“Science–Fiction : The Early Years”

This monumental work by Everett F Bleiler, the compilation of which occupied six years altogether and involved the reading of more than two thousand stories (when we consider the ones the author rejected for inclusion), many of them very difficult to get hold of before the arrival of the Internet and large-scale scanning of old books and periodicals ― and in many cases, that difficulty has not gone away ― attempts to list, categorize, and even summarize the material out of which the literature which we know as science–fiction developed.

  • 2023–03–03 The Preface, and part of the Introduction, which is much concerned with a long list of motifs, themes, or as some folks today might call them, tropes. For one reason or another, some of these cause me to burst into guffaws of laughter. (Live and unedited recording)
  • 2023–03–07 The remainder of the motif index and Introduction. (Live and unedited recording, including a brief interruption from the telephone)
  • 2023–03–10 An assortment of entries, to get the flavour of the work. Notably, the books of the Great Marvels Series published under the name of “Roy Rockwood”, including By Air Express to Venus. Also “The Sun Victim” by Rene Mansfield, which turns out to be a story about the dangers of solar power (!) ; and leafing through the extensive, heavily–annotated thematic index leads me to follow an entry for “Ideal societies ― whale exploitation”. (Live and unedited recording)
  • 2023–03–14 Most of the entries from the “Background Books” section, encompassing works as diverse as The Secret Doctrine by Helena Blavatsky, and Mutual Aid by Prince Kropotkin, which influenced early science fiction.
  • 2023–03–17 Finishing up with the “Background Books”, and I start into the Theme and Motif Index but get sidetracked quite rapidly. I end up reading summaries of some works by Kurd Lasswitz other than Auf Zwei Planeten, and of the works on early SF by Sam Moskowitz (included because of the reprints contained therein, such as the novelette version of The Moon Pool, and the first part of The Blind Spot).
  • 2023–06–23 A brief extract from Bleiler at the beginning. The remainder of the show is the latter part of the South Sea Bubble chapter of Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, and my reflection on its relevance to current affairs.
  • 2023–06–27 For lack of any better idea, I return to Science–Fiction : The Early Years by Everett F Bleiler, which I have once again checked out from the library. Mostly lost–race stories this time, including two entitled The Secret City, one set in the highlands of Central America, one in South Africa.
  • 2023–06–30 It’s the birthday of Tsukino Usagi alias Sailor Moon! No, that has nothing to do with anything. More from Bleiler, in which I set out looking for more French authors but quickly get derailed. In the last part of the episode you will hear summaries of a future–war story entitled The Battle of Dorking, and various responses to it.
  • 2023–07–04 Highlight of this one is probably the works of the 20th–century Russian author Beliayev. Also I discourse about how the torch of the Statue of Liberty is involved with the collapse of the British Empire.

Author: publius

Fools! I will destroy you all!!