The Birth of Sci-Fi
Biologically the species is the accumulation of the experiments


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Frankenstein
by Mary Shelley (1818)


Regarded as the first science fictional novel for its use of contemporary medical theory. Horror story about young doctor who creates living being using dead body parts. The monster is shunned by society and goes on a killing rampage. The prose is extraordinarily heavy going and Shelley's head-space is nothing short of psychotropic. However, it was the first and is still a classic.





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Journey to the Center of the Earth
by Jules Verne (1864)


Typical group of Vernean protagonists - complete with handsome young adventurer and eccentric professor - journey down the core of a volcano to the centre of the earth. They discover various lost world settings where they run into prehistoric monsters and countless dangers - all while espousing solid 19th-century virtues. Timeless novel that has survived the generations intact.





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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
by Jules Verne (1869)


French writer generally regarded as the 'other' father of sci-fi - the first being H G Wells. His second sci-fi classic depicts the misanthropic Captain Nemo busily upsetting shipping routes in his plushly-furnished submarine Nautilus. Survivors of an attacked vessel get a guided tour of the ocean depths. Technology becomes startling reality from the mind of a man with limitless imagination.





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Flatland
by Edwin A. Abbott (1884)


A mind-boggling mathematical treatise about the inhabitants of a two-dimensional world, told from the point of view of one A Square. Contact with the 3D world turns things on end in the stuffy class-conscious society of Flatland. A brilliant and wryly humorous attack on Victorian England that is enjoying a renaissance. Abbott was an English schoolmaster, theologian and Anglican priest.





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The Island of Doctor Moreau
by H.G. Wells (1896)


This early work of Wells' was greeted in 1896 by howls of protest from reviewers, who found it horrifying and blasphemous. A shipwrecked gentleman named Edward Prendick, stranded on a Pacific island lorded over by the notorious Dr. Moreau, confronts dark secrets, strange creatures, and a reason to run for his life. The first book to raise ethical issues regarding genetic engineering.





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H.G. Wells The Invisible Man
by H.G. Wells (1897)


Misanthropic scientist works out how to make himself invisible. When he shows up in a sleepy little town no-one knows quite what to make of his bandaged face. They work it out when he goes mad and reigns down a nightmare of terror and murder. Classic Wells and very grim. Nothing like the TV do-gooder takes on the original premise. Helped establish Wells as the 'father of science fiction'.





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The Lost World
by Arthur Conan Doyle (1912)


Classic 'lost world' tale follows expedition to an isolated and inaccessible South American plateau where dinosaurs still survive. In the face of popular scepticism, the determined Professor Challenger wants to get back to London to prove his critics wrong. Ostensibly based on the discovery of fossilised footprints near Doyle's home. Not strictly sci-fi, but influential nonetheless.





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Last and First Men
by Olaf Stapledon (1930)


The two billion year history of the 18 races of humanity as told by one of the Last (18th) Men. The First Men (us) hit high points while Socrates and Jesus were around. Subsequent races terraform Venus and develop genetic engineering, constantly developing new forms, new senses, and new intellectual abilities. Lacks conventional narrative style, but philosophically brilliant nonetheless.


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