Early Science Fiction

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acb
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Early Science Fiction

Postby acb » Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:28 am UTC

I searched and couldn't find a thread for this, please point me in the right direction if there is one!

I am just getting into the late 19th/early 20th century science fiction of Jules Verne, Conan Doyle, and H.G Wells. So far I have read 20,000 leagues under the sea and the Lost World, and am currently working my way through the rest of the Professor Challenger series. I remember reading The Time Machine and other stories when I was about 9 and I thought it was amazing, and am looking to get hold of a copy so I can see what I think of it now.

What do you think of these books? Would you let your kids read them? I really enjoy them, although sometimes the views on women and "natives" make me a little uncomfortable. That is probably just the attitude of the time, but it does make the books seem a little dated.

Are there any other authors of this genre you would recommend?

(Lost World Plot Spoiler)
Spoiler:
The extermination of the apemen seemed unnecessary, and unless it is read as a comment on the "white people are superior to the natives" attitude of European explorers back then it spoils the book for me, which is a shame. Any thoughts?

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Jorpho
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Re: Early Science Fiction

Postby Jorpho » Tue Jun 16, 2009 5:08 pm UTC

There's a book entitled The Science Fiction of Edgar Alan Poe which sounds like a good idea, and does indeed have some really, really nifty bits, like where he tries to work out a physically consistent narrative about taking a balloon to the moon. Alas, a lot of it is a dreadful slog. I never did finish it.

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Adacore
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Re: Early Science Fiction

Postby Adacore » Wed Jun 17, 2009 2:46 pm UTC

I really enjoyed Wells, from what little I've read. I found both The Time Machine and War of the Worlds enthralling reading. Time Machine in particular has a powerful enough central theme that I didn't have any problems with the issues you mention (I'm not sure they were even extant in the book).

Verne is another story - I've never been able to get on with his books, for a number of reasons. Which is annoying, because I feel that as one of the founders of the Sci Fi genre I ought to enjoy his books, if only as a mark of respect to the man. But between the cultural views of the time that you mention (sexism, 'natives', &c.) and the totally unrealistic quasi-science he tries to palm off on the reader I couldn't really enjoy it. I guess I'm a fan of hard SciFi, which Verne really isn't.

I think they're all perfectly suitable for children, providing you (or another responsible adult) is around to provide explanation and context.

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lu6cifer
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Re: Early Science Fiction

Postby lu6cifer » Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:34 pm UTC

In terms of early science fiction, I like Wells more than Jules Verne.
But Journey to the Center of the Earth is probably my favorite "early" science fiction book. I think what I enjoy most about them is that there's more mystery involved in early sci-fi; more exploration and discovery, and delight of the unknown. For example, lots of modern sci-fi--Neuromancer, Dune, A Scanner Darkly, among other titles, don't deal as with the unknown and mystery as much as, say, The Time Traveler, Journey to the Center of the Earth, or 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (Though there are exceptions--Ringworld, for instance).

And yeah, they are appropriate for children.
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acb
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Re: Early Science Fiction

Postby acb » Mon Jun 22, 2009 6:03 pm UTC

My dad gave me a lot of Wells to read when I was younger, and I did enjoy them although I suspect some bits will have gone over my head. It has been annoying me for years that I can't find the book - it was a collection of short stories and was amazing. I was interested in people's thoughts about kids reading them, as I am planning on giving them to mine (if I ever have any).

I think you have completely hit the nail on the head with this:
lu6cifer wrote:I think what I enjoy most about them is that there's more mystery involved in early sci-fi; more exploration and discovery, and delight of the unknown.

That "spirit of adventure" is not so evident in any of the more recent books I have read, and it makes the story much more exciting and enjoyable. I also like the fact that they are set on Earth, and not in a fantasy world/outer space. This, and the fact that at the time there was a lot of exploration going on makes them much more realistic

They are just fun to read.

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Kendo_Bunny
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Re: Early Science Fiction

Postby Kendo_Bunny » Sat Jun 27, 2009 4:17 am UTC

You want to go really old school, try to find a book called 'The Blazing World' by Margaret Cavendish. It was written in 1666 and is considered one of the earliest examples of science fiction. It's a little didactic, as works from that time tend to be, but it is interesting.

As for the Wells/Verne debate, they both have their merits. Which you like better depends very much on your tastes as a reader, since Verne was far more technical, while Wells was more interested in the human aspect. Verne was hard science fiction for his time, and the modern reader who knows anything about science has to make allowances for that.

Also, I'd suggest Edgar Rice Burroughs 'John Carter of Mars' series.

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Jorpho
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Re: Early Science Fiction

Postby Jorpho » Sat Jun 27, 2009 8:15 am UTC

How silly of me; I neglected to mention the poignantly-relevant The Machine Stops. That's a bit later than a lot of the other stuff mentioned in this thread, though.

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Re: Early Science Fiction

Postby sparks » Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:56 pm UTC

There actually are earlier sci-fi works, like by Cyrano de Bergerac and such, though they're more "proto" sci-fi. A book which is XIX century sci-fi IMO and doesn't include awkward visions of women or natives is Frankenstein. I personally like it better than most of the later science fiction that is considered by many to be THE early sci-fi, when actually Mary's work is as sci-fi and as accurate as much as a quantity of the late XIX works (Vernes excepted).

I would definitely allow my children to read them. The worldview you mentioned is present in much of the literature of that time, and even later, so as long as you make sure your children are talked to, it should be no problem. We allow children to read Tom Sawyer, for example, and Tom often makes slightly racist and sexist remarks. We allow or would allow children to read certain novels, even though they date from a time where the role of women was considerably different. I probably would rather have my children read things with a Victorian perspective on things than the new bestsellers. I don't believe in censoring things for children as long as they are talked to and know that even though the late XIX century put things a certain manner it doesn't mean we should or as long as they are not afraid or disturbed.
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