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The Eras in Science Fiction

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by Kadue, Jun 13, 2002.

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  1. Kadue

    Kadue Jedi Knight star 5

    Jun 20, 2000
    It seems to be a human trait to divide things into categories, and with things like art, literature, civilisation, we seem to define them into eras with a title that is used to describe what is thought of that time or style. One that crops up in nearly every case is the division of a "Golden Age" that is seen as the pinnacle of that thing, with further division into "Silver", "Bronze", and "Modern" ages to name some. Science fiction hasn't escaped this, and those that are fans of the genre all have some thoughts on this.

    So here is the question, what points are there that define the different ages throughout science fiction?

    In one of the last books ever published with his name on it, Gold (it was actually one of the three published post-humously), Isaac Asimov has given a couple of defining points that I happen to agree with.

    It is widely held that the "Golden Age" of science fiction is that of between about 1910 and 1940-50 when writers like Asimov, Campbell, L. Sprague DeCamp, the Del Rey's and many others all began their careers, and the pulp magazines were the place at which all stories were written serialised, and then maybe collected in a book format afterwards. The stories were heavily based in the science of the time while looking at how they could be advanced in the future, and many of the writers of this time were also noted for their writings in pure science publications. It was also the time of the original Flash Gordon stories which brought science fiction to the younger generation without the heavy science basis.

    But what was it that caused the jump from this era to the next? What were the difference that made this so?

    The 40's was the time of great scientific revolution during the war, and one of the greatest leaps, and openings of 'Pandora's Box' occurred with the first use of atomic power. But because of the war, it was also a depressive time. But what contribution did these and other factors have, and was this an immediate effect, or did it take time to change the face of the current science fiction?

    Jumping forward now to the "Modern Era". Definately one of the biggest markers of this time, and one of the heralds of this era is the wider acceptance and following that science fiction has. The general public view of science fiction wanned, and was generally pushed to the background as one of the main genres. But the resurgence of movies in the late 70's and early 80's brought science fiction back to the public eye, and while it wasn't all good tidings in terms of promoting it, it laid the way for what was to come.

    While it is hard to point to one definitive moment that can be said as the start of eras, there are points that really show that they are here. One of these for the "Modern Age" has to be the success of writers in the mainstream. The one that is pointed to by many is Michael Chrichton. He brought back the old style of writing a story about the advancements of current technologies, and made them mainstream best sellers. His stories were more action based than any previously, and this caught the public by suprise as the thought of these books as science fiction did not always occur to them.

    Another marker for this age has to be the blurring of the line between the genres of science fiction and fantasy. Originally it was an easy distinction to make between whether a book belonged to one of these genres or the other, but over time, that changed. Most science fiction books now had a lot of fantasy elements creeping into them, and the same went for fantasy. There still are books that belong solely at either end of the scale in the original groupings, but it is more common now for these two genres to be referred to as the one - science fiction/fantasy.

    Okay, enough from me. Do you agree with any of this, and can we nail down more difinitive points as the boundaries of these ages? Or am I blowing hot air?

    I've also avoided any mention of the times between because I think that it might be fun to define the 'start' and current points, and work inwards (p
  2. Qui-Gon Zero

    Qui-Gon Zero Jedi Padawan star 4

    Nov 26, 1999
    My knowledge on the history of science fiction is actually terrible, but I hope that this topic has a large discussion on it. It's pretty interesting what you can learn from listening to what other people have to say about certain subjects. This is interesting.
  3. VadersLaMent

    VadersLaMent Chosen One star 10

    Apr 3, 2002
    Science fiction seemed to subside a little during the 80's. Yes we had Aliens and Predator and such but there was not much in the way of mainstream interest.

    The 90's, a little show called the X-Files gave Sci Fi a nice kick in the pants. Star Trek the Next Generation grew from actors in ST holloween costumes, into a show which showcased some good episodes and finally some character chemisty. Movies such as Lost In Space, Supernova, Armageddon and Contact came to the big screen.

    We saw in this last decade a surgeo f science, the Human Genome Project, extra-solar planets being hunted up by astronomers with new techniques.

    I don't know how we could label it, but this past decade was a great one for science fiction.

    Whats next? Well we got a new SW trilogy come at us, Larry Niven's Ringworld is in the works for a big screen adaptation, and in case you have not noticed the sci fi sections of your local bookstores have gotten rather large.

    Real world? So many people and private investors are hard at work on producing their own rockets, a fella by the name of Moller is working hard with the FAA to make actual aircars (they are cool as hell looking, fly at 350mph, and have many redundant saftey features).

    There is always a surge, then a lull, then another surge etc... right now, we are on a surge which I am enjoying.
  4. eaglejedi

    eaglejedi Jedi Master star 5

    Feb 2, 2001
    Well, obviously, the advent of Star Wars itself was a major event in the history of science fiction. It's probably the most popular scifi epic ever, and can easily share the credit for making the genre more mainstream, more part of pop culture in the US and probably other parts of the world as well.
    Going back to the question at hand, Kadue's Golden Age is followed by the Nuclear Age of Science Fiction. TV and Movie Scifi from the early 50s to early or mid 60s, falls into this category. Nuclear Age works, produced during the early years of the Cold War, were often heavily influenced by the prevailing conditions (especially threats and fears) of those times. Therefore, in often oblique or roundabout ways, Early Nuclear Age science fiction deals with fears of (1) The expansion of the Soviet Union's power bloc, and the possibility of attack, (2) the related threat of a total nuclear exchange. Early Nuclear Age scifi almost always involves something or someone invading or attempting to conquer either a particular country (usually the US), a certain area, or the world- often a monster, aliens, or oversized insects. Movies such as Godzilla obliquely hint at the nuclear threat- Godzilla is awakened by an American atomic bomb test. Many others explore the theme of the forbidden fruits of human scientific endeavor in a more general sense- the giant ants, or whatever, are spawned by radiation from nuclear tests, or simply by insane or unethical, or careless scientists.
    1964's Dr. Strangelove more directly confronts the fear of nuclear annihilation. In this dark comedy (with Peter Sellers in three roles), the nuclear arms race leads to the construction of a doomsday machine, and so a single damaged bomber, which cannot be recalled, causes world annihilation.
    However, during the Late Nuclear Age, there were a number of exploratory works produced, which later led to sub-genres of their own, or resurfaced recently as popular movies, and which broke out of the Early Nuclear Age scifi. A number of earlier works were also adapted for the big screen, such as those of Jules Verne.
    In the late 1960s, we entered into the Post-Nuclear Age. The nuclear threat was still there, with such films as 1971's Omega Man, starring Charleton Heston, but it was not the only theme around, nor so monolithic, being now divided between the Soviet Union and China. Nor was the military so well depicted as in the giant ant movies, where they save the day by blowing the ants away with flamethrowers and assault rifles. The growing free speech and anti-war movement, and accompanying moods and realizations of the American population, not to mention the civil rights struggle, had their effects on science fiction as well. Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, while seemingly just an odyssey of exploration of the stars, confronted and dealt with many pressing social issues, such as racism (the episode with the half-black and half-white man).

    Note: I have not attempted to really discuss foreign scifi much as I am not equipped to do so.
    I will return tomorrow to refine what I have just shovelled.

    SPECTOR Jedi Youngling star 3

    Jun 2, 2002
    The Golden Age of Science Fiction is probably like the Golden Age of the JC. Once everything was fresh and new. I don't believe it was the atomic bomb itself that changed that. It was the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. Most of the books after 1947 seemed to follow the thread of what would happen if there was a nuclear war. Then there was the moon landing. It brought the possiblity of going beyond our own planet so much closer that writing about earth and mars was not enough. Many authors went to other solar systems in their writing. What might best mark the split between golden age authors and those that came after was the material that they had to work with, and as a result, the quality of their writing. Back befor computers and atomic power, science was beyond many people, and an author had to be a truely good writer to be recognized.
  6. Kadue

    Kadue Jedi Knight star 5

    Jun 20, 2000
    As I said in the first post, I don't think that you could ever point to a specific point in time as the changing point in any era. There always is a gap of time where the styles from the two seem to intermix, sometimes which has produced a few interesting stories.

    I pointed to the first atom bomb as one of those things that act as a marker for the ending of the Golden Age. I do agree that it wasn't until about 1947/1948 that the new style started becoming prominant. There were even many books that I consider to belong in the Golden Age published up until about 1953.

    You are right SPECTOR in that it was really the major advances in science that marked the change. The end of the 40's and start of the 50's was a big time in relation to scientific advance. The world had recovered from the Depression in the early 1930's, and the one good thing that WW2 did do was cause major leaps in science, especially in aeroflight, nuclear and medical technologies. This expanded a lot of what could be written about, and theorised about.

    Thanks for the insight eagle. The Cold War definately did have an effect on many of the American writers of the time. It also seemed to be something that drove many writers into focussing on pure science, for many different reasons.
  7. ArnaKyle

    ArnaKyle Jedi Master star 4

    Nov 12, 2000
    All very good points, I'd just like to throw in a remark. How would you place the "Fathers of Science Fiction" such as Verne and Wells? While many argue that these authors are not actually science fiction authors, they were in fact, but simply a different type.

    It's what I believe was called "hard" science fiction that wasn't so elaborate at the time, but did use science to explain their visionaries. For instance, Verne's novel "From the Earth to the Moon" featured something extremely advanced for his going to the moon. Though it was predicted in such a way that involved gigantic canons, the force was precisely calculated for Verne's time as to something that would in fact work.

    Ironically, the site he predicted for the launch mirrored the real life problem addressed in the 1960s...Texas or Florida. Florida was the victor, and the site choses was on the exact latitude as the site today. So, while it may seem terribly normal to us today or just plain stupid (since Verne states something about the EIGHT planets), Verne and Wells were pioneers of their time.

    An era? I'd say so, but that's just my opinion. :)
  8. ShaneP

    ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Mar 26, 2001
    I would consider Verne more of a romantic-fantsy writer than SF. He did use some of the stylings of and trappings of SF.

    I'd probably put him in the same area as Bradbury and Arthur Conan Doyle.
  9. eaglejedi

    eaglejedi Jedi Master star 5

    Feb 2, 2001
    Many good points...
    I had forgotten about the Moon Landing, but that is a major event, along with ST:TOS, 2001:SO, and Vietnam, that marks (and causes) the Era that came after the Late Nuclear Age in SF. I guess we could call the post-Nuc one the Space Exploration Era... space seen as the final frontier of human exploration. Many different visions of what human space travel and exploration would be like, but generally now SF is more focused outward into space, and not on this planet as much.
    Now, also, the military can be portrayed at times as evil or corrupt in SF.
    I would call Star Wars and TNG the starting points for the most recent eras, but that's just my passing thoughts.
  10. Bossk_WookieHunter

    Bossk_WookieHunter Jedi Youngling

    Jun 23, 2002
    Alot of the Golden Age sci-fi were reflections on society at the time.Robots taking over,nuclear bombs destroying the world.

    This era,in my opinion,is the best.
  11. MarkaRagnos

    MarkaRagnos Jedi Youngling

    Jul 1, 2002
    Okay, i cannot believe that none of you have made one mention of the father of modern sci-fi, Doc Smith with his lensmen series was one of a kind when it was written and today anyone who reads it says aloud (before knowing that it was written in the early 1940's) "hey, this is exactly like every other sci-fi story almost ever written, i mean it is so predictable, and such a ripoff of so many great authors, i cannot beleive it" He also breaks a great deal of barriers in the fact that he theorized of the existence of black holes in his time, not jack or squat had been written or discussed on this subject. Please do not misunderstand, i was just making sure that we tried to mention all of the "founding fathers".
  12. Jades Fire

    Jades Fire Jedi Padawan star 4

    Nov 8, 1998
    Why hasn't this thead been closed and moved into the Science Fiction discussion thread?
    Could it be because a MOD created it?!?!?!?!?
    Naw, couldn't be. That would make too much sense. :mad:
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