Today I would like to share a truly brilliant work of nonfiction that I finished recently, The Generation Starship in Science Fiction: A Critical History, 1934-2001 by Simone Caroti. This work disects the birth and development of science fiction from its earliest stories to current times, in particular those having to do with the generation starship concept (stories in which generations of people live and die aboard a ship traveling through space to some distant destination).
It took me a long time to read this book. As soon as I began reading I knew I could not take in the amount of knowledge presented in a matter of days and hope to retain any of it so, I treated it more like a class assignment. I read a few pages at a time, highlighting names and passages as I went in the hope that I might be able to recall some shred of the wealth of information which Mr. Caroti shares. This book helped me to understand, and think more deeply about, the challenges inherent in this kind of undertaking. It also provided great fodder for the imagination (see quote above).
The book begins by introducing the fathers of the genre of science fiction: J.D. Bernal, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and Robert Goddard. One of my favorite anecdotes in this section is when Goddard enclosed one of his manuscripts in an envelope and on the envelope he wrote “…the notes should be read thoroughly only by an optimist.” I plan to use that someday.
From there Mr. Caroti takes the reader through five eras of science fiction: The Gernsback Era, The Campbell Era, The Birth of the Space Age, The New Wave and Beyond, and The Information Age. In each section he discusses the great writers of that time and thoroughly analyzes specific stories from each (generation starship stories of course). The author explains how the writers, and the stories, were influenced by the time period in which they were written as well as how the stories were influenced by their predecessors.
There is far too much detail for me to provide an adequate synopsis of the works discussed. Let me just say that if you have ever wondered about the origins and development of the genre of science fiction, or if you are particularly interested in the generation starship concept, READ THIS BOOK.
Well done Simone Caroti!