Science Fiction: An Illustrated History by Sam J. Lundwall (book review).

I mentioned last month I pulled ‘Science Fiction: An Illustrated History’ by Sam J. Lundwall so about time I gave it a read. Of course, the history of SF would only be up to 1977 but it’ll give a sharper snapshot leading up to that time. It’s hardly surprising that Lundwall is going to remind people of SF from other countries even prior to the English speaking parts of the world. Thinking about this, I think if any of you gave a serious thought to SF across the world, you wouldn’t have thought it was exclusive to the English language. Jules Verne alone would be proof of that.

I do have to be concerned with placing writers in a particular school of thought on the assumption that they have read these particular authors. Lundwall points out comparisons to two writers other than Wells and Verne with George Griffiths (1857-1906) and Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) who are no longer remembered. Jarry was French and died young and a quick check on-line doesn’t appear his books were translated into English. Griffiths was British and more prone to write about trips and voyages and utopias, hardly something related to Wells’ work. Being thought to be in a school of writers doesn’t make it so. More likely, they just made similar choices or evolved that way.

The history of SF in other countries will urge you to look and see if these historic SF books are not only still available and, more importantly for those of us who don’t read in other languages, have they been translated in the past forty years. I’m glad to say here at SFCrowsnest we regularly review translated SF books from across the world. Therein lies a problem. Translation and more needs to me done to ensure more books are available in more languages.

Like with all books of this type, as I get towards the end, I do wonder on omissions and there’s no chapter on psionics although it is briefly touched on in the penultimate section. It isn’t as though there is no historic presence of such abilities or authors writing about the subject at the time.

It’s pretty obvious Lundwall has a bee in his bonnet about American SF is seen too prominently in the early history of SF but I tend to think that’s more from lack of knowledge than deliberate intention and reading this book will actually fill in a lot of that knowledge. It’s a shame this wasn’t covered in the title calling it ‘Science Fiction: A World-Wide Illustrated History’. Then again, he wasn’t keen on Americans calling various conventions and sports events ‘World’ when they aren’t. From a British pov, we’re well aware of our place in SF history with many prominent books coming from our isles.

If you’re serious about Science Fiction history, then you really need to lay your hands on this book because it is informative and shows there are SF writers across the world.

GF Willmetts

April 2021

(pub: Grosdset & Dunlap, 1977. 208 page illustrated indexed softcover. Price: I pulled my copy for £ 9.50 (UK). ISBN: 0-448-14414-X)


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

3 thoughts on “Science Fiction: An Illustrated History by Sam J. Lundwall (book review).

  • Anyone interested in SF translations from other languages should google the SFF Rosetta award nominations for 2021. I tried to put a link but the Spam blocker blocked me. Also check Future Science Fiction Digest.

    • Sorry about that link block, Eamonn. The site is under near-constant mass attack these days from hackers and spammers – heck knows why: you’d think we were the Pentagon web site or something – so the WordPress security settings are turned up to TWITCHY: PARANOID, and any post with a URL in it seems to be shit-canned automatically.

    • Last week, I hadn’t signed into SFC but went through the newsletter and even I couldn’t get in.
      Anyone having problems wanting to get in and can’t there’s an email address right at the bottom of the editorial that should let you contact us for everyone reading this. We then decide if you’re spam or not.


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