The evolution of science fiction | Sunday Observer

The evolution of science fiction

5 December, 2021

No doubt that our bookshelves are adorned with multiple science fiction penned by multiple writers who hail from different countries.

Some science fiction can be regarded as a genre of speculative fiction which deals with imaginative concepts such as traveling through time, conflicts between super humans, space explorations and parallel universes.

As noted by American science fiction author and editor, Lester Del Rey, even the devoted aficionado fan had a hard time trying to explain what science fiction is and the lack of a full satisfactory definition is because there are no easily delineated limits to science fiction.

According to Robert A. Heinlein, a handy short definition of almost all science fiction, might read realistic speculation about possible future events based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world past and present and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of scientific method.

In 1954 Forrest J. Ackerman used the term "Sci-Fic" for the Science Fiction. Speaking of the beginning and evolution of Science Fiction, science fiction came into existence during a time of great advances in science.

Gulliver's Travels

As pointed out by critics, the elements of science fiction had been embedded in Gulliver's Travels. During his voyage, he encounters utopian and dystopian societies as well as the flying island of Laputa populated by scientists.

Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus

A novel penned by Mary Shelley which revolves around the story of Victor Frankenstein who is a young scientist. He is found to be creating a sapient creature in a scientific experiment.

Except for these novels, we can find many novels which have been based on elements of science fiction. For example, "Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea", "Exploration of the unknown" and "The Time Machine" etc.

Sinhala science fiction

Speaking of Sinhala science fiction, we have to focus on the "Jataka Stories" (Birth Stories). In the "Ummagga Jataka" (The story of the tunnel), Mahoshadha Pandit (The Bodhisattva) can be seen using a switch to open a door. Evidently, the scientific elements can be found to be embedded in it. K. A. Lionel Perera better known as the first writer to pen the first pure science fiction in the Sinhala Language is a music teacher. Novels written by K.A. Lionel Perera such as "Man from Mars" in 1959, "The Armed Cadaver", "The Spilt Man" and "Thirteen Feet Tall Man" play a vital role in our literature circle. "Man From Mars" is similar to Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter of Mars and the Thirteen Foot Tall Man is similar to one of the American films titled " Attack of the 50 Foot Woman."

Between 1950 and 1960 pulp fiction became popular among readers. Back in 1957, the first science fiction book titled "The Invisible Man" was translated from English to Sinhala.

Another example is "Deadly Skeleton" written by Welihinda Munirathna. The novel has been woven around a man dressed in a black latex suit with a skeleton printed on it. This person can be seen terrifying others in the dark using the growing radium on his suit to extort money from innocent victims.

"When I am not there" written by Sirisena Maitipe interpreted the epic sage of Demon king Ravana and Rama. We can never underestimate the remarkable contribution by S.M. Bandusena. He translated many works of Arthur C. Clarke.

Today, many writers who devote their lives to literature like Yudhanjaya Wijerathna and Naven Weeraratne enrich our Sinhala literature.