A Prelude to Science Fiction Pulp

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Science Fiction:   Fictional stories with scientific theories that explains known phenomenon or predicts new phenomenon.
 
 
Science fiction pulp was preceeded by writers who imagined fantasmicstories with themes that would be prevalent hundreds of years later but the writers of earlier times were limited by the technology of the period. When I decided to write an article about science fiction pulp I soon discovered that the human imagination in literary form existed long before our arrival on the scene. Here is a short summary of science fiction works that were not considered as science fiction  when written. These works are the prelude to science fiction pulp.
 
 
 
  The Long Voyage Home : Homer

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In The Odyssey  three thousand years ago Homer encountered a google-eyed creature, a cyclops called Polyphemus. The clever Odysseus gets him drunk and then blinds the big guy. Sounds like a typical Hollywood flick of today, right? It would be disingenuousto brand this creature as an alien or postulate that Homer reached his zenith as a science fiction writer. But who cares about terminology?   

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kepler Johannas Kepler
1571-1630

Way Back When…Johannes Kepler

Centuries before Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne, Johannes Kepler unlocked the secrets of planetary motion but he also wrote a short work, The Somnium, a sixteenth century story about travelling to the moon. Kepler’s Laws of  Planetary Motion  were  brilliant contributions to the mechanics of  the solar system, but you won’t spot vacationers on the beach perusingLaws of  Planetary Motion  in paperback.  From a literary perspective,  The Somnium illuminates us to Kepler’s great depth and imagination. And he foreshadowed the effects of acceleration into space. In the book Duracotus’s mother’s occult powers thrust him and the mother beyond the bounds of earth and to the moon.  The work lingered in limbo for three hundred years but was well known to the imaginations of  Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Kepler incredibly anticipated the landing on the moon in 1969 as the first words at touchdown were echoed back to earth.

Tranquility base here. the Eagle has landed.”

 

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 The tale was published posthumously in 1634. 

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Big ones, Little Ones :Jonathan Swift

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What’s the verdict on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, published in 1726? Is the work a satire on the nature of man or a parody about the battling between France and England? (Lilliputians and the Blefuscudians ) When Gulliver is greeted by six inch high men and a seventy-two foot giant, I have to state the obvious: There is a definite science fiction bent to this book. And this Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then  a Captain of several Ships learns to converse with horses.  Additionally, Jonathan Swift speaks of  aerial bombardments and the use of  a computer ( The Engine ).  All this  in the eighteenth century… 

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I think, therefore I am… a reader of science fiction: Voltaire

Listen Voltaire’s words from the 18th century when he created a work featuring a super being called Demogorgon-the eternal geometer and lesser super beings who create their own worlds. The work was called Plato’s Dream.

voltaire1

Voltaire

“As for you, my sneering friend, I think you have just finished the planet Jupiter. Let us see now what figure you make with your great belts, and your long nights, with four moons to enlighten them. Let us examine your worlds, and see whether the inhabitants you have made are exempt from folly and disease.” Accordingly, his fellow entities examined the planet Jupiter, and were soon laughing at the laugher.  He who had made Saturn did not escape without his share of censure, and his fellows, the makers of Mars, Mercury, and Venus, was each in his turn reproached.

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But Voltaire  also dreamed of a voyage to the lunar surface in 1752 .(Micromégas) An alien from the Sirius system and his sidekick from our own solar system’s Saturn actually visit Earth.  This is at the time of horse drawing carriages and surreys about the countryside!

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 The telescope stimulated everyone’s imagination.

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Frankenstein aka The Modern Prometheus: Mary Shelly

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“ Death where is thy sting?

Love, where is thy glory?”

 

William Shakespeare

 

 

Mary Shelly created an incredible novel between her 18th and 19thbirthday. Published anonymously, she imaged a human transformed to life from death.  There is an obvious implication of human responsibility in such a venture and that reflection is seen in much of the evolving science fiction genre. Frankenstein is Victor Frankenstein, literature’s first mad scientist,  (also a sci fi theme) not the monster.  My favorite adaptation, because he pokes fun at the morose atmosphere of Shelly’s scenario, was Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein.

 

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Young Frankenstein

 

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 Another Moon Trip?:  Edgar Allen Poe

 

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Poe

 

The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall- Southern Literary Messenger, May, 1835

 

Up up and away said Poe on a midnight dreary. He created a hoax like science fiction-nearly. Poe only had the science of the daytohave Hans Pfaallsojourn from Rotterdam to the moon in a hot air balloon. With a conveinent machine to extract air from the vac cum of space Pfalls survives. Poe actually described the descent to the lunar surface. A hundred and thirty four year later Neil Armstrong proclaimed:

 

” One small step for man, One giant leap for mankind.”

 

But Hans Pfaallkeepsall knowledge of the lunar populace so he can bargain for a pardon with the Burgomaster and escape his creditors and the small matter of 3 murders he committed. Interesting Poe chose this angle…

 

  

The Conversation of Eiros And Charmion

 

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Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, 1839 

 

A new comet causes panic and nitrogen is depleted from the atmosphere.

Did Al Gore really pen this one?

 

Why need I paint, Charmion, the now disenchained frenzy of mankind?

That tenuity in the comet which had previously inspired us with hope, was now the source of the bitterness of despair.

In its impalpable gaseous character we clearly perceived the consummation of Fate.

Meantime a day again passed, bearing away with it the last shadow of Hope.

We gasped in the rapid modification of the air…

 

 

OK- Poe went GREEN

 

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Voyages Extrodinaires:   Jules Verne

 

 

voyage

 

  

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Jules Gabriel Verne

February 8, 1828 – March 24, 1905

 

Drama in the Air-1851

Journey to the Center fo the Earth-1864

From Earth to Moon-1865

A Trip Round It-1874 

Jules Verne wrote 54 novels and 21 short stories as well as 10 novels published after his death. If anyone fueled the genre of science fiction it was Jules Verne. Remember, although trains crossed the world there were no flying machines-only hot air balloons and lots of hot air. That hot air  journey continues…

LIST OF JULES VERNE’S WORKS

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The Transition to Pulp HG Wells

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 HG Wells

 September 21 , 1866–August 13, 1946

The Time Machine (1895)

The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)

The Invisible Man (1897)

The War of the Worlds (1898)

 Wells employed the concepts of nuclear power, bombardment from the air, time travel, alien invasions. But look at the dates of his work! Here we see the transition from print to pulp because of lower costs and easier distribution.

 robert p fitton

Being a biker and an author I love what the cynical, dry-witted Wells remarked:

” Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the human race.”

 

Other links that get into greater  detail

GULLIVER’S TRAVELS

THE SOMNIUM

HG WELLS

SCIENCE FICTION STUDIES

FRANKENSTEIN

JULES VERNE

 Questions and Perspective:

1. DID I USE THE ODYSSEY CONCEPT IN MY BOOKS?

Most assuredly in the Sojourn Series

 

 2. IN WHAT FITTON BOOKS ARE OTHER CREATURES SUCH THE LILLIPUTIANS WHO HAVE A DIFFERENT TAKE ON HUMANITY?

The book the stands out in my mind is The Nebula Planet and John Ross’s trying to figure out why the Masarvic People did what they did to humanity. Of course the Creods in the Sojourn Series think of all humans as inferiors. The aliens in Alternatives are incredibly trusting. Boy- did they blow it.  

 

3. HAS THE FRANKENSTEIN MOTIFF APPEARED IN FITTON BOOKS?

Yes, but the book Galactic Command,  Voyage 24, Reunion, but it won’t be out in paperback until fall.

FREE REUNION AUDIO

 

 

 

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~ by timetraveler1951 on May 2, 2009.

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