Victorian and Edwardian proto-science-fiction


16 Responses to “Victorian and Edwardian proto-science-fiction”

  1. Dave X says:

    I once read (in a collection of science fiction) a short story from the 1800s that involved a young boy who ate nothing but beer, spoke what sounded like gibberish (but could be slowed down to reveal ordinary speech with the aid of a phonograph) and who was able to see wildlife (including giant flat amoeba things roaming about). It was really early science fiction, and I loved it– but I lost the book, and I can’t recall the story. Does anyone happen to know the name of it? I’d love to read this story again!

  2. William Hope Hodgson came up with some creepy novels and short stories that can certainly qualify as science fiction.   The Night Land takes place on a dying Earth where the sun has gone out and humanity survives in a giant metal pyramid.   It’s classified as fantasy though.

  3. I have been reading books by HG Wells recently and I have to say he is one of the best ever science fiction writers. His perspective is a little bit different from late 20th century writers, but at the same time he gives the best impression of life around 1900 that I have read anywhere.

  4. Vanwall Green says:

    “The Thames Valley Catastrophe”, 1897 in the December Strand magazine,  by Grant Allen is one helluva a great disaster short story.

  5. GuyInMilwaukee says:

    A suggestion to add the incredible book “Etidorhpa” (1895) by John Uri Lloyd under the Hollow Earth section. Very strange but still an interesting read on the morality of science. 

  6. MichaelWalsh says:

    One of the best surveys of pre-Hugo Gernsback science fiction is E. F. Bleiler’s “Science Fiction: The Early Years”.   The publisher web page has no description, so off to Amazon:

    His sequel “The Gernsback Years” is also quite good.

    Of course one needs to be really interested in the history of genre, but for those who are, these are great books.

  7. Other works (continuing for the moment to disregard those by Verne, Wells, & Burroughs) deserving a mention include these:

    • Edward Everett Hale: The Brick Moon (story; 1869)
    • John Jacob Astor: A Journey in Other Worlds (1894)
    • C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne: The Lost Continent (1900)
    • M. P. Shiel: The Purple Cloud (1901)
    • Jack London: Before Adam (1906)

    And if we loosen the definition of “Victorian” and “Edwardian” a bit, though no more so than in the article, further works beg for inclusion:

    • J. D. Beresford: The [Hampdenshire] Wonder (1911)
    • David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
    • Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1921)
    • Ray Cummings: The Girl in the Golden Atom (1922)
    • Karel Capek: The Absolute at Large (1922)
    • Hugo Gernsback: Ralph 124C 41+ (1925)
    • S. Fowler Wright: Deluge (1928)
    • Philip Wylie: Gladiator (1930)
    • Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)
    • Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1935)

    Anyhow, I was delighted to see that Lt. Gullivar Jones made the list.

  8. Kurt says:

    If you like this sort of thing, check out io9′s series on “The Victorian Hugos”, where  Jess Nevins speculates on what stories would have been voted Hugos had the award existed back then. 

  9. numfar says:

    His name isn’t “David Malki”, it’s “David Malki !”.

  10. Sam Medina says:

    I wonder of the old Inca legends of the Space Brothers who came from another planet count as science fiction… 

  11. deetee says:

    I was at that panel and I can testify that it was a blast and one of the best panels I attended! David did a great job.

    Matt Bennardo mentioned the Sam Moskowitz anthologies. Like David I’ve requested “SF by Gaslight” through my library. But the sequel “Science Fiction in Old San Francisco” seems only available at Amazon.

    Bennardo mentioned the sf that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner. I did some further research last week. The Examiner from that time is not yet available online. However, Moskowitz’s other source for “Science Fiction in Old San Francisco” was “The Argonaut.” And this is available from the Internet Archive.

    I’ve been checking out the online newspapers archives of that period at the Library of Congress and the Chicago Tribune.  It is kind of hit and miss because the work isn’t listed as sf or even scientific romance. And sometimes a fiction story is masquerading as legitimate article. (Of course, you have a telescope so powerful you can see the martians waving at you. Sure.)

    One more thing, most of the illustrations in the newspapers for these stories are wonderful!

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