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The Origins of Science Fiction Criticism: From Kepler to Wells

Arthur B. Evans
Science Fiction Studies
Vol. 26, No. 2, A History of Science Fiction Criticism (Jul., 1999), pp. 163-186
Published by: SF-TH Inc
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4240782
Page Count: 24
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The Origins of Science Fiction Criticism: From Kepler to Wells
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Abstract

From Johannes Kepler's 1634 notes on his Somnium to essays by and on H.G. Wells in the early twentieth century, there have been many critical explorations of the literature we now call science fiction. The commentaries of these (often forgotten) early critics are of value principally because they first expressed many-if not most-of those concerns that would later become central to the sf criticism of the twentieth century: the impact of science and technology on human values, the logistics of space travel, the shifting boundaries between the real and the imagined, the portrayal of the alien "other," and the possible futures of our world. Further, they consistently raised key questions about the defining features of the genre itself as it continued to evolve: its preferred themes, its social purpose, its scientific and moral didacticism, its perceived level of verisimilitude, and its place in the Western literary canon. Finally, as the new millennium dawns, it seems appropriate that we look to our distant past to rediscover what these early commentators had to say about the many science fictional works of their times: doing so serves to deepen our understanding of the historical continuity of the ongoing sf debate and to make us aware of both how much and how little has changed over the centuries.

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