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Worlds Without End Blog

History of Science Fiction Info Graphic Posted at 8:14 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

History of Science Fiction

Take a look at this amazing info graphic by artist Ward Shelley over at Places & Spaces.  Shelley has mapped out the history of Science Fiction in a fascinating amorphous tentacular blob that takes you through the development of the genre from Gilgamesh to New Space Opera with hundreds of famous and sometimes unexpected stops in between.

The paths twist and turn and branch out through the long years in a hypnotic pattern of movements and cultural change.  The many genres of fiction that derive from the same roots of  "Fear and Wonder" disappear into their own universes leaving us to wonder what those places might look like.

There is so much detail here you could pore over it for hours and still find great new things.  The example books on this chart alone would make a titanic reading list!  Take a look and tell us what you think.

Thanks to Wintermute for the tip.


jwbjerk   |   09 Mar 2011 @ 08:46

Very cool!

Dane   |   09 Mar 2011 @ 10:37

Whoa…Okay, maybe I could pick at some minor issues, but I am just too captivated. This is absolutely brilliant. There is an unbelievable amount of research and creativity that went into this.Thanks for posting it!

Dave Post   |   09 Mar 2011 @ 11:12

I totally agree, Dane, though I think it’s hard to really appreciate the whole thing when you can only see parts of it on the monitor. I really want this as a giant poster so I can see the whole thing at once. I’ve looked online but no luck. If anybody knows if this can be had please let me know.

Jonathan   |   09 Mar 2011 @ 14:19

I’m not sure what I think about things like "Folk Culture," "Animism" and "Philosophy" being portrayed merely as precursors to the science fiction genre. That’s sort of like saying that rocks and plasma are precursors to the aeroplane.I do, however, appreciate "The Enlightenment" being drawn as a giant brain tumor.

Emil   |   10 Mar 2011 @ 00:27

Love it! Like any "artwork" some disagreeable considerations, but magnificent in presentation. More than a road map – an incredible, live, maze filled with adventures. Awesome.

Wintermute   |   10 Mar 2011 @ 06:55

I find interesting the abrupt end to the "Future War Novels" (tan color, above the bright crimson "Pulp Magazines") tentacle. Notice how most/all of the tentacles blend into the next style? Not in this case and not coincidentally the style dies with World War One. That would make sense to me; it’s fun to read about future wars until you live through WW1. ||| If this was made just a year or two later it would have been interesting to see where the "Twilight" series and the endless teen-vampire-angst-drama books would have been placed. Probably right next to the little "Harry Potter is this way" arrow. ||| If I was to predict the next category of sci-fi novels (i.e. soft, hard, space opera, new space opera, hard) that would be called out it would be "Steam-Punk". ||| As I have commented on a recent blog post, the invasion of non-sci-fi into sci-fi really looks out of place on the map at the far right edges: "Yiddish Policeman’s Union" and "Paladin of Souls" in the Cyberpunk neighborhood; or "Powers" by New Space Opera? ||| I like how the three mediums of modern entertainment (book, television, film) are represented. If I were to hazard a prediction of what the map may look like a few years from now it would show the thin reeds of the magazines (the pink lines) blossoming into web-zines / You-tube-ish content. With the Kindle/i-Pad/tablet growth I think we could see a reinvigoration of the magazine in electronic form like those yester-year classics like "Astounding Science". ||| I wonder what the "Lovecraft Circle" at the intersection of Horror’s and Sword & Sorcery’s tentacles. ||| I wonder if there is a deeper meaning behind calling the tentacle Sword & Sorcery and not Fantasy.

Glenn   |   14 Mar 2011 @ 03:52

Since Ward lists the map as a version one on his website, I’ll suggest the following upgrade. The japanimation category (between film and tv) for an otaku, like myself, needs work. The first thing is the name: japanimation. In my view, that’s always been a horrendously terrible name and it smacks of the building wave of anime and manga in the 90ies. With the passage of time, what I see happening is the words anime and manga now being used. Nobody who knows this stuff uses Japanimation. Do the big box store booksellers still use Japanimation? Not around here, at least. If they don’t even use it, I feel it’s a term which has reached it’s life expectancy. Besides, it’s better to use anime and manga since they’re so interrelated and now days people do now what you’re talking about. They’ve at least heard the terms. You have a manga, you get any anime. You get an exceptional anime, you get a manga. They’re woven around each other. I’d suggest moving the whole category. Since they are so intertwined, being buried between tv and film is not really a very good spot. You list Akira twice. Once in the japanimation and once in the film category. Nausica is misspelled. It’s Nausicaa. As to top anime movies: Nausicaa, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Castle in the Sky, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time are all top shelf choices. Appleseed the movie, Wings of Honneamise, and Ghost in the Shell 2 are the next level of excellence. As to top anime TV: As we travel up the arrow of time, it starts with Future Boy Conan, then comes Space Battleship Yamato (Starblazers). Next would be Bubblegum Crisis. And then Neon Genesis Evangelion. To round out the 90ies is Cowboy Bebop. Bebop is very interesting since otaku generally say it starts a new subgenre called Future Noir. (Perhaps The City and The City is the first real good example of western Future Noir.) The second tier anime TV would include Gundum, Nadia: Secret of Blue Water, Irresponsible Captain Tylor (a comedic masterpiece), Serial Experiments Lain, the cult classic Fooly Cooly (FLCL), Ergo Proxy, and Last Exile. To cut that down to just the most essential Movies: Nausicaa, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. For TV:Future Boy Conan, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, and Fooly Cooly (FLCL). Now, SF manga:Akira, Ghost in the Shell 1 and 2, Appleseed, and Nausicaa are the most essential. The next tier would be Battle Angel Alita, Chobits, Planetes, Dominion Tank Police, and Spirit of Wonder.

Dave Post   |   16 Mar 2011 @ 16:29

I contacted the artist, Ward Shelley, about purchasing a print. He says they’re coming soon and will shoot me details about price and sizes etc. once he’s worked that out with the printer. I’ll pass along the info when I get it. Very excited to be getting my hands on this one.

Dave Post   |   16 Mar 2011 @ 16:36

@Glenn: You’ve unwittingly given me a list of films to check out. I’ve only seen a few Miyazaki films so far: Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, Spirited Away and Ponyo and I’ve been a fan of Starblazers since I was a kid. I’ve really enjoyed those but was unsure where to go next. Your list will be a big help.

htaccess   |   27 Apr 2011 @ 04:37

Somewhat related –

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