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The Writing Styles Of 2 Prominent British

Science Fiction Authors Essay, Research Paper

The Writing Styles of 2 Prominent British Science Fiction Authors

“Science fiction is one of the more secluded parade grounds where private

fantasy and public event meet. They call it entertainment”. (Aldiss Billion 1)

This quote is interpreted to mean that, in the genre of science fiction there is

a fusion of fantasy and reality. It is this combination of two opposites that

produces the novel categorized today as science fiction. There is one aspect of

science fiction that separates it from any other genre. Science fiction can be

written as fantasy one day, and read as scientific fact the next. Jules Verne

has written about man setting foot on the moon. When read by its original

readers the idea of space travel was not a reality. It is now common knowledge

that man has walked on the moon, and when this novel is read today no longer is

space travel considered to be imaginary. Skillful science fiction novelists

brilliantly blend fantasy with reality, composing a very fine line between the

two perceptions. When reading, one sometimes does not even realize when the

author makes the transition from a plausible concept to a ludicrous one.

Science fiction is a relatively new term. Novels were first categorized this

way towards the close of the 1920’s. This word was first utilized in short

stories that appeared in the pulp magazines, of the era. The phrase “science

fiction” was considered an enhancement of the term scientifiction. However

several British novels were categorized as scientific romances before the 1920’s.

(Aldiss Trillion 27) Before Frankenstein the only forms of science fiction were

“the plays of Aristophanes or some Myrenaean fragment concerning the flight to

the sun on a goose’s back.” (Aldiss Billion 2) In these fantasies there is no

blend of reality and fantasy, it is pure fantasy. There is no one story that

is accepted to be the first science fiction tale. Science fiction as perceived

today originated with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (Aldiss Trillion 18)

Mary Shelley was the wife of the famous British poet, Percy Bysshe

Shelley and daughter of Mary Wollenstonecraft. She was born in 1797 and her

mother died soon after birth. Mary Wollenstonecraft married her husband at the

age of fifteen. She produced her most famous novel entitled Frankenstein at the

age of nineteen. It was published in 1818. (Ash 178)

The origin of the novel came to Shelley in a dream, in which she says

she saw “the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working

of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy half vital

motion” (Bleiler 6) The story starts with several letters written by Captain

Walton to his sister. Walton has been navigating the Arctic ocean when he

observes a sledge being pushed by a gigantic body. The day after the crew saves

Victor Frankenstein from Geneva from a similar sledge. After Victor has

recuperated, he recounts his tale to Walton. This account is the largest

section of the book. The novel also includes six chapters of the creature

explaining his life. (Bleiler 5) Mary’s style of narration appears to be very

puzzling. However the first reader’s of Frankenstein were very familiar with

this style of narration. (Aldiss Billion 21)

Shelley brilliantly includes how the monster feels. She analyzes the

monster psychologically. “One of Frankenstein’s greatest merits is that its

tale of exterior adventure and misfortune is always accompanied by a

psychological depth.” (Aldiss Billion 25)

Throughout the story the readers main interest revolves around

Frankenstein’s creation. The creature is never given a name, it was referred to

in the story as “creature,” “daemon,” or “monster.” For this reason

Frankenstein has been thought to be the monster, when he was the creator.

One everlasting fascination of the novel are its ambiguities,

Frankenstein is never seen throwing the switch to give his creation life. The

language of the novel makes it very easy to confuse the two main roles and

believe that Frankenstein is the creature. Shelley also frequently describes

Victor Frankenstein as if he were the monster. “We? restored him to animation?

As soon as he showed signs of life we wrapped him up in blankets. I often

feared that his suffering had deprived him of understanding? He is generally

melancholy and despairing?.” This is not Shelley describing the monster, but

Shelley describing Victor. (Aldiss Trillion 42)

Mary structured much of the book around intelligence. Victor

Frankenstein is not the only character in the novel searching for knowledge,

throughout the book Walton and the monster are also looking for enlightenment.

(Bleiler 7) “The monster, product of guilty knowledge, threatens the world with

evil progeny.” (Bleiler 7) Frankenstein is yet another work of science fiction

which was not thought to be realistically possible by most people until recently.

This is an excerpt from criticism of science fiction authors, written just 15

years ago “Even today, when our diet is the unlikely, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein

seems extremely far fetched, how much more so must it have appeared on

publication in 1818.” (Bleiler 3) Mary Shelly was one of the few that thought

it might be possible to give life to an inanimate creature. “The event on which

this fiction is founded has been supposed, by Dr. Darwin and some of the

physiological writers of Germany as not of impossible occurrence.”(Shelley

xxvii) Today with the advancements recently made with cloning, it almost seems

possible to create a life form from inanimate objects. Because scientists are

able to clone a sheep, monkey, and theoretically a human, it makes it seem very

plausible that a work of fiction, such as Frankenstein might eventually become

reality. “The attention psychoanalysis has drawn to the few but powerful

archetypal figures in the psyche paved a way for the acceptance of diverse arts-

surrealism, photography, cinema, and science fiction, where aliens, robots,

spaceships, planets, and so on act as counters in a complex mental game. A

character landing on the moon can be a symbol of conquest, of fulfillment, or of

alienation, depending on context. Writers perhaps understand this more readily

than mainstream critics, who do not always distinguish between characters and

personages. Wells had the new language off from the start.” (Aldiss Trillion

117) Herbert George Wells was born in the suburbs of London in a place called

Bromley. After failed attempts at being a tailor’s and chemist’s apprentice he

won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science. He studied there for about

one year. Wells then tried to become a teacher, but failed. It was as a last

resort when he turned toward a writing profession in which he enjoyed overnight

success. (Ash 204) Wells originated many commonly used science fictional ideas.

He was the first writer to ever use evolution as a way to look back in time, as

well as forward. In his novel entitled The Grisly Folk Wells tells the story of

mankind struggling against the primitive Neanderthals. He also wrote a book

called A Story of the Stone Age. Wells was the first to look far into the

worlds past as well as its future. (Aldiss Trillion 120)

Wells had three main qualities that made him the literary success that

he was. He was an inquiring person and searched for knowledge in all of his

stories. Wells also had the natural ability to observe the world the way it is,

with no prejudices or biased opinions. He also avoided writing lead characters

in any one of his novels. This did not permit the reader to identify with the

person and accept anything offered. (Aldiss Trillion 120) War of the Worlds was

first published in 1897. It is the story of Martian invaders that landed on

earth. It is told by an Englishman who observes the invaders moving in on

London, while the army is doing everything they can to hold them off. London is

quickly evacuated before the invaders die, they were killed by common microbes.

Wells does not reveal the Martians appearance until over halfway into

the book. When they are seen, they are horrific looking. (Aldiss Trillion 121)

“They were, I now saw, the most unearthly creatures it is possible to conceive.

They were huge round bodies-or rather, heads-about for feet in diameter, each

body having in front of it a face. This face had no nostrils-indeed the

Martians do not seem to have any sense of smell, but it had a pair of very large

dark-coloured eyes, and just beneath this a kind of fleshy beak. In the back of

this head or body-I scarcely know how to speak of it-was a single tight tympanic

surface, since known to be anatomically an ear, though it must have been almost

useless in our denser air. In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender,

almost whip-like tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each.” (Wells 111)

Wells used three standards to produce The War of the Worlds. He writes about

the present day. While the reader recognizes the time as his own, he is being

trained to except the far fetched appearance of what follows. (Aldiss Trillion

122) This is the method Wells uses to create the fine line between fantasy and

reality that was discussed earlier in this report. Secondly, he incorporates

the newer scientific discoveries into his work, such as the theory of evolution,

and microorganisms. Lastly he creates a society like todays that welcomes

criticism of itself and of mankind. (Aldiss Trillion 122) “Wells spoke of two

kinds of thinking, directed and undirected thought. In The Work, Wealth and

Happiness of Mankind (1931), Wells talks in chapter two of directed thought as

something which enters philosophy with Plato and which defines the scientific

aspect of modern civilization. Undirected thought is a sort of muzzy version of

thinking, imaginative play, almost what we would call a hypnoid state.” (Aldiss

Trillion 121) “Wells’s writing moves gradually from undirected to directed

thought. From a fiction capable of ironic and ambivalent tolerances to a

functional fiction directed towards proof and prediction.” (Aldiss Trillion

121) Science fiction is not classified as an entity. It is the similar writing

accomplishments of many men and women, which for handiness we categorize these

authors under the label of science fiction. Many authors resent the

classification; many take pride in it. (Aldiss Trillion 20) Science fiction is

considered to be one of the great literary successes of the later half

twentieth century. Like authors of any other genre, science fiction writers

are considered to be artists. (Aldiss Trillion 13) It is clear that Wells and

Shelly should be considered more then just good writers of their time. They

should be considered brilliant artists that have created many masterpieces.

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