The Science-Fiction Story Summary

The Evolution of the Idea-as-Hero Story

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The emphasis of the early science-fiction pulps was as firmly placed on novels and novellas as that of any other pulp fiction magazine, but the environment provided by a specialist magazine allowed writers of short fiction to take far more for granted than they had been able to do in the general fiction pulps. General readers had had to be carefully introduced to the notion that a story was to be set in the future or an alien world, and the narrative labor required to establish the world-within-the-text could easily cripple the pace and economy of the story. Readers of specialist magazines not only expected exotic settings but also could be assumed to be familiar with a series of basic templates, thus relieving the short-story writer of the necessity to begin explanations from scratch.

This benefit was balanced by the cost that much science fiction written for “connoisseur readers” became quite opaque to readers unfamiliar with the genre’s basic templates. It was probably inevitable that the science-fiction magazines would become isolated from the remainder of the pulps in a kind of ghetto and that science-fiction fans would acquire a reputation for weirdness. The pulp ghetto did, however, provide an ideal environment for the evolution of the kind of short story that was to become typical of modern science fiction.

Many of the most effective short stories published in Weird Tales and the science-fiction pulps during their first decade were visionary fantasies, conspicuous early examples being “Twilight”...

(The entire section is 631 words.)