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Victorian Popular Literature


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How much science fiction and fantasy had Victorians read? What should you include in your Steampunk? It turns out...lots! A fun guide for writers, readers, fans, and those who'd like to learn more.

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Victorian Popular Literature

  1. 1. What Victorians Were Reading
  2. 2. Superheroes
  3. 3. Spring-Heeled Jack • 1830s urban legend in the streets of London. • A strange figure, said to possess superhuman agility. • an amorphous figure, the devil in human form; an inner-city • By the mid-19th century he was being featured in novels and plays
  4. 4. The Scarlet Pimpernel • by Baroness Orczy, published in 1905. • written after her 1903 stage play of the same title enjoyed a long run in London • The original masked hero, from Revolutionary France
  5. 5. Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh • 1915: Russell Thorndike’s the Scarecrow. • Gentle parson Dr. Syn - formerly feared pirate Captain Clegg, and currently the apparently meek and mild village parson - assumes a third masked identity to protect his parishioners from the King's Revenue Men.
  6. 6. Zorro • Spanish for "fox • created in 1919 by American pulp writer Johnston McCulley • appeared in the Pueblo of Los Angeles during the era of Spanish California (1769–1821). • Based in history?
  7. 7. '30s pulp fiction "mystery men" such as the Lone Ranger, the Shadow and the Phantom
  8. 8. The Gothic
  9. 9. Gothic Begins • Horace Walpole’s 1764 The Castle of Otranto, • Ann Radcliffe developed the feminist gothic. She introduced the brooding villain (A Sicilian Romance) in 1790. All, especially The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), were best-sellers.
  10. 10. • "penny dreadful" serial fictions • G.W.M. Reynolds wrote a trilogy of Gothic horror novels: Faust (1846), Wagner the Wehr-wolf (1847) and The Necromancer (1857).
  11. 11. Ghosts • A Christmas Carol (1843) • Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847) • Poe (1850)
  12. 12. Vampires • Polidori's The Vampyre (1819) revived Lamb's Byronic "Lord Ruthven", but this time as a vampire • anonymously authored Varney the Vampire (1847) • 1897, Dracula by Bram Stoker
  13. 13. Children’s Fantasy • 1865 Alice in Wonderland • Robert Louis Stevenson • L. Frank Baum’s Oz books (1900–1920) with technological inventions and devices including perhaps the first literary appearance of handheld wireless communicators
  14. 14. Frankenstein • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) features the first archetypal "mad scientist" • gothic horror • science fiction themes such as technology and the alien as antagonist
  15. 15. Science Fiction
  16. 16. Cryonics • Jane C. Loudon's The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century (1827), he’s revived into a world in political crisis, where technology has advanced to gas-flame jewelry and houses that migrate on rails, etc. Mary Shelley's short story "Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman" (1826) sees a man frozen in ice revived in present day
  17. 17. Post-apocalyptic • Shelley’s The Last Man (1826) is often called the first science fiction novel in a post-apocalyptic plague-riddled future. • Victor Hugo wrote in his poem The Legend of the Centuries (1859) a 20th century dystopia/utopia. Mankind has gone toward the stars in a starship seeking liberty.
  18. 18. Time Travel • 1836 Alexander Veltman published Predki Kalimerosa: Aleksandr Filippovich Makedonskii (The forebears of Kalimeros: Alexander, son of Philip of Macedon), the first time-travel Russian science fiction novel. • Twain’s Connecticut Yankee (1889) The narrator rides to ancient Greece on a hippogriff, meets Aristotle, and goes on a voyage with Alexander the Great before returning to the 19th century.
  19. 19. Time Travel • The second-best selling novel in the U.S. in the 19th century: Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888) predicts the future extrapolates a rather socialist utopian future society • between 1860 and 1887, 11 similar works were produced in the United States by various authors
  20. 20. To the Moon! • By John Leonard Riddell, a Professor of Chemistry in New Orleans, it follows a student who builds a rocket with an alloy that prevents gravitational attraction, with scientific footnotes for hard science fiction. Orrin Lindsay's plan of aerial navigation, with a narrative of his explorations in the higher regions of the atmosphere, and his wonderful voyage round the moon! (1847)
  21. 21. • William Henry Rhodes’ The Case of Summerfield (1871) introduced a weapon of mass destruction as a mad scientist called Black Bart blackmails the world with a plan to turn all water to fire. • Edward Page Mitchell (1874) wrote about invisibility, faster than light travels, teleportation, time travel, cryogenics, mind transfer, mutants, cyborgs and mechanical brains.
  22. 22. Lost Worlds • Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race (1871) has a highly evolved subterranean psi-sensitive civilization with Darwinian evolution and technology. • The Lost World (1912) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle find dinosaurs in South America
  23. 23. Alt-history • Nathaniel Hawthorne's "P.'s Correspondence” (1845) stars "a madman" perceiving a different 1845, in which long- dead famous poets are alive. • Castello Holford's Aristopia (1895) is a utopia funded by the gold found in Virginia. The earliest is Livy's Ab Urbe Condita Libri: Rome vs Alexander the Great Louis Geoffroy's Napoleon et la Conquête du Monde (1836), an alternate history of a world conquered by Napoleon.
  24. 24. Sentient Robots • Erewhon by Samuel Butler (1872) dealt with machines becoming sentient and supplanting the human race. • R.U.R. (1920) a play by Czech writer Karel Čapek. stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots).
  25. 25. Aliens • C.I. Defontenay's Star ou Psi de Cassiopée (1854), chronicle of an alien world and civilization. • Astronomer Camille Flammarion's La Pluralité des Mondes Habités (1862) speculating on extraterrestrial life.
  26. 26. Jules Verne • Five Weeks in a Balloon (1862) • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) • Around the World in Eighty Days (1873)
  27. 27. HG Wells • The Time Machine (1895) is more social than technological, for a new kind of scifi • The Invisible Man (1897) • The War of the Worlds (1898)
  28. 28. More Popular Fiction
  29. 29. What Was Hot? • Dickens • Bronte Sisters • Jane Austen • Thomas Hardy • Arthur Conan Doyle • Robert Browning (1812–89) and Alfred Tennyson (1809– 92) were Victorian England's most famous poets,
  30. 30. Plays 1850-1900 • Gillbert and Sullivan • George Bernard Shaw • Oscar Wilde