The Impact of New Wave Science Fiction 1960s–1970s

Part of the Palgrave Histories of Literature book series (Palgrave Histories of Literature)


1957 is a watershed of sorts for SF: the successful launch of the artificial satellite CHYTHHK (Sputnik, the Russian for ‘satellite’) by the Soviet Union turned space travel from an imagined future to a present reality. John Clute puts it well:

There may have been a time, in the morning of the world, before Sputnik, when the empires of our SF dreams were governed according to rules written out in the pages of Astounding, and we could all play the game of a future we all shared, readers, writers, fans … But something happened. The future began to come true. (Clute, Look, p. 17)

The trajectory of man’s space adventure traced what Thomas Pynchon would later call ‘gravity’s rainbow’, the path of a ballistic rocket up, elliptically over and down again. In the late 1950s, and especially with the manned orbital missions and the NASA Apollo mission to the moon in 1969, there was enormous excitement and hope; many people, particularly in the SF community, nurtured on the expansive dreams of Golden Age Fantasy, did believe that the future was coming true. But it did not. By the 1970s it had become clear that space travel was (whisper it) a bit dull. Funding bled away; the Apollo programme was curtailed; space travel shrunk to only commercial and military satellites, augmented by the occasional robot probe. No amount of political barnstorming — as in President George W. Bush’s 2004 promise of a manned mission to Mars, a promise few in the world of space travel believe — can recapture that initial transcendent excitement.


Short Story Science Fiction Space Travel Conscious Mind British Writer 
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© Adam Roberts 2006

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