Category Archives: The History Of Science Fiction

An ongoing project in which I attempt to cover the entire history of science fiction and fantasy from it’s origins through to today in chronological fashion. I’m currently working my way through the decades with some special posts to highlight particularly significant individuals.

My thought is that the articles could be continually revised and expanded based on reader feedback, becoming steadily more comprehensive.

The History of Science Fiction Part 12: 1960 –1969 — Books

We finally reach the 1960s in my explo­ration of science fiction and again due to the amount of activity I will be split­ting this decade up to cover different media, starting here with books. Beyond Pulp By the 1960s the pulp maga­zines that had supported the genre and surfaced so many authors were largely gone. Science Fiction maga­zines had tran­si­tioned to a digest format but there were far fewer of them, around 6 in the US during the decade. They continued to publish signif­i­cant stories (including the first publi­ca­tion of Dune as Dune World in Analog) but paper­back novels were now the primary format for science fiction and fantasy stories. Though at this point the output was predom­i­nantly science fiction. Fantasy had not yet had it's big boom and while there were a number of notable novels, the quan­tity is extremely small when compared to those on the science fiction side of the fence. A New Wave Arrives During the early 1960s and contin­uing into the 1970s there was a radical shift in science fiction. While previ­ously the emphasis for sci-fi stories had been action, adven­ture and science (some of it accu­rate, some not) this New Wave of science fiction de-emphasized the hard science and took a much greater interest in poli­tics, soci­ology and all sorts of soft science.

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The History of Science Fiction Part 11: 1950 — 1959 — TV, Radio and Movies

During the 1950s science fiction exploded out of print and onto the airwaves. Of course people were already used to seeing science fiction in the movies, but now they could expe­ri­ence it on the radio or watch it on tv. A lot of what was produced for the Amer­ican market was aimed firmly at the juve­nile audi­ence but there was also some more sophis­ti­cated output too and outside of America the BBC produced a number of very worth­while serials. But let’s start with movies where crea­ture features were proving to be popular. But there were also some adap­ta­tions of clas­sics and some movies that remain note­worthy to this day. We are now at the point in this history where it is completely imprac­tical to list every­thing or even every­thing that has some signif­i­cance. However there are trends that can be high­lighted. Movies So called crea­ture features were a big draw at the movies and the 1950s produced quite a few of them.

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The History of Science Fiction Part 10: 1950 — 1959 (Books)

The 1950s were a peak in Amer­ican culture in some ways. It was also a time when tele­vi­sion was estab­lished, radio still had a pres­ence and movies and maga­zines were still big busi­ness. There’s a fair amount of dispute over when the Golden Age of Science Fiction actu­ally ended, but certainly we were still in it at the begin­ning of the decade. Not only were many of the estab­lished writers still publishing furi­ously, but many new names were coming up and the variety of science fiction being published was about to explode. And it wasn’t just in books and maga­zines that science fiction was taking off.

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The History of Science Fiction Part 9: 1940 — 1949

The forties were of course domi­nated by World War II and its after-effects. Perhaps the biggest imme­diate influ­ence that had on science fiction was the peak and decline of pulp maga­zines. Paper short­ages caused the cancel­la­tion of some lower selling titles, but also pushed publishers and authors to look more towards other approaches. As the Golden Age came to a close, the more familiar current model of publishing began to domi­nate. Another aspect of WW II that clearly impacted on science fiction was The Manhattan Project and the split­ting of the atom.

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The History of Science Fiction Part 8: John W. Campbell

There are a lot of very colorful char­ac­ters from the early days of science fiction. But a handful of them were so influ­en­tial that they influ­enced the direc­tion of the whole genre. John W. Camp­bell undoubt­edly falls into this cate­gory. In fact so signif­i­cant was his contri­bu­tion that the Golden Age of science fiction is gener­ally marked as starting from the time he took editor­ship of Astounding Science Fiction. Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1910, Camp­bell attended MIT but was later dismissed from the school. He began writing science fiction when he was 18 and was a successful pulp writer by the time he was 21. Campbell’s first publishing success was a story called When Atoms Failed which appeared in the January 1930 issue of Amazing Stories.

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The History Of Science Fiction Part 7: 1930 — 1939

Enter The Golden Age With the genre now defined and growing, the 30s were when it spread across media. Books, maga­zines, movies, radio and comics, all were fertile ground for science fiction. New authors began to make their names. And all this against the back­ground of an ever dark­ening world. WorldCon The first ever World Science Fiction Conven­tion was held in 1939 in New York from July 2nd to 4th in conjunc­tion with the Worlds Fair. It would continue to be held (at different loca­tions) every year up to the present day with the excep­tion of 1942 through 1945. Science Fiction fandom now had a core event to mobi­lize around and WorldCon remains the première science fiction conven­tion. Right from the begin­ning though there were factions and politics.

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The History of Science Fiction Part 6: 1920 — 1929

In the 1920s every­thing was no set up for science fiction to burst forth as a genre in its own right. Out of the shadow of the great war, literacy was spreading as was science and a fasci­na­tion with gadgets. Radio, Tele­vi­sion and talking movies all arrived during the 1920s as leisure time also increased. Space Opera One of the best known sub-genres of science fiction began very early on. In these stories space travel was taken for granted. They were gener­ally set far into the future and events took place amongst the stars. Gener­ally there were space­ships, adven­turers, devious enemies and laser guns. Early on the term was often used in a deroga­tory fashion, but somehow it grew beyond that label.

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