Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Bastard Genre

Turns out modern sci-fi owes nearly everything to a bastard.

The surprise here isn't that most of the most famous tropes in science fiction owe themselves to a single work - hello, Star Wars - but that they originated from a book that was essentially fan fiction. Garret P. Serviss somehow avoided the legal apocalypse that would surely visit him today after publishing an unauthorized sequel to H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds - Edison's Conquest of Mars. The book was apparently written on commission from The Boston Post - I guess things were looser back then - and featured Thomas Edison leading the fight back to Mars.

The article at Cracked labels Serviss a 'hack.' I won't make accusations as to the man's ability (capsule review: Serviss never met a comma he didn't like. Also, brownie points for 'puissance') but I don't think it's fair to dismiss him so easily.

According to Wikipedia, 'the book contains some notable "firsts" in science fiction: alien abductions, spacesuits (called "air-tight suits": see Spacesuits in fiction), aliens building the Pyramids, space battles, oxygen pills, asteroid mining and disintegrator rays.' It also features what appears to be a Mary Sue type character in the form of Serviss himself. More than its contributions to science fiction, what the book may represent is a significant contribution to the genre of fan fiction.

Why is that important? Because we're all fans.