Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 (69)
November 27, 2016
One in a series of 75 posts about the best science fiction novels published during the genre’s so-called Golden Age (from 1934–63, according to HILOBROW’s Josh Glenn’s periodization schema). For the complete Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 list, click here.
J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World (1962).
An eco-catastrophe in which the catastrophe is in the past; the mood is contemplative; and the protagonist is looking forward to his devolution. In the year 2154, what’s left of humankind has mostly migrated to the poles — because of global warming and rising sea levels. Along with other members of a survey team, biologist Robert Kerans is sent to London, now an intensely hot and humid swamp, in order to catalog the flora and fauna. Troubled by primitive dreams, Kerans and his colleagues speculate that even as the climate has reverted to that of a much earlier stage in the earth’s evolution, so too are they beginning to revert. (Perhaps, one character suggests, our bodies and subconscious minds retain traces of the “archaeophysic past,” a prehuman era before our brains developed.) Their relationship to nature changes — they become less interested in controlling it and extracting its resources, and more interested in adapting to it. And then, into this bleak scenario sails Strangman, a pirate who aims to drain the swamp… and loot what remains of London’s Leicester Square!
Fun fact: First serialized, in novella form, in Science Fiction Adventures in January 1962.
GOLDEN AGE SCIENCE FICTION at HILOBROW: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | Robert Heinlein | Karel Capek | William Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Clifford D. Simak | H.P. Lovecraft | Olaf Stapledon | Philip K. Dick | Jack Williamson | George Orwell | Boris Vian | Bernard Wolfe | J.G. Ballard | Jorge Luis Borges |Poul Anderson | Walter M. Miller, Jr. | Murray Leinster | Kurt Vonnegut | Stanislaw Lem | Alfred Bester | Isaac Asimov | Ray Bradbury | Madeleine L’Engle | Arthur C. Clarke | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.