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ALDISS, BRIAN, & WINGROVE, DAVIDĖ TRILLION YEAR SPREE. (THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION) 1986 Victor Gollancz 

 

This is an updated edition of Aldissís classic earlier work, Billion Year Spree. It is the definitive stuffy of the SF genre, from its origins to the dawn of the Cyberpunk era with the work of William Gibson.The story actually begins before the first true SF work was written, with an assessment of the fantasy and SF elements in Greek Tragedy, and Roman flights of fancy about people going to the moon on chariots drawn by flocks of birds. Aldiss calls such work UR-Science Fiction. The real stuff begins with a specific work, Mary Shelleyís Frankenstein, which revived the fortunes of the flagging Gothic Literature genre with a study of a man daring to play God.With Dracula, by Bram Stoker, Aldiss gets into some startling theories, about the book being an allegory on the theme of syphilis, and its plague like ravaging effects. Stoker himself suffered from the disease and†† according to Aldiss, frequently used prostitutes himself.Jules Verne popularised the genre with exciting tales of submarine and subterranean adventures. (ď0,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Journey To The Centre of the Earth respectively).What stopped these being fantasies for Aldiss was the authentic locations, references to actual maps and research papers, and use of existing technologies and theories of submarines, and caving, etc.H G Wells would make the genre very much his own, though he also wrote a great deal of non-SF.His work had an air of prophesy that would have made Nostradamus proud. It was before World war Two that Hugo Gernsback(after who the Hugo Award, the Oscar of Science Fiction, is named). Developed the American pulp magazine. Until this period, all books had been marketed as one, with romances and westerns and SF competing on the bookstore shelves. Gernsback produced magazines, which specialised in work marketed for specific genres. For the first time, SF became a literary form all of its own. Cinema was also catching on to the genre markets at this time. This was the Golden age, which gave us the great names of 1950ís SF, Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, etc. Of course, it also gave us L. Ron Hubbard who quit writing for some decades to start the Dianetics Scientology cult. In the 1960ís English editors like Michael Moorcock started to explore the implications of the age new permissiveness, and radical, revolutionary beliefs. This was the era of sex with aliens, Barbarella, and A Clockwork Orange.SF was often divided between the dystopian novels of pessimists like Huxley (Brave New World_) or Orwell (1984) and the irreverent adventures of anti-heroes like The Stainless Steel rat (Created by Harry Harrison). The issues and themes tackled in SF grew more complex. Characters developed, rather than just reacting to alien landscapes and robotic activity that they witnessed.Frank Herbertís Dune series gave SF its grandest epic, and suddenly, along came Cyberpunk.SF had speculated on bigger and faster computers becoming sentient; the Internet was largely unpredicted. With its advent, SF authors began to speculate that human brains could be interfaced, infected with viruses and stripped of their secrets just like the World Wide Web. SF, for all of its forward vision, almost missed the present day, but Cyberpunk made sure that the genre caught up quickly and SF came of age. Itís a remarkable history, written by one who was actually there. Aldissís finest work is not a novel, but his history of those like himself who gave us the genre of SF, which Aldiss prefers to call Speculative, rather than science fiction. . http://www.brianwaldiss.com/

 

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