“William Wilson’s Prospectus for Science-Fiction, 1851”

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.Opening Minds

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