science fiction involving extraterrestrials, 1900–1940

The first three decades of the twentieth 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.



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