American science fiction  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

American proto-science fiction in the late 19th century

In the last decades of the 19th century, works of science fiction for adults and children were numerous in America, though it was not yet given the name "science fiction." There were science-fiction elements in the stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Fitz-James O'Brien. Edgar Allan Poe is often mentioned with Verne and Wells as the founders of science fiction. A number of his short stories, and the novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket are science fictional. An 1827 satiric novel by philosopher George Tucker A Voyage to the Moon is sometimes cited as the first American science fiction novel.

In 1835 Edgar Allan Poe published a short story, "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall" in which a flight to the moon in a balloon is described. It has an account of the launch, the construction of the cabin, descriptions of strata and many more science-like aspects. In addition to Poe's account the story written in 1813 by the Dutch Willem Bilderdijk is remarkable. In his novel Kort verhaal van eene aanmerkelijke luchtreis en nieuwe planeetontdekking (Short account of a remarkable journey into the skies and discovery of a new planet) Bilderdijk tells of a European somewhat stranded in an Arabic country where he boasts he is able to build a balloon that can lift people and let them fly through the air. The gasses used turn out to be far more powerful than expected and after a while he lands on a planet positioned between earth and moon. The writer uses the story to portray an overview of scientific knowledge concerning the moon in all sorts of aspects the traveller to that place would encounter. Quite a few similarities can be found in the story Poe published some twenty years later.

John Leonard Riddell, a Professor of Chemistry in New Orleans, published the short story Orrin Lindsay's plan of aerial navigation, with a narrative of his explorations in the higher regions of the atmosphere, and his wonderful voyage round the moon! in 1847 on a pamphlet. It tells the story of the student Orrin Lindsay who invents an alloy that prevents gravitational attraction, and in a spherical craft leaves earth and travel to the moon. The story contains algebra and scientific footnotes, which makes it an early example of hard science fiction.

William Henry Rhodes published in 1871 the tale The Case of Summerfield in the Sacramento Union newspaper, and introduced weapon of mass destruction. A mad scientist and villain called Black Bart makes an attempt to blackmail the world with a powder made of potassium, able to destroy the planet by turning its waters into fire.

The newspaper man Edward Page Mitchell would publish his innovative science fiction short stories in The Sun for more than a decade, except for his first story which was published in Scribner's Monthly in 1874. His stories included invisibility, faster than light travels, teleportation, time travel, cryogenics, mind transfer, mutants, cyborgs and mechanical brains.

One of the most successful works of early American science fiction was the second-best selling novel in the U.S. in the 19th century: Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888), its effects extending far beyond the field of literature. Looking Backward extrapolates a future society based on observation of the current society.

In 1894, Will Harben published "Land of the Changing Sun," a dystopian fantasy set at the center of the earth. In Harben's tale, the earth's core is populated by a scientifically advanced civilization, living beneath the glow of a mechanical sun.

Mark Twain explored themes of science in his novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. By means of "transmigration of souls", "transposition of epochs – and bodies" Twain's Yankee is transported back in time and his knowledge of 19th-century technology with him. Written in 1889, A Connecticut Yankee seems to predict the events of World War I, when Europe's old ideas of chivalry in warfare were shattered by new weapons and tactics.

American author L. Frank Baum's series of 14 books (1900–1920) based in his outlandish Land of Oz setting, contained depictions of strange weapons (Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Glinda of Oz), mechanical men (Tik-Tok of Oz) and a bevy of not-yet-realized technological inventions and devices including perhaps the first literary appearance of handheld wireless communicators (Tik-Tok of Oz).

Jack London wrote several science fiction stories, including "The Red One" (a story involving extraterrestrials), The Iron Heel (set in the future from London's point of view) and "The Unparalleled Invasion" (a story involving future germ warfare and ethnic cleansing). He also wrote a story about invisibility and a story about an irresistible energy weapon. These stories began to change the features of science fiction.

Edward Everett Hale wrote The Brick Moon, a Verne-inspired novel notable as the first work to describe an artificial satellite. Written in much the same style as his other work, it employs pseudojournalistic realism to tell an adventure story with little basis in reality.

Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875–1950) began writing science fiction for pulp magazines just before World War I, getting his first story Under the Moons of Mars published in 1912. He continued to publish adventure stories, many of them science fiction, throughout the rest of his life. The pulps published adventure stories of all kinds. Science fiction stories had to fit in alongside murder mysteries, horror, fantasy and Edgar Rice Burroughs' own Tarzan.


Magazines

Major American science fiction magazines include Amazing Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "American science fiction" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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