The series looking at the essays in Brian Stableford’s Opening Minds: Essays on Fantastic Fiction continues.
Review: “William Wilson’s Prospectus for Science-Fiction, 1851“, Brian Stableford, 1975.
Stableford’s William Wilson is not Edgar Allan Poe’s hero of the same name, and most of this article is capsulated now under the “William Wilson“ entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
William Wilson was the first person to use the phrase “Science-Fiction” in his 1851 book about poetry, A Little Ernest Book Upon a Great Old Subject.
Wilson thought the findings of science could breathe something fresh and vital into literature:
. . . “Fiction in Poetry is not the reverse of truth, but her soft and enchanting resemblance.” Now this applies to Science-Fiction, in which the revealed truths of Science may be given, interwoven with a pleasing story which may itself be poetical and true — thus circulating a knowledge of the Poetry of Science, clothed in a garb of the Poetry of Life.
Yes, as Stableford writes, it does sound a lot like Hugo Gernsback’s declaration, in the first issue of Amazing Stories, that the fiction in his magazine would promote scientific understanding
with a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision”, that its fiction would be a “garb in which to make ‘the revelations of a reasoning imagination’ more attractive. Continue reading