Cambridge History of Science Fiction

harveststar

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I'm reading the Cambridge History of Science Fiction where they devoted first chapter to the origins of science fiction. As I was reading it, I wondered why we required an origin story to sci-fi at all, as there isn't one for romance, horror or comedy narratives. But since then, I realize that science fiction came around the time that science did in Europe. Maybe science fiction is literature could be defined as literature that explore the impact science has had on society and individuals. I understand it's a nebulous topic, and perhaps even controversial at times, but it's exploration can help fine tune the true scope of science fiction and for what it could become in the near future.

What's your opinion? It's a broad topic. What makes science fiction unique?
 

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For further reading you might try this.

 
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Venusian Broon

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I'm reading the Cambridge History of Science Fiction where they devoted first chapter to the origins of science fiction. As I was reading it, I wondered why we required an origin story to sci-fi at all, as there isn't one for romance, horror or comedy narratives.

This is a bit of sweeping statement that needs evidence. I'm pretty sure there are histories of horror fiction (the emergence of gothic literature putting both modern Horror and SF emerging at the same time.) And I would think that one could trace any genre back to its roots if you scratched hard enough.



But since then, I realize that science fiction came around the time that science did in Europe.

Depends on when you place 'true' SF coming through. Without reading the CHoSF and what they say, I've always placed 1818's publication of Frankenstein as the moment that modern SF starts (Thanks to Brian Aldiss and Trillion Year Spree!) That's almost 100 years after the death of Newton...which makes sense to me. Newton and the scientific revolution started in the early 18th century and it probably did take quite a long time for science to 'percolate' down to be widely considered by the public and writers. Perhaps only by a century later one could actually see the effect of science on society, in the ways that the industrial revolution was changing the face of the country and its people. (Which also helped kick off the Romantic movement in opposition.)



Maybe science fiction is literature could be defined as literature that explore the impact science has had on society and individuals. I understand it's a nebulous topic, and perhaps even controversial at times, but it's exploration can help fine tune the true scope of science fiction and for what it could become in the near future.

I think your definition is a bit naïve today, personally. I think Hugo Gernsback, the inventor of the term 'science fiction' (okay, he went with scientifiction first!) might nod in agreement - or John W. Campbell in 1947 would definitely agree. It strikes me as very 'old school'.

But the genre has matured since then. SF writers have explored different shores. It's a much broader church than it was in the Golden Age of SciFi. Which I, for one, am grateful. Genres need to change and find new modes of expression, otherwise they ossify and tend to slowly disappear.

Now, there is a degree of truth in what you have written - yes extrapolating science and its impact on society and individual is a tried and trusted theme among SF - but there is more to it than that.

What makes science fiction unique?

Why do you think science fiction is unique? What do you mean?
 

harveststar

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I'm not sure if you understood me correctly, but I meant that I at first wondered why science fiction needed an origin, then realized that there was indeed an origin, sometime in Europe after the Scientific Revolution.
 

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