Eighteenth-Century Science Fiction

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


With the advent of the eighteenth century we come to that period known as the ‘Enlightenment’. Pigeonholing a flux as complexly variegated as history is clearly a dubious business, but a certain sketching-in of definition for the term Enlightenment is unavoidable because it has such an important role to play in the development of science fiction. By ‘Enlightenment’ we adduce an eighteenth-century philosophical consensus that agreed (mostly) on the primacy of reason and the importance of experimental and evidential science, and challenged the older religious myths and superstitions. Diderot’s Encyclopédie (1751–65), a prestigious 17-volume collection of all that was then known, stands as one icon of the age; and the French philosophes (‘philosophers’) who contributed to it include some of the most famous names of the period, names such as d’Alembert, Rousseau and Voltaire. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the majority of significant SF produced in this century, particularly in its latter decades, was French, and that it tends to embody precisely this rationalist and questioning ethic.


Solar System Eighteenth Century Science Fiction French Revolution Early Eighteenth Century 
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© Adam Roberts 2006

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