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History of the Future Session 2: The Future in America Science Fiction in Depression & War.

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Presentation on theme: "History of the Future Session 2: The Future in America Science Fiction in Depression & War."— Presentation transcript:

1 History of the Future Session 2: The Future in America Science Fiction in Depression & War

2 The American Future Three elements prominent in early 20 th Century futurism –Utopianism –Inventions –Faith in Progress These are inherited by science fiction –Emerges in 1930s from pulp magazine genre

3 Utopianism Thomas More – Utopia, 1516 –Meaning both better place and no place Others followed –Thomas Bacon – New Atlantis, 1627 –Saint-Simon, early 1800s Popular in Victorian Britain –Many with a pastoral tone

4 American Utopia Concern for perfect society always there –Pilgrims, US Constitution, etc. –Not always technological – Jefferson, etc. Many different commune movements –Shakers (celibate but industrious) –Owenites (secular and industrial) –Mormons

5 The Oneida Community Founded in 1850s by the Perfectionists Started pastoral, but forced into craft production. Communal living and selective breeding prove less enduring than fine silverware. By 1880s has become corporation.

6 Faith in Progress Always a moral element –Often with religious overtones Also material/technological element –Frontier/manifest destiny –Increasing industrial might Progressive Era 1890s-1920s –Political reform –Moral improvement

7 The Age of Systems s-1920s Rise of Professional Engineering Spread of Big Business –Coordination on huge scale –Formalization, specialization Scientific Management –Frederick W. Taylor –Henry Gantt Systems technology –Gas, Electricity, Telephones



10 Utopia Meets the Future Edward Bellamy Looking Backward (1888) –Year 2000 –Modest technological progress –Major social reorganization A host of imitators and plans followed


12 Gillette – Razors & Utopia King Gillette invented safety razor in 1901 Devoted himself to promotion of sky cities –Huge, self contained skyscrapers Killed himself in 1930s

13 Technocracy Meaning: Rule by Experts –Government of rational technicians Popular in the US, 1890s onward Form of Progressive ideology –Thorsten Veblen, The Engineers and the Price System, 1921 –Particular focus on rationalization of production

14 Thomas Alva Edison ( ) Inventor – 1093 patents to his name –Phonograph (1877) –Practical electric light and generator (1879) –Motion picture pioneer Entrepreneur –Invented industrial research lab Self promoter –Ubiquitous sage, expert on future

15 The Edisonade Popular 1890s-1930s The Boy Inventor –Overcome perils –Conquers new frontiers Influence on stories of Heinlein –Competent, resourceful capitalist hero –Engineering, problem solving, self reliant Steam Man of the Prairies, 1868 (has been called first American science fiction)

16 Tom Swift Childrens series Inventor hero Many adventures

17 The Roaring 20s Capitalism triumphant –Socialism and strikes of 1910 crushed –Stock market booms Exciting new technologies & industries –Radio –Cinema –Flight –Mass production of automobiles –Rise of advertising industry, brands

18 Film Interlude Triumph of America (1933) –1933 Chevrolet propaganda film Technology = Progress = Science Technology is Big! –Fills city blocks –Involves thousands of people –Complex, intricate, heavy Big business is good for you

19 Scientifiction Term coined by Hugo Gernesback in 1924 – writer (Ralph 124C 41+) –publisher (Modern Electrics, Science and invention) –amateur inventor Amazing Stories –first SF magazine –published in 1926

20 Pulp Magazines Originated in 1880s –pulp – cheap and nasty paper –origin of mass market publishing Huge market for trashy fiction From 1915 onward, tend to specialize –Detective –Western –Horror Salacious mystery, 1937

21 The Great Depression Stock market crash of 1929 –Followed by long, slow economic collapse –Partial revival around 1936, collapse in 37 American progress falters –GNP falls 23% (23% deflation) –Unemployment exceeds 25% Resurgence of technocratic thinking –Many new schemes to fix problems

22 The New Deal Franklin Delano Roosevelt Government takes new role in economy –Social Security Administration –Regulation in many industries –WPA and other stimulus measures (TVA) New legal protections for labor unions –Dramatic proliferation in 1930s

23 Astounding Science Fiction Leading science fiction magazine –Founded as Astounding Stories of Super Science in 1930 –Commercially successful (2 cents a word) Thrives during Depression 1937 – John W. Campbell, Jr. becomes editor

24 The Golden Age Term given to 1938/9 to 1946 –Isaac Asimov debuts 1939 –Robert A. Heinlein debuts 1939 –Also A E Van Vogt & Theodore Sturgeon Other regulars include –L Ron Hubbard! –(In 1960s, Dune is published there)

25 Key Themes of the 1940s Atomic physics (Campbells specialty) Space travel Contact with aliens Inventors (less than before) Pseudo science War

26 Campbells Principles No sex Humanity is always smartest America is always best Technology can fix anything Space travel will happen Science fiction can change the world

27 Campbells Style Very hands on –Worked closely with writers in developing ideas Dogmatic editorial writer –Bombastic, quasi-racist Campbell wanted to see SF ideas made real –Dianetics (led to divorce) –General symbolics –The Dean Drive

28 Film Interlude To New Horizons –1940 General Motors propaganda film based on its World of 1960 exhibit at the 1940 Worlds Fair –Same year as Heinlein story The Roads Must Roll

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