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Monday, June 6, 2016

The Thin Red Line between Fantasy and Sci-Fi

by Selkis+ilT

In H. P. Lovecraft's 1930 short story From Beyond (illustrated above), quite noticeably, the alien entities are called through a machine instead of magic formulas as it happened, e.g., in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, 1927, as well as in most of HPL's stories. The Providence writer in fact also loved Jules Verne's and H. G. Wells' books, and was deeply interested in modern astronomy and physics: Einstein, Planck, Heisenberg.

Such a passage from fantasy to science fiction had already appeared in Torquato Tasso's works. In both of his Jerusalem-poems the wizard Ismen [we are dealing precisely with him in the current set of posts called In the dark, dark forest -- BEWARE: SPOILER] is finally swept away by a boulder thrown by a high-tech catapult while trying, hopelessly, to stop the Crusaders by means of magic. But the switch is especially intriguing in the literary evolution from Gerusalemme Liberata, 1581, to Gerusalemme Conquistata, 1593. In the former poem the main hero, Rinaldo, is given a typically enchanted armor for the final battle; in the latter the hero, now called Richard, receives a war equipment that, by exaggerating the features of Achilles' armor in the Iliad, makes him look like Iron Man.