The look at James Gunn’s Modern Science Fiction: A Critical Analysis continues.
Essay: The Philosophy of Modern Science Fiction
So what’s special about 1930? Why does Gunn say that was the approximate year that a new type of science fiction was ushered in? And what defines that new type?
1930 was the year Astounding Stories was created.
That was the year when it became clear, albeit slowly, to science fiction sf writers that “industrial, scientific civilization was here to stay and that man must learn to live with it”. “Authors in the main literary stream” may have been still
. . . yearning and sighing for a return to the safety of the ordered, static civilization where values were firm and fixed and there was no necessity for soul-searching or mental struggle.
Science fiction authors were starting to look for “new viewpoints” and “new answers to new problems”.
Science was to be the answer to man’s problems. Continue reading
I strongly recommend James Gunn’s six volume The Road to Science Fiction anthology series as a good look at the history of Anglophone science fiction. In the sixth volume, foreign language science fiction is covered.
However, I only reviewed this volume.
A retro review from September 2, 2003.
Review: The Road to Science Fiction, Volume 5: The British Way, ed. James Gunn, 1998.
Several novels are excerpted here. And one prominent one isn’t: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which Gunn argues is a transition from the gothic but not yet fully in the camp of self-aware science fiction. Lt. Col. Sir George Tomkyns Chesney’s The Battle of Dorking is the first of those future war novels written by politicians and military men determined to influence public policy. Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland, still in print, is a charming tale of life and culture in a two-dimensional world. That incomparable giant of science fiction, Olaf Stapledon, is represented by a selection from Star Maker, narrated by a “cosmical mind” who views the life of the universe. (Though oddly, in this volume, Gunn barely mentions his importance to the genre. For that, you must consult volume two.) The title for the section on Richard Jeffries After London; Or, Wild England is “The Craving for Catastrophe”. It is a pastoral tale of a simpler life after an unexplained disaster has befallen the country.
That craving shows up in several more tales. Killer smog hits the city in Robert Barr’s 1892 story “The Doom of London.” “The Great Fog” of H. F. Heard wipes out worldwide civilization. Life gets extinguished on an alien planet in Arthur C. Clarke’s much anthologized “The Star”. “The Nature of the Catastrophe” in Michael Moorcock’s story of that name is never really explained. An amalgam of newspaper excerpts and fiction, this story unfortunately shares the oblique prose and loose setting of his Jerry Cornelius novels. Not readable in its own right, it still gives you some idea of Moorcock’s influence on the New Wave. Tanith Lee’s “Written in Water” is a last woman on Earth tale. The world that may be destroyed by an artist in J. D. Beresford “A Negligible Experiment” is our own. The disaster of John Wyndham’s “The Emptiness of Space” is a personal one. Its hero has survived a spell in cryonic suspension and fears his soul has left his body.
As you would expect, the anthology is full of several famous names. Continue reading