I was born the year before Nineteen Eighty-Four was published: it was doubtless written and completed during 1948, with the future date arrived at by simply reversing the final two digits. I’ve now read a couple of titles for Vintage Scifi Month but, as with 1984, Flowers for Algernon doesn’t apparently strictly doesn’t count as “vintage” because it was published in 1966, well after I was born (the rule of thumb for this “not-a-challenge”). But, luckily for me, 1898’s The War of the Worlds indeed does count, and has now been read and reviewed here.
As a matter of interest, I decided to see what did qualify as vintage SF for someone of my age. And, depending what one counts as Science Fiction, it turns out the answer is … “quite a lot”, providing one includes scientific romances, allegories and other speculative titles that seem to cross genres.
Here then is a list of what I currently estimate as a personal Vintage Scifi, calculated from a couple of online timelines of the genre: I shall be travelling backwards in time which, in the circumstances, seems quite apt.
(Links are to my reviews on this blog. And here’s some discussion on what constitutes science fiction.)
1945. C S Lewis’s That Hideous Strength is the last of his so-called Space Trilogy but is more allegorical fiction than scientific romance; I’ve also read library copies of his Out of the Silent Planet (1938) and Perelandra (1943), the other titles in the series.
1944. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius ruminates on what it means to be human, even if the outward appearance of the subject is canine.
1942+ Isaac Asimov’s Foundation began serialisation in this year, though not published in book form till 1951.
1932. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: I registered this as prescient when I read it in my teens, though I remember little of it now save that the title quotes The Tempest.
1930. Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon was a future history of the world; sadly I recall only its sheer scope, as if all the intermediate historical details of Wells’s The Time Machine‘s timeline had been filled in.
1912. Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World was published just as most of the globe was finally being mapped. I’ve also read three of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pellucidar novels (which began with 1914‘s At the Earth’s Core and included Tarzan at the Earth’s Core in 1929), all of which must’ve been heavily influenced by Doyle’s scenario.
1901. H G Wells completed The First Men in the Moon at the start of the 20th century, rounding off a sequence of four scientific romances all of which, apart from The War of the Worlds, I also read in my teens.
1898. The War of the Worlds.
1896. The Island of Dr Moreau.
1895. The Time Machine.
1886. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is more a psychological ‘fable’ (as the author categorised it) than hard SF but to me definitely qualifies as speculative fiction.
1868. I read Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea in the wake of the Disney film, first released in 1954 (I saw it in the cinema around that time, but only later on television) — I skim-read the original novel, along with a couple of other Verne romances, in an edition aimed at young readers.
1865. Verne also wrote the speculative novel From the Earth to the Moon, a recent read for me; the author’s notion of a giant cannon to project a space capsule may have influenced Wells’s The War of the Worlds and his Martian projectile cylinders, as it would later inspire Joan Aiken’s steampunk novel Night Birds on Nantucket (1966).
1818. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is counted as vintage SF not just because of its speculative nature, but because of its undoubted influence on a number of later entries in the genre, such as Sirius, Flowers for Algernon, The Island of Dr Moreau and Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
I have a few of these as yet unreviewed titles still in my possession and so, rather than wait till next January’s Vintage Scifi event, I rather fancy digging some out during the course of this year for a revisit.
Feel free to borrow the above meme if, like me, you’re planning to read (or reread) books already on your shelves this year.
How about you? Do some of these classic speculative novels appeal or appear on your shelves? Do you perhaps, being more of a spring chicken than me, have more of a choice when it comes to what counts as vintage? Or does SF in any shape or form simply turn you off? Even if treated in a humorous way?