The genre of science fiction represents the realm between what we know and what can never be attained, a sort of middle ground of endless possibility. I believe it is this that makes it such a popular and highly stimulating form of entertainment. It captures our imaginations as well as our intellect. It both feeds and satisfies our curiosity. It may compel us to ask ourselves questions such as, what is our place in the universe and in the construct of time? How do we honestly react to the unknown? Or, we may simply enjoy the ride, fully immersing ourselves in the world presented before us, allowing ourselves to be carried away by the story and the unique yet somehow familiar characters.
Most pre-science fiction works were meant to be read as fantasy, tales of the impossible - the Greek epics featured superhuman beings such as those who lived on Mount Olympus and other gods and monsters that now pervade the mythos of every other culture around the world. The genre of science fiction as we know it today began to take shape as the work by Polish mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus was released in the early 16th century. This work demonstrated that the cosmos is a far-reaching expanse and does not revolve around the Earth, contrary to popular belief at the time.
This discovery helped to set in motion humanity’s need to explore the fields of math and science on a greater scale, using them as tools to navigate our place in the universe. Works released during the 17th included Somnium, by German mathematician Johannes Kepler, which featured life on the moon and the laws of planetary motion which he developed himself. A piece written by French novelist Cyrano de Bergerac included voyages to the moon and inventions of talking machines and solar energy converters.
With the scientific and technological advancements of the late 18th and early 19th centuries escalating to a fever-pitch, the Industrial Revolution sprung into history. With it came many political and social issues, creating a greater disconnect between classes and peers, even with nature and creativity. Along with this tension, the foundation of modern science fiction was created. The work was revolutionary in its depth, depicting the power of human creation as having disastrous consequences. This work, of course, was none other than Frankenstein. Written by Mary Shelley, a woman ahead of her time, Frankenstein served as a sort of warning to those of both science and industry. This warning is still relevant today as we face alienation from each other as well as from life-blood that is at the very base of every advancement in our society - imagination and creativity. However, these stories used as cautionary tales can be seen as a sort of beacon of hope, since they are formed from such highly developed imaginations and creative spirits. The strong connections between art and science, humanities and technology is evident throughout science fiction.
The groundbreaking works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne of the late 19th century, and the seminal works of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov of the 20th century, prove how influential literature can be on society. Science fiction throughout history has been inextricably linked to the technological advancements and journeys to space. Of course, this is merely human nature. We have an idea and we work to make something tangible from it. With the inventions we have seen in the past and present, the next step is naturally exploration and discovery. Our curiosity knows no bounds.
As with many genres, there are also subgenres. There is no exception to this with science fiction. If I were to list them all here, we would only be able to explore the surface of the topic. Because of this, there will be more posts to come in which our attention will focus more on modern additions to the genre. Until then, I do have some suggestions of films and books within our library that you may enjoy.
- Twenty-First Century Science Fiction, edited by David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen: An anthology of collected stories by modern trailblazers in the sci-fi genre. Includes works by Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear and many others ranging from established authors to new talents. A great introduction to modern Sci-Fi.
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: The foundation of which modern science fiction has followed. Chilling and intellectual, this classic novel seamlessly blends gothic horror with thought-provoking science fiction to create an immersive story audiences have enjoyed for nearly two hundred years.
- The Illustrated Manby Ray Bradbury: This collection of eighteen haunting, character-driven short stories runs the gamut from strange stories set in the U.S. to interstellar travel. The collection explores the conflict between man and technology, as well as the themes of love, madness and death.
- Wool by Hugh Howie: Dystopian and apocalyptic, the story is set in the future where citizens of a massive underground silo are protected by the toxic environment outside. Revolution is set in motion after Sheriff Holston’s desire to go outside causes catastrophic results.
- The Martian by Andy Weir: Smart, thrilling and surprisingly relatable, the story of an injured astronaut’s four-year survival of the harsh Martian landscape will place you firmly at the edge of your seat.
Whitney Taitano, Circulation Desk Attendant