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The History of Science Fiction Hardcover

The first comprehensive critical history of the origins and development of science fiction for many decades, The Palgrave History of Science Fiction explores the genre from an international perspective and in depth. It covers SF from the ancient Greeks, through the rebirth of the genre at the Reformation, with detailed coverage of eighteenth- and nineteenth- century science fiction, and a wide-ranging account of twentieth-century sci-fi in book, film, televisual and comic book forms, concluding with an account of the current state of the genre.


“Adam Roberts' 'History' is the most significant history of the genre since The Trillion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove, published nearly two decades ago, and demonstrates the most original thinking about science fiction since Kingsley Amis' New Maps of Hell more than forty years ago. This isn't merely an excellent historical survey but a narrative, showing compellingly how modern science fiction has roots in the fantastic-voyage tales of antiquity, and has been shaped by a dialectic between magic and materialism that dates back to the Reformation....Adam Roberts is already a proven author of high-quality science fiction. With 'History' he establishes himself as the most important critical voice in modern science fiction studies.” - Stephen Baxter, Current Vice President, The British Science Fiction Association and Author of Timelike Infinity and Voyage


Adam Roberts is Reader in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Royal Holloway, University of London as well as the author of a number of highly-regarded SF novels, including Salt, Snow and the forthcoming Gradisil and also one of my favourite writers.


Palgrave Macmillan, hardback, 392 pages, published December 2005


Author: Adam Roberts



Five years in the writing, this turned into a bigger project even than Palgrave planned when they commissioned me to write a full history of SF, one that went right back to Ancient Greece, and traced the evolution of the genre through the Renaissance, the 18th- and 19th-centuries and up to the present day. They commissioned 120,000 words, and they got closer to 150,000 and I still found myself horrible pressed and squeezed for space. Science Fiction really is too big a thing to fit into a medium-sized volume. After all it’s not just thousands of incredible novels and stories; it’s also stunning films, influential TV serials, music, video games, it’s a whole way of looking at the world.

But I was glad to be given the chance to read so much ‘proto-SF’ (as the stuff published before Verne and Wells is called). In common with many SF fans I had a prejudice against all those seventeenth-century journeys to the Moon by goose-power and all those eighteenth-century utopias. But once I started exploring I found whole continent-sized quantities of superb stuff.

I also discovered something that I hadn’t realised about the genre; an argument that nobody else (I think) has ever made. It was born in the European Protestant Reformation, and it still bears the marks of its birth-pangs: it still negotiates a complex balance between ‘hard science’ and ‘magic’, between a materialism rooted in the world perceivable by physics and a ‘sense of wonder’ spiritualism that finds something more in the universe than just atoms and forces.



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