Evolution & the Late Nineteenth Century: Utopias, Robots, the Mystical, & the Martians
Thomas Lombardo, Center for Future Consciousness
In the late nineteenth century, two apparently opposed scientific viewpoints, the theories of evolution and entropy, emerge as fundamental perspectives on time and cosmic and natural change. These contrasting archetypal narratives, of hope and advancement versus despair and death, would greatly influence the ongoing development of science fiction. Covered in this webinar, in the last three decades of the nineteenth century a giant wave of future war novels were written; many highly influential new utopias were created, such as Looking Backward and News from Nowhere; the United States fell apart; in the writings and astronomical speculations of Flammarion the cosmic and the spiritual were intricately woven together; future human evolution and the concept of cyborgs was provocatively examined in Vril, The Power of the Coming Race; we experimented in psycho-chemical evolution in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; there were numerous tales of automata and robots, both animal and human, and Thomas Edison, the modern wizard of science, entered as a character into science fiction stories, creating beautiful female robots and leading a military conquest force into outer space. Of special note, there was a great fascination with Mars and the possibilities of life and intelligence on our neighboring planet. We repeatedly visited the Martians, and the Martians on a number of occasions invaded us. All in all, the themes of evolution, war and destruction, technological advancement, and utopian and dystopian thought were recurrently synthesized in science fiction stories of the era.