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‘The History of Science Fiction: A Graphic Novel Adventure’ (review)

Written by Xavier Dollo
Art by Djibril Morissette-Phan
Introduction by Ted Chiang
Published by Humanoids

 

Skimming through the illustrations within The History of Science Fiction, it’s impossible to restrain my flailing nerd tentacles. Captain James T. Kirk standing with a Dalek. G’Kar with Starbuck. Doc Brown and Captain Harlock. Just writing “the TARDIS sitting on the sands of Tatooine” gives me goosebumps. This graphic novel is the ultimate science fiction mash-up spanning the entirety of space, time and dimensions of storytelling.

What’s even more impressive is that writer Xavier Dollo and artist Djibril Morissette-Phan pull off what sounds impossible from the get-go; succinctly and comprehensively covering the whole of science fiction in a fun and engaging conceit.

Mind you, this volume mainly covers the written word which is ultimately the inspiration for all visual media.

We’re continually reminded of this fact and is proved unequivocally in the cinematic universe that binds the galaxy together, Star Wars.

The way the vast amount of information is presented is absolutely charming. The greatest minds in Science-Fiction are brought together; Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, H. G. Wells, Rod Sterling and Judith Merril to name but a few, grouped into periods to keep the story of Science Fiction evolving just as the genre evolved. Coupled with ingenious crossover imagery, this makes the History of Science Fiction easier to digest. We take this epic journey through the eyes of two robots, Robert and Jenkins, seeking answers to their own origins. Robert being Robbie the Robot Lost in Space.

As a life-long science-fiction lover myself, The History of Science Fiction is an engrossing education. Every detail is meticulous. While I recognized many of the profoundly clever written and visual references, there were many more that were unfamiliar. For every author cited that I’ve read or at least heard of, there were four others that I was introduced to.

Controversy through the ages isn’t glossed over either. Full acknowledgement of the sexism and racism that occurs even to this day is addressed. Many women and minority authors stories such as Catherine Lucille Moore, Ursula Le Guin, Samuel L. Delany and Octavia Butler, were paid homage and their important contributions to the universe of science fiction were brought to light.

I found myself slightly disappointed that Space Battleship Yamato (Starblazers in America,) an early anime space opera, was not referenced, nor the film Time After Time which features the character of H.G. Wells himself and is a fantastic mash-up of the Time Machine and Jack the Ripper. Although, with so much material roaming the universe, it’s unrealistic to expect every work of Science Fiction to be reference.

After a long journey beginning with the Epic of Gilgamesh and concluding with The Expanse, H.G. Wells, resurrected to both educate us on what was and to teach us of what has become since his day, says it best; “It’s really exciting, but all this information makes my head spin.” There truly is an astounding amount of history.

The History of Science Fiction’s ending could not have been more perfect. Robert and Jenkins encounter the ultimate source of knowledge; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s Deep Thought. When presented with the final question; can the exact definition of Science Fiction be provided?

We all know Deep Thought’s answer.

42.

 

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