As mentioned by The Marie Sue writer Brittany Knupper yesterday in Things We Saw Today, Sunday was a pretty long day considering it was the anniversary of the first major feature film depicting Frankenstein, and the end of a weekend when Twitter tore up a tweet / article saying HG Wells (along with two other men) invented the sci-fi genre, rather than its predecessors – women like Mary Shelley among them.
The more complete passage of New York Times Author Claire Tomalin’s profile and her new biography of Wells reads:
“With Jules Verne and publisher Hugo Gernsback, he invented the genre of science fiction. A crater on the far side of the moon bears his name. Nominated four times for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Wells, the futurist, predicted the arrival of planes, tanks, the sexual revolution, the atomic bomb, and created the classic models for each story written about the alien invasion ( his inspiration for War of the Worlds, says Tomalin, was “Tasmania, and the disaster that the arrival of the Europeans had been for its people, who were wiped out”) and time travel (he was the first to imagine such a journey made possible by a machine). “
The NYT Really inflates Wells (and he did an important job, but still) at the expense of others. The bold and false claim that he invented the genre is in the article and was removed for the now viral and reasoned tweet. Tomalin seems to understand the nuances even acknowledging that, despite Wells’ progressiveness and prolificacy, he is human and, therefore, at times unreliable.
On the flip side, the man who wrote the article, we know for sure, ignores those who influenced the genre before Wells and the general public who would have known about these stories when Wells came. We know this because it fails to mention them, which means it only contributes to a long tradition of erasing women from history, even rich white women.
Mary Shelley published this in 1818. Do better. pic.twitter.com/duEaGSL4pr
– Benzo Bucko (@ThomasSwords) 20 November 2021
– gayley (@haysbian) November 21, 2021
And like Thanos, expecting to be thanked.
– Wulfsethen (@wulfsethen) 22 November 2021
Mary Shelly: https://t.co/auOEKUPdb8 pic.twitter.com/VM9eGtZxCe
– Gabby (@Doctor_Doolittl) November 21, 2021
A user linked to a Pacific Standard article exploring gender biases in NYT book reviews. The Tomalin’s Wells biography article was not a criticism, but obviously these issues are not just about a capacity, department, or even a news organization.
It’s a shame that this important error was not only posted but shared on social media, because other than that line and maybe other smaller parts, the profile was really interesting. The author is a black man and spoke of a part of Wells politics contrary to what one might think today. The point of view of Charles Johnson, writer of The middle passage and some NYT profile in question – the prospect of a black writer and a kid who loved science fiction comes forward and finds him a new connection with Wells.
In addition to pointing out Shelley’s omission, some sci-fi enthusiasts and academics have pointed out others before her (including more women) who have shaped the genre. For (some) more, check out this list of utopias and sci-fi women from 1621 to 1950 (and the works that analyze it), compiled by those at the University of Pennslyvania.
Margaret Cavendish wrote The Blazing World, which was based on science and included travel to another world, aliens and submarines, in 1666.
Shelley popularized it, by Cavendish came first.
– Dr Robotica (@Rhube) November 21, 2021
not really important to all of this, but the “scientification” is at the top “we haven’t figured out how to give things catchy names yet”.
– miss veryvery (@missveryvery) November 21, 2021
The time machine was not the first time travel story either. It was El Anacronopete by Enrique Gaspar, published in 1887. pic.twitter.com/LUkFQGwjey
– Théo Paijmans (@memizon) November 21, 2021
One person even brought up an example from ancient Greece, which raises the questions: “How far are we beyond the future imagined by the author (s) when their science fiction is considered our antiquity? and (a less novel question) “Where do you draw lines between magic, mythology and science fiction? “
The ancient Greeks invented science fiction, with stories about the bronze robot Talos, the man-made fembot Pandora, and Odysseus’ journey on a ship sailed only by thought. pic.twitter.com/NbWY5rJfND
– Adrienne mayor (@amayor) November 21, 2021
Will it happen again? Also, yes.
As mentioned earlier, there is an inherent bias based on different marginalizations, whether (real or perceived) gender, sex, race, ethnicity, nationality, etc. In the meantime, the former that are not easily verifiable or subject to debate among experts (in this case, science fiction specialists) should generally be recognized. The works of art are not born of a person in a way that we could do a simple DNA test; it’s more like a 23 and me — messy and messy.
Hey, I’m totally part of the problem and I did it colloquially which influenced my writing. However, as I learned more and more about the history of art (visual, literary, etc.), I realized without any exception perhaps, that things (ideas, patterns) do not come from nothing. Nothing is original, and that’s good. We learn history as a series of great moments from great men, but those moments, people and texts that go through the cracks of time are also important.
Instead of that person or person creating this genre, something more like “these prolific writers are celebrated for their significant contributions to the genre.” Name these names (like Mary Shelley!), But also make room for those who have faced publication barriers, come from cultures where oral traditions are more valued, and in spaces where stories were an effort. collaboration (The Illiad, Thousand and one Night, king arthur and more).
(via Twitter, image: NYT Books, Twitter, Comedy Central, and Alyssa Shotwell.)
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