My Older Legacy Literary Blog

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Genre Fiction Written by Literary Authors

In every other genre anthology we often find SF or horror stories by edified literary authors.  

How often have we seen Hawthorne’s “Rappacinni’s Daughter” (1844) in a SF anthology.  Or Kipling’s “With the Night Mail” (1905) or for Horror anthologies, D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner” (1926) about a little kid who rocks away like mad on a hobby horse which somehow leads to successfull betting on horses until the little kid dies, but it doesn’t matter, the family is now rich.  

Lesser known in SF circles is E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” (1909) which I believe has actually come to pass.  He wrote of a future society of people each in compartmentalized cells, complacent and flabby, subsisting on “white pap.”

The Machine Stops is a short science fiction story. It describes a world in which almost all humans have lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual lives in isolation in a ‘cell’, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Most humans welcome this development, as they are skeptical and fearful of first-hand experience. People forget that humans created the Machine, and treat it as a mystical entity whose needs supersede their own. Those who do not accept the deity of the Machine are viewed as ‘unmechanical’ and are threatened with “Homelessness”. Eventually, the Machine apocalyptically collapses, and the civilization of the Machine comes to an end. 

I think of folks sitting in their living room, eating junk and comfort food and watching “Law and Order” and Reality TV.  .H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space” (1927) has often been included in past SF anthologies.  

Normally a writer of horror fiction, he wrote a story “The Walls of Eryx” (1936, cowritten with Kenneth J. Sterling, or in other words, Sterling paid Lovecraft to clean up and ghostwrite the story) about a ship stranded on Venus. The lone survivor finds himself trapped in an invisible maze while reptilian creatures are attacking him.  

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Balloon Hoax” (1844) is considered SF.  A horror story, ”The Vengeance of Nitocris” (1928) was Tennessee Williams first published story and it was in Weird Tales.  That was his first and last in that genre..

William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” (1930) has shown up in many an anthology, too many to count.  

Kafka’s novelette “The Metamorphosis” (1915) (shelves of books of literary analysis and criticism have been written about this one single short story) is considered horror, albeit surreal, as well as “In The Penal Colony.”  

Jack London’s novel “The Star Rover” (1915) about San Quentin inmate Darrell Standing is considered SF because it takes place within a jail cell there is a sort of astral travel to other planets to mentally escape from being severely beaten by the prison guards.  

Some even consider his “The Iron Heel” (1907) to be a sort of horror novel as well as a Socialist tract. Of course his ”Before Adam” (1906) about a caveman got him into trouble with another writer, Stanley Waterloo who claimed that London ripped off Waterloo’s 1897 novel ”The Story of Ab.” There were several other incidents like this for London in other works, including ”The Iron Heel,” where one chapter was practically lifted from an essay by Frank Norris..

London’s first published short story is definitely SF and Horror both: "A Thousand Deaths” is an 1899 short story by Jack London, and is notable as his first work to be published. 

It has as its theme the deliberate experimentally induced death and resuscitation/resurrection of the protagonist, by a mad scientist who uses multiple scientific methods for these experiments. The plot is Freudian, inasmuch as the scientist who carries out the painful killings and resuscitation experiments is the subject’s own father, whom the subject eventually succeeds in vaporizing.  

McKinley Cantor’s “If the South had Won the Civil War” is an alternate history novel.  .Maybe one day we will see a science fiction novel written by Danielle Steele.  We do have Newt Gingrich’s “1945” alternate history novel which did not seem to be a success.

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