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Friday, September 4th, 2009

Time Event
Tales of Mystery and Imagination; or, What is the first SF novel?
What is the first Science Fiction novel?

This question was raised in an interesting article by one Jim Harris at Auxiliary Memory (found here http://jameswharris.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/the-time-machine-by-h-g-wells/) where he argues that THE TIME MACHINE by H.G. Wells is the first science fiction novel properly so called.

Let me quote his words, so as not to mislead:

“…I’ve come to the conclusion there are two types of stories labeled science fiction. There’s the all-purpose label that imprecisely gets slapped onto almost any kind of far-out tale, and a second type, that’s very rare, that’s illustrated by what H. G. Wells wrote with The Time Machine.

“This truer version of science fiction was created by Wells as a method to use science to speculate about the future. Many writers have written stories that extrapolated the future from present trends, but Wells uses what he learned from the sciences, evolution and cosmology, to write what is essentially the matching bookend to the biblical book of Genesis.”

I agree in part and disagree in part. What would I consider the first science fiction novel properly so called? That depends on what I consider the boundaries of science fiction to include.
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From POEMS by Edgar Allen Poe
Here is a quote from Edgar Allen Poe that touches on a discussion recently in this space, particularly the relation of taste to intellect and moral sense. I am delighted to see he is of an alike mind with me with his reverence for Truth, and for the cool-hearted approach on must take toward that most virginal of goddesses. I differ from him somewhat in that I see a profound and obscure interconnection between truth and beauty, or, if you like, between the needs of drama and the needs of logic. Here is the quote:

With as deep a reverence for the True as ever inspired the bosom of man, I would nevertheless limit, in some measure, its modes of inculcation. I would limit to enforce them. I would not enfeeble them by dissipation. The demands of Truth are severe. She has no sympathy with the myrtles. All that which is so indispensable in Song is precisely all that with which she has nothing whatever to do. It is but making her a flaunting paradox to wreathe her in gems and flowers. In enforcing a truth we need severity rather than efflorescence of language. We must be simple, precise, terse. We must be cool, calm, unimpassioned. In a word, we must be in that mood which, as nearly as possible, is the exact converse of the poetical. He must be blind indeed who does not perceive the radical and chasmal difference between the truthful and the poetical modes of inculcation. He must be theory-mad beyond redemption who, in spite of these differences, shall still persist in attempting to reconcile the obstinate oils and waters of Poetry and Truth.

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