The Hugo Awards are named after Hugo Gernsback, who coined the term “science fiction” in 1926 while publishing Amazing Stories, the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction. Yet long before that, nineteenth-century writers such as Mary Shelley, Grant Allen, H. G. Wells, and Edith Nesbit were penning their own Strange Stories (Allen, 1884), testing out many of the sci-fi and fantasy tropes that contemporary authors continue to retool to this day. Mad scientists and the monsters they create! “Last man on earth” dystopias! Stories about robots, time machines, and mummies who come back to life and rampage around museums…not to mention a park filled with dinosaurs living next door to modern humans! In all of these cases, the Victorians got there before us, in fictions that were heavily influenced by the earth-shaking hypotheses being advanced by nineteenth-century scientists such as Charles Darwin, Caroline Herschel, and Richard Owen.
In this course, we will explore not only how nineteenth-century science influenced art, but also how art influenced science. We will also investigate the integral (and often forgotten) role that children’s authors, women, and people of color played in pioneering and popularizing speculative fiction. By the end of our time together, we will have deepened our collective knowledge of the history of science as well as the genres of science fiction and fantasy.