8. Science Fiction/Fantasy
Cyrano de Bergerac 1619–1655
A Voyage to the Moon: With some account of the solar world: A comical romance
Dublin: Printed by R James, 1754
Translated by Samuel Derrick
English readers have a false impression of Cyrano de Bergerac due to Edmund Rostand’s play of 1897; he did, however, have a rather large nose. Cyrano was a 17th-century satirist who was critical of religion and politics. This novel was first published in French as Histoire Eomique des ´Etats et Empires du Soleil in 1662. It is a satirical attack on cosmological beliefs that viewed man and the world as the centre of creation.
HG Wells 1866–1946
The First Men in the Moon
London: George Newnes, 1901
HG Wells’ ‘fantastic stories’ were highly influential on many writers of science fiction. In this story the science is highly suspect, whereas other writers of science fiction pride themselves on their references to true science. Wells recounts travel to the moon without a ship and describes the moon as being inhabited by a colony of advanced insect-like creatures.
Amazing Stories, May 1926
New York: Experimenter Pub. Co., 1926
Amazing Stories began in April 1926. It was the first of many science fiction magazines and is considered by many to mark the true start of science fiction as a genre. Its early issues reprinted stories by established authors rather than featuring new and original fiction. Stories by HG Wells, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe appear in this issue.
Robert A Heinlein 1907–1988
Have Space Suit - Will Travel
London: Gollancz, 1970
Robert Heinlein was one of the first science fiction writers to break into the mainstream. He was an author of ‘hard science fiction’, in which scientific plausibility is key. Stories of journeys to the moon and into space appeared well before the 20th century, but these were not couched in the realism presented here. This copy belonged to Irene Booth, the sister of Ada Booth whose Slavic collection has come to Monash University Library
Oskar Kokoschka 1886–1980
Die traumenden Knaben
Vienna: Wiener Werkstätte, 1908
This is the first of Oskar Kokoschka’s many books. It was commissioned as a children’s book but Kokoschka developed it into a dream narrative and a journey through sexual awakening. His illustrations of a world of forests and oceans are depicted in his signature expressionist style. The publisher stopped production of the book, so the first edition shown here is quite rare. The book is dedicated to his friend and fellow artist Gustav Klimt. It was reprinted in 1918
JRR Tolkien 1892–1973
The Hobbit: Or there and back again
London: Allen & Unwin, 1966 (3rd ed.)
The Hobbit, first published in 1937, grew out of Tolkien’s philological studies. Before the story formed he had developed an entire language for elves. He then created a mythology and storyline to frame the language within. The Hobbit is a fantastic journey through ‘Middle Earth’. Tolkien and CS Lewis, along with other Oxford professors and students, belonged to the Inklings, a reading group where members encouraged each other’s fantasy fiction endeavours.
CS Lewis 1898-1963
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: A story for children
London: Geoffrey Bles, 1950
Illustrated by Pauline Baynes
This is the first of seven books in CS Lewis’s Narnia series. It can be read as either a fantasy adventure for children or a Christian allegory. In both cases, the motif of the journey as a vehicle for self-discovery lies at the centre of the book. When it was released in 1950, fantasy literature for children was considered corruptive and akin to comic books and pulp fiction. Lewis’s publisher asked him to consider the risk to his reputation, however the book proved to be immensely popular. Pauline Baynes was also the illustrator for the works of Tolkien and Richard Adams’ Watership Down.