Scientific romance

Scientific romance is an archaic term for the genre of fiction now commonly known as science fiction. The term originated in the 1850s to describe both fiction and elements of scientific writing, but has since come to refer to the science fiction of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, primarily that of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle. In recent years, the term has come to be applied to science fiction written in a deliberately anachronistic style, as a homage to or pastiche of the original scientific romances.

Aerial house3
"Maison tournante aérienne" (aerial rotating house). This drawing, by French science fiction writer Albert Robida for his book Le Vingtième Siècle, a nineteenth-century conception of life in the twentieth century, depicts a dwelling that can rotate on a post, with an airship in the distance. Ink over graphite underdrawing, c. 1883, digitally restored.


Early usages

The earliest usage of the term 'scientific romance' is thought to be in 1845, by critics describing Robert Chambers' Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, a speculative natural history published in 1844, and was used again in 1851 by the Edinburgh Ecclesiastical Journal and Literary Review in reference to Thoman Hunt's Panthea, or the Spirit of Nature.[1] In 1859 the Southern Literary Messenger referred to Balzac's Ursule Mirouët as "a scientific romance of mesmerism".[2] In addition, the term was sometimes used to dismiss a scientific principle considered by the writer to be fanciful, such as in 1855's The Principles of Metaphysical and Ethical Science, which stated that "Milton's conception of inorganic matter left to itself, without an indwelling soul, is not merely more poetical, but more philosophical and just, than the scientific romance, now generally repudiated by all rational inquirers, which represents it as necessarily imbued with the seminal principles of organization and life, and waking up by its own force from eternal quietude to eternal motion."[3] Then, in 1884, Charles Howard Hinton published a series of scientific and philosophical essays under the title Scientific Romances.[4]

20th century

'Scientific romance' is most commonly used to refer to science fiction of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, as seen in the anthologies Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of "The Scientific Romance" in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920[5] and Scientific Romance in Britain: 1890-1950.[6] One of the earliest writers to be described in this way was French astronomer and writer Camille Flammarion, whose Recits de l'infini and La fin du monde have both been described as scientific romances.[7] The term is most widely applied to Jules Verne, such as in the 1879 edition of the American Cyclopædia,[8] and H. G. Wells, whose historical society continues to refer to his work as 'scientific romances' today.[9] Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars (1912) is also sometimes seen as a major work of scientific romance,[10] and Sam Moskowitz referred to him in 1958 as "the acknowledged master of the scientific romance,"[11] though the scholar E. F. Bleiler views Burroughs as part of the "new development" of pulp science fiction that arose in the early 20th century.[12] The same year as A Princess of Mars, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published The Lost World,[13] which is also commonly referred to as a scientific romance.[14]

1902 saw the cinematic release of Georges Méliès's film Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon); the time period and the fact that it is based partially on works by Verne and Wells has led to it being labelled as a scientific romance as well.[15]

Modern revival

In recent years, the term scientific romance has seen a revival, being self-applied by modern works of science fiction which deliberately ape previous styles. Examples of this include Christopher Priest's The Space Machine: A Scientific Romance,[16] published in 1976, Ronald Wright's Wells pastiche A Scientific Romance: A Novel, published in 1998, and the 1993 roleplaying game Forgotten Futures.[17] Though it uses the term, Dennis Overbye's novel Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance[18] does not imitate science fiction of the past in the manner of the other novels mentioned.


Brian Stableford, in Scientific Romance in Britain: 1890-1950[6] argued that early British science-fiction writers who used this term differed in several significant ways from American science fiction writers of the time. Most notably, the British writers tended to minimize the role of individual "heroes", took an "evolutionary perspective", held a bleak view of the future, and had little interest in space as a new frontier. Regarding "heroes", several novels by H. G. Wells have the protagonist as nameless, and often powerless, in the face of natural forces. The evolutionary perspective can be seen in tales involving long time periods—two examples being The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine by Wells and Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. Even in scientific romances that did not involve vast stretches of time, the issue of whether mankind was just another species subject to evolutionary pressures often arose, as can be seen in parts of The Hampdenshire Wonder by J. D. Beresford and several works by S. Fowler Wright. Regarding space, C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy took the position that "as long as humanity remains flawed and sinful, our exploration of other planets will tend to do them more harm than good"; and most scientific romance authors had not even that much interest in the topic. As for bleakness, it can be seen in many of the works by all the already cited authors: humanity was deemed by them flawed—either by original sin or, much more often, by biological factors inherited from our ape ancestors. Stableford also notes, that some of the British scientific romances were saved from "being entirely gloomy", by their philosophical speculation (calling them works of "modest armchair philosophizing"). He cites E. V. Odle's The Clockwork Man, John Gloag's Tomorrow's Yesterday and Murray Constantine's Proud Man as examples of this type of scientific romance.[19]

Nonetheless, not all British science fiction from that period comports with Stableford's thesis. Some, for example, revelled in adventures in space and held an optimistic view of the future. By the 1930s, there were British authors (such as Eric Frank Russell) who were intentionally writing "science fiction" for American publication. At that point, British writers who used the term "scientific romance" did so either because they were unaware of science fiction or because they chose not to be associated with it.

After World War II, the influence of American science fiction caused the term "scientific romance" to lose favor, a process accelerated by the fact that few writers of scientific romance considered themselves "scientific romance" writers, instead viewing themselves as "just writers" who occasionally happened to write a scientific romance. Even so, the influence of the scientific romance era persisted in British science fiction. John Wyndham's work is cited as providing "a bridge between traditional British scientific romance and the more varied science fiction which has replaced it".[20] Some commentators believe scientific romance had some impact on the American variety.

See also


  1. ^ Before Science Fiction: Romances of Science and Scientific Romances, io9, accessed March 22, 2012
  2. ^ Southern Literary Messenger: A Magazine Devoted to Literature, Science and Art, "Balzac", H.T. Tuckerman, Making of America, accessed March 22, 2012
  3. ^ Bowen, Francis (1855), The Principles of Metaphysical and Ethical Science: Applied to the Evidences of Religion, Brewer and Tileston, p.150, Google Books, accessed March 23, 2012
  4. ^ Hinton, Charles (1884), Scientific Romances, W. Swan Sonnenschein & Co., accessed March 24, 2012
  5. ^ Moskowitz, Sam (1970) Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of "The Scientific Romance" in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920, Holt Rinehart Winston, 978-0030818585
  6. ^ a b Stableford, Brian (1985), Scientific Romance in Britain, 1890-1950 Palgrave Macmillan, 978-0312703059
  7. ^ The Encyclopedia of Science, Flammarion, (Nicolas) Camille (1842–1925), accessed March 24, 2012
  8. ^ The American Cyclopædia (Vol. VII, 2nd ed.). New York: D. Appleton and Company. 1879. p. 407. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  9. ^ The H.G. Wells Society, accessed March 23, 2012.
  10. ^ Voyages Extraordinaire, "1912: Zenith of the Scientific Romances", accessed March 22, 2012
  11. ^, "Tributes to Edgar Rice Burroughs", accessed March 22, 2012.
  12. ^ E. F. Bleiler, Science Fiction: The Early Years (1990). The Kent State University Press: Kent, Ohio. Pg. xxii.
  13. ^ Doyle, Arthur Conan, (1912), The Lost World, Hodder & Stoughton
  14. ^ The Lost World 100th Anniversary, accessed March 24, 2012
  15. ^ Spectacular Attractions - A Trip to the Moon / Le Voyage dans la Lune, accessed March 24, 2012.
  16. ^ Priest, Christopher (1976), The Space Machine: A Scientific Romance, Harper & Row
  17. ^ Forgotten Futures: The Scientific Romance Roleplaying Game, accessed March 24, 2012
  18. ^ Overbye, Dennis (2000), Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance, Viking Adult
  19. ^ Brian Stableford, Creators of Science Fiction Wildside Press LLC, 2009. ISBN 1434457591 (p. 57-58)
  20. ^ Ian Ousby, The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English Cambridge University Press, 1993 - (p. 1046)


External links

Brian Stableford

Brian Michael Stableford (born 25 July 1948) is a British science fiction writer who has published more than 70 novels. His earlier books were published under the name Brian M. Stableford, but more recent ones have dropped the middle initial and appeared under the name Brian Stableford. He has also used the pseudonym Brian Craig for a couple of very early works, and again for a few more recent works. The pseudonym derives from the first names of himself and of a school friend from the 1960s, Craig A. Mackintosh, with whom he jointly published some very early work.

Chandler Award

The Chandler Award is presented by the Australian Science Fiction Foundation for "Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction".

It is named in recognition of the contribution that science fiction writer A. Bertram Chandler made to Australian science fiction, and because of his patronage of the Foundation.

Unlike the Ditmars, this award is decided upon by a jury and, although nominally an annual award presented in conjunction with the Australian National Science Fiction Convention, is not necessarily presented every year.

The first Chandler Award was presented in 1992 to Van Ikin at the National Science Fiction Convention - SynCon '92.

Fictional country

A fictional country is a country that is made up for fictional stories, and does not exist in real life, or one that people believe in without proof.

Sailors have always mistaken low clouds for land masses, and in later times this was given the name Dutch capes.

Other fictional lands appear most commonly as settings or subjects of myth, literature, film, or video games. They may also be used for technical reasons in actual reality for use in the development of specifications, such as the fictional country of Bookland, which is used to allow EAN "country" codes 978 and 979 to be used for ISBN numbers assigned to books, and code 977 to be assigned for use for ISSN numbers on magazines and other periodicals. Also, the ISO 3166 country code "ZZ" is reserved as a fictional country code,.

Fictional countries appear commonly in stories of early science fiction (or scientific romance). Such countries supposedly form part of the normal Earth landscape although not located in a normal atlas. Later similar tales often took place on fictional planets.

Jonathan Swift's protagonist, Lemuel Gulliver, visited various strange places. Edgar Rice Burroughs placed adventures of Tarzan in areas in Africa that, at the time, remained mostly unknown to the West and to the East. Isolated islands with strange creatures and/or customs enjoyed great popularity in these authors' times. By the 19th century, when Western explorers had surveyed most of the Earth's surface, this option was lost to Western culture. Thereafter fictional utopian and dystopian societies tended to spring up on other planets or in space, whether in human colonies or in alien societies originating elsewhere. Fictional countries can also be used in stories set in a distant future, with other political borders than today.

Superhero and secret agent comics and some thrillers also use fictional countries on Earth as backdrops. Most of these countries exist only for a single story, a TV-series episode or an issue of a comic book. There are notable exceptions, such as Qumar and Equatorial Kundu in The West Wing, Marvel Comics Latveria and DC Comics Qurac and Bialya.

Galaxy Award (China)

The Galaxy Award (Chinese:银河奖, pinyin: yín hé jiǎng) is China's most prestigious science fiction award, which was started in 1986.In September 2016, the 27th galaxy award was held at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics;, in November 2017, the 28th award ceremony was held in Chengdu, China.

List of science fiction publishers

This is a list of science fiction publishers, publishers of science fiction, SF studies, speculative fiction, fantasy literature, and related genres.


Abelard Science Fiction

Ace Books


Aqueduct Press

Arkham House

Avalon Science FictionB

Badger Books

Baen Books

Baen Ebooks, formerly Webscriptions

Ballantine Books

Bantam Spectra

Berkley Books

Bent Agency

Bison Books

Brick Cave MediaC

Canaveral Press


Cheap Street

Chimaera Publications

Cosmos BooksD

DAW Books

Dark Castle Publishing

Del Rey Books

Donald M. Grant

Dragon Moon Press


Double Dragon PublishingE

Eidolon Publications

Elastic Press

Elder Signs Press

Eos BooksF

Fandemonium Books

Fantasy Press

Fantasy Publishing Company, Inc.

Fedogan & Bremer


Flame Tree PublishingG

Gnome Press

Golden Gryphon Press

Gorgon Press


Grant-Hadley Enterprises


Gregg Press

Griffin Publishing CompanyH

Hadley Rille Books

Harper Prism


ISFiC PressJ

John Hunt Publishing

Jurassic LondonK

Kayelle PressL

Lore Lush PublishingM

Mark V. Ziesing

Meisha Merlin Publishing

Mojo PressN

Necronomicon Press

Necropolitan Press


New Collector's Group

Newcastle Publishing Company

New Era


Night Shade Books

Norilana BooksO

Orb Books

Orb Publications

Orbit BooksP

Palliard Press

Panther Books

Parvus Press

Phantasia Press

Phoenix Pick

Prime Books

Prime Press

PS Publishing

Pulphouse Publishing


Rainfall BooksS

St. Martin's Press

Shasta Publishers

Silver Key Press

Small Beer Press

Sphere Books

Subterranean PressT

Tachyon Publications

Ticonderoga Publications

Timescape Books

Tor Books



Victor Gollancz LtdW

Wheatland Press

Wildside Press

Winston Science Fiction

Lists of science fiction films

This is a list of science fiction films organized chronologically. These films have been released to a cinema audience by the commercial film industry and are widely distributed with reviews by reputable

critics. (The exception are the films on the made-for-TV list, which are normally not released to a cinema audience.) This includes silent film–era releases, serial films, and feature-length films. All of the films include core elements of science fiction, but can cross into other genres such as drama, mystery, action, horror, fantasy, and comedy.

Among the listed movies are films that have won motion-picture and science fiction awards as well as films that have been listed among the worst movies ever made, or have won one or more Golden Raspberry Awards. Critically distinguished films are indicated by footnotes in the listings.

Message from space (science fiction)

For other uses, see Message from Space (disambiguation).

"Message from space" is a type of "first contact" theme in science fiction . Stories of this type involve receiving an interstellar message which reveals the existence of other intelligent life in the universe.

Mundane science fiction

Mundane science fiction is a subgenre of hard science fiction which is characterized by its setting on Earth or within the solar system, and a lack of interstellar travel, intergalactic travel or human contact with extraterrestrials.

Norwegian science fiction

Science fiction literature was established in Norway in the mid-1960s, mainly by Jon Bing and Tor Åge Bringsværd. They dominated the genre and reached relatively high public interest until the late 1970s. Johannes H. Berg Jr. is a noteworthy contributor to Norwegian science fiction literature from the 1970s until his death in 2004.

Proto-science fiction can be found as far back as the 18th century in Norway. Best known is the novel Niels Klim's Underground Travels by the playwright Ludvig Holberg. Also, Henrik Wergeland wrote at least one play that can be considered science-fiction-esque: De sidste kloge ("The Last of the Wise"), set on the planet Terra Nova.

Recursive science fiction

Recursive science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction, which itself takes the form of an exploration of science fiction within the narrative of the story.

Ronald Wright

Ronald Wright (born 1948, London, United Kingdom) is a Canadian author who has written books of travel, history and fiction. His nonfiction includes the bestseller Stolen Continents, winner of the Gordon Montador Award and chosen as a book of the year by the Independent and the Sunday Times. His first novel, A Scientific Romance, won the 1997 David Higham Prize for Fiction and was chosen a book of the year by the Globe and Mail, the Sunday Times, and the New York Times.

Wright was selected to give the 2004 Massey Lectures. His contribution, A Short History of Progress, looks at the modern human predicament in light of the 10,000-year experiment with civilization. In it he concludes that human civilization, to survive, would need to become environmentally sustainable, with specific reference to global warming and climate change.

His next work What is America?: A Short History of the New World Order continues the thread begun in A Short History of Progress by examining what Wright calls "the Columbian Age" and consequently the nature and historical origins of modern American imperium.

His latest book The Gold Eaters, a novel set during the Spanish invasion of the Inca Empire in the 1520s-1540s, was published in 2015.

Ronald Wright is also a frequent contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, and has written and presented documentaries for radio and television on both sides of the Atlantic. He studied archaeology at Cambridge University and later at the University of Calgary, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1996. He lives in British Columbia.

The First Men in the Moon

The First Men in the Moon is a scientific romance by the English author H. G. Wells, originally serialised in The Strand Magazine from December 1900 to August 1901 and published in hardcover in 1901, who called it one of his "fantastic stories". The novel tells the story of a journey to the Moon undertaken by the two protagonists, a businessman narrator, Mr. Bedford, and an eccentric scientist, Mr. Cavor. Bedford and Cavor discover that the Moon is inhabited by a sophisticated extraterrestrial civilisation of insect-like creatures they call "Selenites".

The Land Leviathan

The Land Leviathan is an alternate history novel by Michael Moorcock, first published in 1974. Originally subtitled A New Scientific Romance, it has been seen as an early steampunk novel, dealing with an alternative British Imperial history dominated by airships and futuristic warfare. It is a sequel to Warlord of the Air (1971) and followed by The Steel Tsar (1981). This proto-steampunk trilogy is also published as the compilation volume A Nomad of the Time Streams.

The Space Machine

The Space Machine, subtitled A Scientific Romance, is a science fiction novel written by English writer Christopher Priest.

First published in 1976, it follows the travels of protagonists Edward Turnbull and Amelia Fitzgibbon. The pair is dropped on the surface of Mars (due to interference by Turnbull) prior to the Martian invasion of Earth that forms the storyline of The War of the Worlds. Edward and Amelia, who works for the inventor Sir William Reynolds, have used Reynolds's space and time machine to jump into the future at the onset of the Mars invasion. They find that, on Mars, humans have been turned into Martian slaves.

The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells, first serialised in 1897 by Pearson's Magazine in the UK and by Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. The novel's first appearance in hardcover was in 1898 from publisher William Heinemann of London. Written between 1895 and 1897, it is one of the earliest stories to detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. The novel is the first-person narrative of both an unnamed protagonist in Surrey and of his younger brother in London as southern England is invaded by Martians. The novel is one of the most commented-on works in the science fiction canon.The plot has been related to invasion literature of the time. The novel has been variously interpreted as a commentary on evolutionary theory, British imperialism, and generally Victorian superstitions, fears, and prejudices. At the time of publication, it was classified as a scientific romance, like Wells's earlier novel The Time Machine. The War of the Worlds has been both popular (having never been out of print) and influential, spawning half a dozen feature films, radio dramas, a record album, various comic book adaptations, a television series, and sequels or parallel stories by other authors. It was most memorably dramatized in a 1938 radio program that allegedly caused public panic among listeners who did not know the Martian invasion was fictional.

The novel has even influenced the work of scientists, notably Robert H. Goddard, who, inspired by the book, invented both the liquid fuelled rocket and multistage rocket, which resulted in the Apollo 11 Moon landing 71 years later.

Urania Award

The Urania Award (known in Italian as the Premio Urania) is an annual literary competition run by the Italian magazine Urania for contemporary Italian science fiction novels. It was held for the first time in 1989.

Vernian Process

Vernian Process is an avant-garde band formed in San Francisco in 2003. Taking its name from the works of 19th century author Jules Verne, Vernian Process is a band that creates music themed around Victorian scientific romance and its modern counterpart steampunk. Their sound is a fusion of modern and old-world styles including gothic-rock darkwave, progressive rock, neoclassical, trip hop, ragtime, and other related genres. The band consists of vocalist Joshua A. Pfeiffer, and multi-instrumentalists Martín Irigoyen, Steven Farrell, and Vincent Van Veen.

Voyages extraordinaires

The Voyages extraordinaires (literally Extraordinary Voyages or Extraordinary Journeys) is a sequence of fifty-four novels by the French writer Jules Verne, originally published between 1863 and 1905.According to Verne's editor Pierre-Jules Hetzel, the goal of the Voyages was "to outline all the geographical, geological, physical, and astronomical knowledge amassed by modern science and to recount, in an entertaining and picturesque format ... the history of the universe."Verne's meticulous attention to detail and scientific trivia, coupled with his sense of wonder and exploration, form the backbone of the Voyages. Part of the reason for the broad appeal of his work was the sense that the reader could really learn knowledge of geology, biology, astronomy, paleontology, oceanography and the exotic locations and cultures of world through the adventures of Verne's protagonists. This great wealth of information distinguished his works as "encyclopedic novels".

The first of Verne's novels to carry the title Voyages Extraordinaires was The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, which was the third of all his novels.

The works in this series included both fiction and non-fiction, some with overt science fiction elements (e.g., Journey to the Center of the Earth) or elements of scientific romance (e.g., Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea).

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