan Prometheus, who created man out of clay and taught him many important skills. For this, he was later punished by Zeus, who had him chained to a rock, where his liver was picked at daily by a vulture).

Authors of Science Fiction

Well-known writers of Science Fiction are

  • ISAAC ASIMOV (1920–92; e.g. Pebble in the Sky, 1950, Foundation and Earth, 1986);
  • KURT VONNEGUT JR. (* 1922, Welcome To The Monkey House, 1950, and Cat's Cradle, 1963);
  • URSULA LE GUIN (* 1929, The Dispossessed, 1975);
  • RAY BRADBURY (* 1920);
  • the Polish author STANISLAV LEM (* 1921, Star Diaries, Memoirs of a Space Traveller, Solaris).

Stand: 2010
Dieser Text befindet sich in redaktioneller Bearbeitung.

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