As many of you know, I’m a fan of the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin and I decided on the title of my novel A Calculated Life when I read this sentence from his science fiction dystopia, We:
But a thought swarmed in me; what if he, this yellow-eyed being – in his ridiculous, dirty bundle of trees, in his uncalculated life – is happier than us?
We tend to think science fiction magazines started when Hugo Gernsback introduced the concept of “scientificion.” But for the quarter-century leading up to the Russian Revolution, the Russians were massive consumers of “scientific fantasy,” and they had a popular magazine called Nature and People, full of science-fictional speculations.
In 1894, the magazine brought attention to nauchnaia fantastika stating: Is it not in the imagination where bold theories and amazing machines are first born? Along with news of the latest scientific and technological developments, therefore, our magazine will continue to present a rich panorama of meditations on their potentials that will seem anything but fantastic to those of our times.
Three decades later in 1923, Yevgeny Zamyatin — author of the landmark dystopian novel We (My), which George Orwell acknowledged as an inspiration for 1984 — designated nauchnaia fantastika, or scientific fantasy, “the kind of literature that best commands the attention and wins the belief of us modern people.
This article is a fascinating read for anyone interested in Science Fiction and there’s an interesting contribution in the ‘Comments’ that highlights ‘scientific romance’ as a descriptive term used pre-1850 to describe works such as Jules Verne’s.