Shawna, Old Post Office | April 29, 2020
Before I celebrate the unofficial holiday of Star Wars this May 4, I decided to look at the origins of the science fiction (Sci Fi) genre. Sci Fi is a relatively new genre in the literary world that lays its roots in the science and technology developed from the Industrial Revolution. As all good Sci Fi contains elements of leading-edge technology, I undertook this journey through our digital collection, downloadLibrary.
It surprised me to find that Mary Shelley is considered the ‘mother of science fiction’. Shelley’s Frankenstein is often considered part of the horror genre, but this masterpiece has several features that become critical to science fiction. In 1818 Shelley harnesses lighting to power the machinery used to animate the creature. This use of current science and technology in new ways becomes a critical element in the Sci Fi genre. Creating a new and often threatening entity as a result of bio or medical manipulation also becomes a recurrent theme in future Sci Fi works. Lastly, Dr. Frankenstein himself becomes the genre’s archetype of a mad scientist whose work becomes the story’s opponent to overcome physically and morally.
Many Sci Fi writers explore the unknown reaches of space and distant planets. Jules Verne is considered an early founder for his use of technology. In his adventure novels, Verne explores the edges of the known world in the 1870s. In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Verne’s characters pursue an unknown oceanic creature. After an encounter with the creature our protagonists end up on brilliant piece of unknown technology, the Nautilus, Captained by the damaged and revengeful Nemo. The story takes us around the world, coming face to face with the unknown depth of both oceans and human revenge.
H.G. Wells is another Sci Fi founder who goes beyond the knowledge of current astronomy when he brings the Martians to earth in War of the Worlds. In 1898, there was a keen interest in the celestial bodies as technology improved telescope capabilities. Wells’ main character visits an observatory early on to view Mars in the night sky. Once the Martians’ land and prove to be hostile, the story plays out as a high-tech vs low-tech military battle. It becomes no surprise that this story stands the test of time, being picked up by Hollywood repeatedly, as it is well written and includes a plot twist to save the earth. James Spencer does a fine job narrating the audiobook.
If you are like me and planning a small at home movie night this May 4th you can add a Sci Fi classic from our Kanopy collection.
- Currently a Frankenstein movie is not listed but a documentary called How Great Science Fiction Works: Mary Shelley and the Birth of Science Fiction is available.
- The 1971 movie Light at The Edge of The World is an adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel The Lighthouse at the End of the World.
- War of the Worlds, 1953
- You can narrow down other Sci Fi movies and documentaries through Kanopy’s search engine.
Need more Star Wars in your life? Check out the Online Star Wars Trivia event on Monday, May 4 at 7:30pm.