Worlds of David Darling
Encyclopedia of Science
   
Home > Encyclopedia of Science

science fiction involving extraterrestrials, 1900–1940





The first three decades of the 20th century saw the decline in interest in extraterrestrial life among scientists reflected in a stagnation of innovative fictional output. Wells's First Men in the Moon (1901), though interesting because of its detailed depiction of a hive intelligence, is regressive in being built around the outmoded notion of a lunar civilization. Similarly, the early American pulp-magazines featured tales, such as those by Edgar Rice Burroughs, often set in a Martian environment extrapolated from Percival Lowell's theories which was no longer scientifically credible. However, there were exceptions, including Abraham Merritt's description of a collective alien being made from millions of metal components in The Metal Monster (1920) and his account of an ancient, semireptilian race in The Face of the Abyss (1923), both first published in Argosy. Yet it was not until the 1930s, that writers began to give full reign to their extraterrestrial speculations. Stanley Weinbaum was notable for his detailed accounts of alien ecologies and unfamiliar forms of intelligence, beginning with A Martian Odyssey (1934), while Olaf Stapledon in his Star Maker (1937) projected the whole future of the Universe in which humans and aliens evolve together toward a single cosmic mind. Clifford Simak's first venture into pseudo-theological waters, The Creator (1935), in which the Earth and other worlds are revealed to be the product of a godlike alien, was considered by some editors too blasphemous to print. On the other hand, David Lindsay in his Voyage to Arcturus and C. S. Lewis in his cosmic trilogy used allegory and symbolism in their extraterrestrial settings to convey more conventional religious viewpoints.


References

  1. Aldiss, Brian W., and Wingrove, David. Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction. London: Victor Gollancz (1986).
  2. Barron, Neil, ed. Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction, 4th ed. New York: Bowker (1995).
  3. Clute, John, and Nicholls, Peter, eds. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St. Martin's Press (1993).
  4. Guthe, Karl S. The Last Frontier: Imagining Other Worlds from the Copernican Revolution to Modern Science Fiction. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press (1990).

Related category

   • SCIENCE FICTION