The History Of Science Fiction Special — Traveller

Traveller wasn't the first roleplaying game or even the first science fiction roleplaying game (that prize goes to either Empire of the Petal Throne (1975) if you count science fantasy or Metamorphosis Alpha (1976) both of which were published by TSR) but it does count as the first space opera roleplaying game, it's also the longest lived SF RPG and the most influential both on RPGs and on gaming in general. All of which makes it deserving of a History of Science Fiction special I think. Traveller was designed by Mark Miller and published by Games Designers Workshop in 1977.  The setting and style of the game was influenced by …Read more  »

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. …Read more  »

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 …Read more  »

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. In fact the amount …Read more  »

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. Perhaps the single most impactful moment of science in modern history showing off both the good and the …Read more  »

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 …Read more  »

The History Of Science Fiction Part 7: 1930 — 1939

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 made their names. And all this against the background of an ever darkening world. WorldCon The first ever World Science Fiction Convention happened 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 except for the years 1942 through 1945. Science Fiction fandom now had a core event to mobilize around and WorldCon remains the premiere science fiction …Read more  »

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 …Read more  »

The History of Science Fiction Part 5: Hugo Gernsback

The name of Hugo Gernsback has come up several times already in this series about The History of Science Fiction and his name is going to keep coming up as I get closer to the present day.  However the only way to properly encompass the significance of Gernsback to science fiction is to look at his life as a whole. Gernsback was born Hugo Gernsbacher in Luxembourg on August 16th 1884 and emigrated to the United states in 1904 where he founded the Electric Importing Company. A pioneer of amateur radio, he founded the Wireless Association of America which had 10,000 members within a year. Hugo founded the radio station …Read more  »

The History of Science Fiction Part 4: 1910 – 1919

The period from 1910 to 1919 was dominated by war. The First World War erupted in 1914 and ended in 1918. That would have been enough for one decade but in 1917 the Russian Revolution(s) occurred. It’s not surprising then that all of this death, destruction and political turmoil had an impact on the works produced during the time. But that wasn’t the only thing driving culture and society. Scientific advances continued at a rapid pace. One huge breakthrough was Albert Einsteing’s General Theory of Relativity which lead to speculation about time-travel and anti-gravity, both of which still feature in science fiction. Another major advance was Ernest Rutherford’s discovery of …Read more  »

The History of Science Fiction Part 3: 1900 — 1909

The first decade of the 20th century continued the remarkable scientific progress of the previous century. Two events in particular informed the "scientifiction" writing of this period. In 1903 the Wright Brothers built and flew the first airplane, something that would inspire a lot of stories. But probably even more significant was Albert Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity  which he published in 1905. As well as giving us the only equation most people know (E=mc2), Special Relativity gave us the concepts of Time dilation, Length contraction and relativity of simultaneity. These are things that science fiction writers still use in stories today. Wells and Verne The established masters of the …Read more  »

The History of Science Fiction Part 2: The Nineteenth Century

It was the second half of the 19th century when science fiction really began to emerge as a recognizable genre. And very early on it even established two of the cornerstone sub-genres of science fiction in the form of time travel stories and apocalyptic fiction. There are two names that everyone is familiar with, whether they are a fan of science fiction or not. Jules Verne and H. G. Wells are recognized as both pioneers and giants of the genre. There were other authors as well though. Some familiar names, others largely unknown today. One of the earliest science fiction books was A Voyage To The Moon by George Tucker, which …Read more  »

The History of Science Fiction Part 1: Origins of Science Fiction

About four years ago I wrote a series of blog posts that was intended to explore the whole science fiction genre (including fantasy since I believe they are elements of the same genre) from its beginnings to present day. This was a rather ambitious goal and I fell well short of my target, reaching only 6 completed posts and reached the year 1919 before the project faltered. I find the subject fascinating though so I eventually resurrected it, first by reposting the early blogs and then eventually by adding additional posts. In fact the series is still progressing, albeit slowly. What follows is the first of the series. It has …Read more  »