What is Science Fiction, Part 1, Introduction and History

What is Science Fiction, boy now there’s a tough question to answer. We all have a feeling about what makes a story Science Fiction or not. The technology is more advanced than in our present day world; lasers replace firearms, rockets replace airplanes and automobiles and etc. Also, Science Fiction stories are often set in places no human has yet visited whether it be the planets or stars or perhaps the future. Then of course there’s the alien forms of life, creatures whose nature and motives are completely unknown to us, at least in chapter one. It seems then that Science Fiction takes what we know, science is the Latin word for knowledge after all, and proceeds from there to speculate on what we don’t know.

But at the same time isn’t Science Fiction more than that, doesn’t Science Fiction allow us to ask in story form the big questions, doesn’t it enable us to think about the very nature and purpose of reality and mankind’s place in it. With Science Fiction we can look out at the Universe and then turn around and look back at ourselves.

I’m going to take a few posts over the next couple of weeks to talk about just what I think Science Fiction is. The posts may not be one after the other but hopefully I’ll keep them close together.

I’m thinking of doing this in four or five parts. Today will be just a basic introduction of Science Fiction along with a brief history. Next time I’d like to discuss what I’ll call the great themes of Science Fiction, which will be followed by an analysis of some of the most famous Science Fiction novels and stories using those themes. In the final part I’ll talk about the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy as I see it.

Now right up front I admit that this is going to be pretty much just my opinion. Oh, I’ll do my best to get the authors’ names and the titles correct, but really I don’t expect anyone to agree with me completely. Indeed, feel free to dispute everything I say.

If I just prompt you to think a little about Science Fiction. Or if you are inspired to find and read one of the novels I mention for the first time, then I will have done my job.

As a literary form Science Fiction has a much older history than you might think. What is generally regarded as the first Science Fiction romance was “True History” by the second century CE poet Lucian of Samosata. (By the way the term romance simply means a story composed in the Roman fashion, today we would call it a novel or novella)

The idea of writing a story that you don’t want anyone to believe was so unusual at that time that Lucian felt the need to tell his readers at the end that the things in his tales “do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all”.

The story in “True History” concerns a group of travelers who are swept up to the Moon on a whirlwind where they witness a war between the armies of the Moon and the Sun over which would colonize the morning star. The story therefore contains two of the elements we mentioned earlier. Travel to a place no one had ever traveled to before and while there encountering strange and alien creatures.

Over the next 1500 years or so a rare story would be written that today we would call science fiction. Cyrano de Bergerac (yes he really lived, big nose and everything) wrote another story about a trip to the Moon but he used a balloon and, get this, rockets.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century however that we get authors who wrote several Science Fiction stories thereby establishing Science Fiction as a genre. I’m speaking of course about Jules Verne and H. G. Wells and this is where I’m going to stop for today. Next time I’m going to use the novels of these two pioneers in Science Fiction to discuss what I call the ‘Great Themes of Science Fiction.” Till then.

2 thoughts on “What is Science Fiction, Part 1, Introduction and History”

  1. Doctor Who is now considered a British Institute and has come a long way since it first aired on November 23rd 1963. The very first show saw the Doctor travel 100,00 years into the past to help some dim cavemen discover light. After 26 seasons and seven Doctors later the series came off our screens in 1989 much to the disappointment of the huge devoted fanbase. In 1996 an attempt was made to revive Doctor Who but it wasnt until June 2005 when it came back with a vengeance with Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor that put the series back on the map as it were. It then went on for 5 years with David Tenant portraying the Doctor until 2010 when Matt Smith took over the role. Today it is still a great family show and has attracted many new fans.

    If youre a new or old fan of the show there are Tours and museums you can go and see some of the locations and memorabilia of this classic show. The Doctor Who Tour of London will take you on over 15 locations from the show, some from the new series and some from old sites like the location of The Invasion and Resurrection of the Darleks. The tour also takes you to the TV museum in London where you will get to see some of the cosumes worn in the show and props used. Also you can buy gifts and memorabilia from the shop.

    You will learn all about how the shows were made so the tour is also educational. If you want to take pictures of the locations thats not a problem. Remember the front door of 10 Downing Street in Aliens of London? Well you can get up and close to this and get your picture taken in front of the door. Rose Tyler fans will love the tour as you get to drop by her home in the show.

    Why not go that extra mile and actually meet a Doctor Who star. Well this is possible with private or group tours. You will get the general tour but included will be a pre-arranged meeting or lunch with a celebrity from the show. This will obviously depend on availability of the celebrity and the cost will reflect the popularity of that celebrity.

    There are tours in London and also Wales. The Wales tours take you to Cardiff where you will see lots of location which were featured in shows since 2005. You can leave from London or at Leigh Delamere services station on the M4. There is a Doctor Who exhibition in Cardiff which you get to see. At the end of the Doctor Who tour you get a souvenir group picture sent you by email which is a nice touch.

    For seriously devoted Doctor Who fans there is a 3 day tour which takes you to all the locations in both London and Cardiff. You will see locations from the past 45 years as well as recent sites from the lasted Doctor Who series. Day one is based in London where you get to see 15 sites. Day two takes you to Cardiff where you get to mean the real life owner of the to see we have an Gothic property used as the location of the school in Human Nature. The final day is partly spent in Cardiff with a walking tour at Cardiff Bay, then you head back to London but a stop at Stonehenge to see the site of the Pandoica. Then its dinner at The Cloven Hoof pub in Devils End b efore you taken back to central London.

     

    1. Wo! That’s some comment you got there! Normally I wouldn’t approve such a long post but you’re talking ’bout the Doctor so of course I approve.
      Bob L

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