History of Science Fiction

  • 2011
  • Domain
  • Exhibit map
Ward Shelley is an artist identified with the Williamsburg scene in Brooklyn, New York. His work includes a series of diagrammatic paintings and graphical chronologies that illustrate the interweaving of historical narratives about art and culture. This map plots the science fiction literary genre from its nascent roots in mythology and fantastic stories to the somewhat calcified post-Star Wars space opera epics of today. Rather than a narrative emerging out of the data, here the narrative structure precedes and organizes the data: the movement of years is from left to right across the grid that represents time, distorted and reconfigured into the form of a bug-eyed monster whose tentacles are like trace roots to pre-historical sources and whose body is the corpus of sci-fi literature. Science fiction is seen as the offspring of the collision of the Enlightenment (providing science) and Romanticism, which birthed gothic fiction, source not only of sci-fi, but also of crime novels, horror, westerns, and fantasy (all of which can be seen exiting through wormholes to their own diagrams, elsewhere). Science fiction progressed through a number of distinct periods, which are charted, citing hundreds of the most important works and authors, and which includes film and television as well.

Shelley, Ward. 2011. History of Science Fiction. Courtesy of Ward Shelley Studio. In “7th Iteration (2011): Science Maps as Visual Interfaces to Digital Libraries,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Michael J. Stamper. http://scimaps.org.