Some Definitions of SF

“Science Fiction is the branch of literature that deals with the effects of change on people in the real world as it can be projected into the past, future, or to distant places. It often concerns itself with scientific or technological change, and it usually involves matters whose importance is greater than the individual or the community; often civilization or the race itself is in danger” (2). Gunn, James. The Road to Science Fiction, From Gilgamesh to Wells. vol. 1. New York: New American Library, 1977.

A Henrique Alvim Corrêa illustration from a 1906 edition of H.G. Wells'_War of the Worlds_.

A Henrique Alvim Corrêa illustration from a 1906 edition of H.G. Wells’_War of the Worlds_.

“Science Fiction is that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesised on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudo-science or pseudo-technology, whether human or extra-terrestrial in origin” (18). Amis, Kingsley. New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960.


“SF, then, is a literary genre or verbal construct whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical environment” (7-8). Suvin, Darko. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.

“SF is distinguished by the narrative dominance or hegemony of a fictional ‘novum’ (novelty, innovation) validated by cognitive logic” (67). Suvin, Darko. Defined by a Hollow: Essays on Utopia, Science Fiction and Political Epistemology. Bern: Pater Lang, 2010.

Victorian Science Fiction, UVM Senior Seminar, Fall 2014

Although the term “science fiction” didn’t gain popularity until the 1920s, many of the hallmarks of the genre were developed and popularized in the nineteenth century. In this seminar, we explored the development of SF in the nineteenth century in England in order to think about the contours of the genre. What is Victorian SF? What questions does it ask? How does it differ from other kinds of fiction? We also examined the ways that Victorian SF reflects the anxieties and values of its time, and we considered some of the ways that early SF participated in discussions about science and technology, industrialism, gender, social class, and race and empire.

The time machine from the 1960 George Pal adaptation of H.G. Wells's "The Time Machine".

The time machine from the 1960 George Pal adaptation of H.G. Wells’s “The Time Machine”.

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