Comic Talk and General Discussion *

Earliest SciFi?
Ozoneocean at 9:21PM, May 9, 2021
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So the latest Quackcast is on the topic of SciFi and in it we talk about the origin of the genre.

In the Quackcast Tantz mentions Mary Shelly's Frankenstein story and I counter that it was actually Hugo Gersnback much later in the 1920s that really created the genre as a way to sell his pulp magazines- he reprinted old stories such as hat from Shelly, HG Wells Jules Verne and so on, creating the market and a style that new authors began to specially write for.

But what are some older stories that you can think of that could be part genre before the genre even existed?

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Wells and Verne was later 19th century and were real masters of it, producing many stories of speculative fiction. Shelly was early 19th century and made the one story (to my knowledge) but very influential, especially for horror fiction and the monster and mad scientist horror subgenres. ETA Hoffman was a earlier than Shelly and produced some very influential short stories about a scientist who creates a clockwork robot woman to seduce a man (becoming famous operas and the ballet Coppelia).

Apart from those the earliest I can think of are the Greek myths… We have scientist Daedalus making all sorts of inventions (robot dolls, wearable wings, the labyrinth, a way to help a woman and bull mate). Archimedes was a real person but has SciFi inventions credited to him (a giant claw and sun-powered death ray). In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus travels on a ship made by the Phaeacians that travels as swift as a falcon using the thoughts of the person riding it to find where to go, it knows all the cities in the world and can automatically navigate to them…

I have dim memories of more “sciencey” type stories in Indian mythology, maybe Aztec too… and more.
There's probably a lot from in between then and the 19th century that I have no idea of.

 
lothar at 10:28PM, May 9, 2021
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There's the story of the Annunaki from ancient Sumeria. I heard they were aliens.
bravo1102 at 12:52AM, May 10, 2021
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Poe and Hawthorne both wrote in the genre. Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels had science fiction social commentary.

Much of the science of space travel first appeared in Edison conquers the Martians to include the weightlessness
airlock, space suits and others.

There were penny press stories about lost civilizations with high technology and steam men of the plains. Looking Backward was a huge best seller and fits under the modern definition of science fiction with its depiction of future life.

There's a lot more to Verne than nuclear submarines, space travel and airships. The steam punk genre mostly comes from him and the illustrations made for his stories as well as the marvelous series about life in the year 2000.

Find the book Billion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove.

I wrote a report on American Science Fiction before Gernsback in high school. Did a lot of searching for stuff. Many works like Looking Backward and Edison Conquers the Martians are now on line in free editions rather than having to search through libraries like I had to back in 1982.
last edited on May 10, 2021 12:59AM
Ozoneocean at 1:35AM, May 10, 2021
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How about some dates on those :)
I know a lort of Verne, propeller island is a fave of mine.

And how many of those were from before the 19th centry?


bravo1102 wrote:
Poe and Hawthorne both wrote in the genre. Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels had science fiction social commentary.

Much of the science of space travel first appeared in Edison conquers the Martians to include the weightlessness
airlock, space suits and others.

There were penny press stories about lost civilizations with high technology and steam men of the plains. Looking Backward was a huge best seller and fits under the modern definition of science fiction with its depiction of future life.

There's a lot more to Verne than nuclear submarines, space travel and airships. The steam punk genre mostly comes from him and the illustrations made for his stories as well as the marvelous series about life in the year 2000.

Find the book Billion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove.

I wrote a report on American Science Fiction before Gernsback in high school. Did a lot of searching for stuff. Many works like Looking Backward and Edison Conquers the Martians are now on line in free editions rather than having to search through libraries like I had to back in 1982.
 
Ozoneocean at 1:40AM, May 10, 2021
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lothar wrote:
There's the story of the Annunaki from ancient Sumeria. I heard they were aliens.

That might be more a matter of interpretation than intention though?
I mean, like in many myths we can think of something as being scientific or we can think of them as being magic and it changes the perspective…
In the Greek myth examples I feel safe thinking of those a science because Archemedies and Dadelus were inventers/scientists.
With the ships of the Phaeacians the concepts seem more sceincy than magical because the story explains how it works somewhat, as if it's a thing they made rather than just a gift from the gods. (even though it's complete fiction).
 
bravo1102 at 1:54AM, May 10, 2021
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Cyrano De Bergerac wrote a fantasy about life on the moon that had elements of science fiction especially in his description of alien life.
In order to really have science fiction you need the concept of science and that limits things to the Renaissance and especially post 17th century. See Billion Year Spree.

Some medieval romances had science fiction elements with flight and submarines but nothing specially about science because that concept didn't exist(except friar Roger Bacon, who is credited with the first description of the scientific method in the 13th century and Sir Francis Bacon in the 16th-17th) You needed science and progress. That's why there was so little before the 17th century except a few “flights of fancy” literally because of how often it was about flight.

Just remember what happened to Giordano Bruno for writing about the stars as other solar systems. He did write some fiction in there too about travel in space and he was burned as a heretic. In order to write about such things it had to be presented in the most fantastic of terms to totally suspend belief or the Church could be after you.

Outside of Europe there were also stories of flight and deep sea exploration and some say the flying houses and future warfare of the Indian epics are very much science fiction. Except the more explicit bits of them presenting practical descriptions may in fact date from the time of Verne in the 19th century. (See Vimana)
last edited on May 10, 2021 2:04AM
usedbooks at 3:42AM, May 10, 2021
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Those early bestiaries were basically sci-fi. But the authors thought they were science. (The same is true of medicine and alchemy.) All old science was sort of sci-fi. Lol.

But as for intentional sci-fi, there was a story written in 125 AD by Lucian of Samosata. He wrote about a boat being blasted to the moon on a waterspout. They met alien creatures that were at war. Has all the elements of a space sci-fi.

Edit: just saw Lothar mentioned this one. And Oz's response. Aren't the lines of science and magic blurry? Looking at stories in the context of the age they were written, the accepted scientific theories of the times were fantastical nonsense to us today. But to those writers, the stories were scientifically sound and plausible. The authors were writing science fiction based on what they knew of science facts.
last edited on May 10, 2021 4:34PM
usedbooks at 4:29PM, May 10, 2021
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I got to thinking of the kinds of sci-fi.

Like, space sci-fi is an interesting subject because people of long ago didn't know what stars, planets, or space were. So stories about constellations or walking to where the sky meets the earth and lifting the sky curtain are legitimate science fiction stories. They were stories made up that fit the prevailing “scientific theories” of their times.

Time travel sci-fi is its own separate genre. I was thinking about the time travel stories I know about like Wells and Mark Twain. But those are pretty contemporary. Now, I'm super curious about ancient civilizations' thoughts on the concept of time. So, I'm going to take a trip down an internet rabbit hole and see what I come up with…

Oh, and Sherlock Holmes existed in a science fiction realm where elixirs could turn men into gorillas. The stories were meant to be realistic, so definitely looking at sci-fi, not fantasy.
last edited on May 10, 2021 7:45PM
usedbooks at 7:43PM, May 10, 2021
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On my internet dive, I found some time travel stories from the 18th and 19th centuries, but the method of travel is either being transported by a magical being or falling asleep and waking up in the future. More blurry edges of fantasy and sci-fi, I suppose. The first “time machine” story was apparently written in 1881, titled “The Clock that Went Backward.”

There are some ancient myths where people meet gods and discover they lost a lot of time when they return to earth. That could loosely be sci-fi. It touches on the idea of time being relative. I am just fascinated by time as a concept and how people have viewed it. Lost time is an interesting theme, and it comes up in alien abduction stories a lot. (Is meeting a god like being abducted by aliens?)
last edited on May 10, 2021 7:44PM
Ozoneocean at 9:50PM, May 10, 2021
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usedbooks wrote:
On my internet dive, I found some time travel stories from the 18th and 19th centuries, but the method of travel is either being transported by a magical being or falling asleep and waking up in the future. More blurry edges of fantasy and sci-fi, I suppose. The first “time machine” story was apparently written in 1881, titled “The Clock that Went Backward.”

There are some ancient myths where people meet gods and discover they lost a lot of time when they return to earth. That could loosely be sci-fi. It touches on the idea of time being relative. I am just fascinated by time as a concept and how people have viewed it. Lost time is an interesting theme, and it comes up in alien abduction stories a lot. (Is meeting a god like being abducted by aliens?)
Yep, the lines between magic and science in stories are fuzzy, you're right- because unlike science in real life, science in stories does not actually HAVE to work. There are no records of results, peer review, citations and references (unless the author is mad and it's the very hardest of diamond hard-SciFi!).
This is probably why in most bookshops for years the SciFi and Fantasy were smashed together in the same section, haha!

You're right, it's probably fine to say that a lot of older stories with some magical elements can be seen more as SciFi than fantasy… But I wouldn't go down the Von Danekin ancient aliens route though. That way lies madness.
 
Ozoneocean at 9:54PM, May 10, 2021
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Time travel, transmogrification, space travel, robotics, mechanised propulsion, flight, re-animation, cross breeding genetic hybrids, weapons technology, visitors from space, potions/drugs that give powers, items that give powers…
What are some other SciFi concepts we can add?
 
Ozoneocean at 3:52AM, May 11, 2021
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bravo1102 wrote:
Cyrano De Bergerac wrote a fantasy about life on the moon that had elements of science fiction especially in his description of alien life.
In order to really have science fiction you need the concept of science
I don't think you need to have the concept of sceince to write what we would consider in the modern era to have sceince fiction or to have understood “sceince”. Take for example anicent inventors like Dadelus and his wings. That's pure SciFi for the time, even “hard” scifi in a way because it's all reasonably pluasible stuff given the understanding at the time:
Birds fly with wings and so a person could possibly fly if they made wings themself using feathers and other materials. Wax sets very hard depending on how it's applied too.

We know now that the stength to weight ratio of a human isn't enough to create lift bly flapping their arms, no mater how big and light the wings are, but that took a lot of testing to find out :D

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That was really interesting about Cyrano, I didn't know there was a real person of that name, haha!

I have an old book that lists a few, alredy mentioned in this thread:
Somnium, by Johannes Kepler, 1634.
Man in the Moone, by Bishop Francis Godwin, 1638.
Voyage to the Moon, By Cyrano De Bergerac, 1680.

Also, when you talk of other cultures I wonder at stories by the Chinese and Russians etc… Even the Arabian Nights… I haven't read all those, I should though, haha,


 
bravo1102 at 5:09AM, May 11, 2021
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I was going with Brian Aldiss's ideas that science fiction requires science and empirical examination of nature as opposed to magical thinking.

The Chinese had stories of flight and submarines, even breathing under water as did the Arabian Nights. There's also a famous mechanical flying horse there. The Epic of Gilgamesh had flight in chariots and artificial mindless men and monsters. Russian and Finnish stories are very magical like other fairy tales but have seld propelled boats.
Ozoneocean at 6:20AM, May 11, 2021
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I've never liked Aldiss much, funnilly enough, haha, just from reading a few of his stories. Wingrove is OK, but I found his series about the Chinese future empire a bit heavy going and harsh for my tastes though. Both are good SciFi writers though and very clever people.
 
bravo1102 at 9:01AM, May 11, 2021
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Some have said that Aldiss was a much better editor and historian than fiction writer.
Ironscarf at 4:58PM, May 11, 2021
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Ozoneocean wrote:
Time travel, transmogrification, space travel, robotics, mechanised propulsion, flight, re-animation, cross breeding genetic hybrids, weapons technology, visitors from space, potions/drugs that give powers, items that give powers…
What are some other SciFi concepts we can add?

How about future utopias or dystopias? Dystopias are obviously much more popular and in some works like Farenheit 451?, the social commentary overshadows the usual SciFi elements. Metropolis works along similar lines, but with a very nice art deco robot.
 

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