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Elitist Classics--Part 3

Posted by Steve the Bookstore Guy On Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Science Fiction & Steampunk

It seems like we neglect SF a tad on this site. We treat it, generally, like that little kid on the playground that follows you around like a lost puppy. The thing is, SF has some pretty solid roots, and many of the great, early writers of SF also have huge influences in Steampunk.

Time travel machines. If this doesn't scream SF to you, you probably need to get your head examined. Published in 1895, THE TIME MACHINE is a prime example of early SF that doesn't seem to ever grow old. Oh sure, writers now days have come up with slicker looking versions of time travel; it's a theme that won't go away. From Connie Willis' BLACKOUT, to the TV show Lost, time travel is always being tinkered with. So why is THE TIME MACHINE still good? Because it deals with a character's reactions to traveling through time and witnessing the future rather than focusing on technology for technology's sake. Wells is known as one of the "Fathers of Science Fiction," but he also is a heavy influence in the realm of Steampunk. Much Steampunk relies on machines that have drawn inspiration from those that Wells describes in his work. Heck, even WoW borrows the aesthetic values of Wells' imagination.

What is SF if not the imagining of the future? Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before practical applications of those technologies were even realistic. Considered another of the "Fathers of Science Fiction" along with H.G. Wells, released TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES in french in 1869. Again, what makes this story a Classic is it's focus on character, and motivations. Why does a person do what he/she does? Verne has inspired countless works. From THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, to Steampunk novels that use his ideas of submersibles, Verne should be read by everyone.

Ray Bradbury
Where do we start? The Martian Chronicles? FAHRENHEIT 451? We could go on to describe why his works are great and awesome, but we'll leave that to an Elitist Classics review of the the Martian Chronicles coming shortly. All anyone needs to know is that the guy is nothing short of a Science Fiction giant, and legend. Of course, Bradbury doesn't consider himself an SF author. At one time he said that the Martian Chronicles was Fantasy, not SF. Hmm...maybe that's why we like his stuff so much more...

Edgar Rice Burroughs - The Barsoom/Mars Series
Come on, you knew this was coming. Pulp SF? Burroughs? They are practically synonyms. The first Mars novel was was published in 1917, and starred the now famous John Carter. Burroughs is credited as inspiration for a few people you may have heard of; Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft, and Moorcock. To us, what Burroughs represents is the SF that is full of adventure, and far-flung ideas of exploration. It seems that some SF is all about making the reader feel like they need a Physics Degree to understand the first page. Burroughs was about giving readers an adventure they could sink their teeth into.

We could go on, and on, and on. Philip K Dick anyone? We could talk about Asimov, Heinlein, Herbert, and Simmons. We could even talk about Mark Twain. Or how about Hugo Gernsback, for whom the Hugo awards are named? Edgar Allen Poe? Yup, he could be included here too. When you look at modern Science Fiction, and also Steampunk, realize that it all was inspired by someone. It might just change your views on the genre, knowing its roots.

It certainly has for us.


  1. that's something I love about SF - the foundation. In interviews, authors talk about the earlier SF that inspired them, and it's fun to go back and read this stuff, to see how it's dated in some ways, and timeless in others. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the older Heinlien and Asimov stuff, and always get a chuckle when I read something new and come across something like the laws of robotics.

    Posted on August 24, 2010 at 11:06 AM

  2. Vanessa Said,

    SF foundational works are all so different, which makes for fun reading across the genre. From adventures, to the idea novel, to satire, it's considerably varied.

    Posted on August 24, 2010 at 11:26 AM


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