Science fiction is generally considered to have had its beginnings in the late 19th cent. with the romances of Jules
and the novels of H. G.
. In 1926, Hugo Gernsback founded the pulp magazine
devoted exclusively to science fiction, particularly to serious explorations into the future. Good writing in the field was further encouraged when John W. Campbell, Jr., founded
Astounding Science Fiction
in 1937. In that magazine much attention was paid to literary and dramatic qualities, theme, and characterization Campbell
and popularized many important science fiction writers, including Isaac
, Frederic Brown, A. E. van Vogt, Lewis Padgett, Eric Frank Russell, Clifford Simak, Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber, Murray Leinster, Robert
, Raymond F. Jones, and Robert Sheckley.
Science fiction has established itself as a legitimate branch of literature. C. S.
Out of the Silent Planet
(1938) used science fiction as a vehicle for theological speculation, and works such as Aldous
Brave New World
(1953), and Kurt
(1963) demonstrate the particular effectiveness of the genre as an instrument of social criticism. Science-fiction literature anticipates and comments on political and social concerns, and a variety of science-fiction subgenres have emerged: feminist science fiction disaster novels and novels treating the world emerging from a disaster's wake stories postulating alternative worlds fantastic voyages to
novels set in
a realm where computerized information possesses three dimensions in a
The rich variety of notable science-fiction writing to emerge since the
work of Asimov, Heinlein, Arthur C.
, and Ray Bradbury includes Frank Herbert's
(1965) and its sequels, which conjured up a desert world where issues of ecology, ethics, and human destiny and evolution were played out Philip K. Dick's satirical and philosophical vision of postnuclear war southern California in novels such as
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
(1981) the apocalyptic disaster fiction of J. G. Ballard, including
The Crystal World
(1971) the rigorously science-based works of Poul Anderson, such as
The Boat of a Million Years
(1989) Michael Crichton's best-selling science-fiction suspense novels, particularly
The Andromeda Strain
(1990) William Gibson's evocations of urban
desolation in novels such as
Mona Lisa Overdrive
Canopus in Argos: Archives,
a series of four novels (1979–83) that explores the possibilities of a feminist utopia and the writing of Ursula
, who has imagined ecological utopias in works such as
Always Coming Home
The Word for World is Forest
Over recent decades, science fiction has become popular in the nonliterary media, including film, television, and electronic games. Star Wars (1977) and its sequels and prequel, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) were among the most financially successful motion pictures ever produced.
See H. Harrison and B. W. Aldiss, ed., Astounding-Analog Reader (1973) B. W. Aldiss, Billion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction (1973) B. Stableford, Masters of Science Fiction (1981) N. Barron, ed., Anatomy of Wonder (1981) E. Rabkin, ed., Science Fiction (1983) J. Gunn, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1988) E. James and F. Mendelsohn, The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (2003).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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