The configuration at The history of science fiction is pretty straightforward: Guides, mostly fictional versions of prominent white men from the sci-fi past, elaborate on the genre’s history for two robots in a futuristic museum. As comics are the art of sequentiality, a graphic novel claiming to be the sequential story of science fiction – published by the publisher of so much seminal science fiction, no less – is probably an intriguing prospect for many comic book readers. Presented with an index and a list of major art sources, the book clearly attempts to have academic or referential use, in addition to its broader appeal. But the English translation of History of science fiction totally fails as a proper historical work – ad worse, ends up functioning as a weak hagiography.
Which is a shame, because art shines throughout the book. It’s especially wonderful for recreating the angles of famous shots from science fiction movies. In fact, just in terms of visuals, The history of science fiction would be commendable work. There is a literal timeline that runs through the bottom of some pages and highlights various sci-fi works, generally relevant to the content on the rest of the page.
Unfortunately, the book also claims to be the story of science fiction; but it really only presents the story of western science fiction – and a biased version, too. Specifically, it functions primarily as a sci-fi story from France, UK, and USA. The notable writers and editors that the comic book team gives a literal voice to are primarily from these places, with writers from other countries serving as little more than the front. For example, although objects and ideas from Japanese science fiction litter the futuristic museum, no Japanese author has more depth than the writers of the aforementioned countries. Considering that a of the primary sources of this book is able to be precise on its scope (Science-Fiction In France In The 1950s, Where Science fiction in France in the 1950s), it’s a baffling decision on the part of everyone involved here not to make it clear, especially calling themselves history.
Additionally, there is an ugly tendency in the book to gloss over the more objectionable aspects of the featured writers. At one point, a fictionalized version by British author Michael Moorcock updates a fictionalized HG Wells about the state of science fiction after his death. The book tells Moorcock: “Although the Huxley family did not always agree on everything, Julian (a renowned biologist who later popularized the term ‘transhumanism’), Aldous, and you, Herbert, were all from strong supporters of Darwinism and eugenics that would benefit the human race. Unlike the extremist eugenic ideas of the Nazis, for example. This statement is absurd; even if one accepts the possibility that the creative team is totally at odds with eugenics but thinks that Moorcock – if given the opportunity to speak with Wells – will say this, it is presented without a doubt, so that in reality there is no “beneficial” eugenics for the human race. It literally generates inequalities.
There is a brief mention of how the closed-mindedness of some beloved writers has affected science fiction. For example, John W. Campbell is described as being “tainted with racism and rather questionable positions, especially on pseudo-sciences such as Scientology.” However, while the book imagines and renders Campbell’s brilliant moments in illuminating flashbacks, it does nothing of the sort with his racism, even though these harmful beliefs also shaped the science fiction of its time and place. Choices like these make The history of science fiction seems absurd as a serious historical work.
Finally, the book turns out to be confused as to how the history of science fiction ended up in its present. He quotes Rebecca F. Kuang’s Hugo acceptance speech, describing what she would say to a new sci-fi writer: “Chances are very high that you are sexually harassed at conventions, or the target of the microphone. – racist attacks, or very often quite simply overt racism. . Still, six pages earlier, it features a Harlan Ellison hagiography that omits his very public 2006 fumbles of Hugo winner Connie Willis (there are literally footage of the incident).
By not mentioning this, the book itself contributes to how the larger science fiction culture – which results in sexual harassment at conventions – is maintained, allowing acts of sexual harassment and assault. Kuang’s quote goes on to say, “The way people talk about you and your literature will relate to your identity and personal trauma rather than the stories you are actually trying to tell.” By including this specific commentary from Kuang, which is only mentioned in this case, and whose work is never discussed, is The history of science fiction doesn’t do exactly what she claims?