• The Destruction of the City in Early Science Fiction

    Robert Yeates (see profile)
    Literature, Science fiction, Periodicals, England--London
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    ‘Persistent Spaces: politics, aesthetics and topography in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century city’
    Conf. Org.:
    Université Paris Diderot
    Conf. Loc.:
    Paris, France
    Conf. Date:
    Dec. 12, 2013
    apocalypse, Post-Apocalypse, Destruction, urban space, Apocalypticism, Magazines, London
    Permanent URL:
    When it began to emerge in the magazines, early science fiction was uniquely placed to explore the rapid changes affecting nineteenth-century urban life. Early progenitors of science fiction, from Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe to Richard Jefferies and H. G. Wells, found that to work in an emerging and as yet undefined genre, conventions had to be broken down and reassembled. As the genre began to find its feet, it became a Frankenstein’s monster of various forms such as the detective, adventure and gothic narratives, but with a new focus on scientific and historical authority which reflected the growing prominence of Marxist, Freudian, and Darwinian thinking. The destruction of convention involved in the creation of science fiction was reflected in the form of these works, often composed of fragmented and unreliable narrative sections, and in their subject matter, which often featured the destruction of a familiar world to create the defamiliarized settings required of their fantastical plots. As a consequence of this, many of these works feature worlds that are literally fragmented, with the ruins of cities such as London and Paris standing for the crumbling establishment, and emergent, post-apocalyptic civilizations rising in their place like a phoenix from the ashes. Tales of urban apocalypse in the late nineteenth century, as with the genre of science fiction itself, allows for a literature of a remade order, reflecting the shock waves caused by a transition to a new age of civilization.
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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