by Peggy Kindiger
For millennia, people have gazed upon the stars, planets, and the moon and have contemplated the possibility of life beyond our earth. What would these creatures look like, what would they eat, how would they dress, would they be friendly or hostile, how could we communicate with them?
In 1610, an Italian scientist named Galileo improved upon a magnification instrument constructed of optician’s lenses fixed to either end of a long tube (now called a telescope). He is believed to be the first person to point this telescope at the moon and the known planets. This simple act forever changed the science of astronomy. It also changed humanity’s perception of the universe, letting curiosity and imagination run wild.
As science and technology advanced, so did literature. By the end of the 19th century, science fiction novels came into their own and authors began to explore the possibilities of life on celestial bodies besides our home planet. From the Earth to the Moon (1865, Jules Verne) imagines members of a late 19th century gun club attempting to build a gigantic space gun on a launch site in Florida. Three people are scheduled to ride this “gun” and land on the moon. (Hmmm….this sounds familiar! Check out the space race of the 1960s.) The War of the Worlds (1897, H. G. Wells) imagined a conflict between Earthlings and Martians. This story was later adapted into a radio broadcast that aired on October 31, 1938, with unexpected results!
Wells and Verne are regarded as the “fathers of science fiction”. According to an article in Wikipedia, “…science fiction developed and boomed in the 20th century, as the deep integration of science and inventions into daily life encouraged a greater interest in literature that explores the relationship between technology, society, and the individual. Scholar Robert Scholes calls the history of science fiction “the history of humanity’s changing attitudes toward space and time … the history of our growing understanding of the universe and the position of our species in that universe.” (History of Science Fiction, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science_fiction
Here at El Reno Carnegie Library, this year’s summer reading theme is “A Universe of Stories”. This coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first earthlings to set foot on the moon. While the scientists and engineers at NASA were busy figuring out how to do this, science fiction writers of the 1950s and 1960s were engaged in exploring the exciting new future that was rocketing our way. Come check out the library’s science fiction collection to see how close these authors came to envision what is now our reality!
Here are some great science fiction books written prior to the first moon landing:
F SCIF ASI, I, Robot
F SCIF ASI, Nightfall
F S F SCIF BRA, The Martian Chronicles
F SCIF NOR, The Norton book of Science Fiction, 1960-1990
F SCIF VER, Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon, 1865
F SCIF WEL, The Complete Science Fiction Treasury of H. G. Wells
F SCIF WEL, H. G. Wells, War of the Worlds,