The lineage is often reflected in the names of awards. The Hugo award, for example, is an award given annually at the World Science Fiction convention for works in those genres. (Worldcon also celebrates the fantasy genre, by the way.) The award (a shiny rocket ship that stands upon its tail fins “as God and Robert Heinlein intended”—according to SF writer Jerry Pournelle—is named after Hugo Gernsback, writer and editor, who penned several scientific adventures. None of these were particularly well-received, but his greatest contribution to the world of science fiction (besides the phrase “science fiction”) was the introduction of scientific fiction stories among the science articles in his magazine Science and Invention, and the founding of the first ever science fiction magazine—Amazing Stories—in 1926.
I have a huge soft spot in my heart for Amazing Stories because it published three of my stories—three of my favorite stories, in fact. Oddly, none of the three were science fiction, but were from the fantasy side of the spec fic aisle. In his inaugural issue, Hugo published stories by three of my most beloved authors: Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne. This mighty trio, along with Hugo, himself, are considered by many to be the “Fathers of Science Fiction”. And it jazzes me, it really does, to know that I had stories in the same magazine as these gentlemen.
Poe, as it happens, is also accorded the sobriquet “Father of the Modern Mystery”—a title he earned for his Detective Dupin stories (i.e. “Murders in the Rue Morgue”) which laid the groundwork and established the conventions for two other giants of the mystery genre—Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Poe has an award named after him, as well—The Edgar—which is given by the Mystery Writers of America annually for excellence in mystery fiction. Of course, there is also an Agatha Award, given by Malice Domestic, Ltd. for crime fiction written in Ms. Christie’s style, which arguably affords the redoubtable Ms. Christie the station: Mother of All Mystery Writers.
Science Fiction is also a genre with two parents. If Hugo Gernsback is one of the fathers of the genre, then its mother is surely Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein (published 1818) over the course of a fateful week in Geneva at the villa of Lord Byron. In point of fact, Book View Café has published two volumes of steampunk stories (Shadow Conspiracy I and II) that grow out of Mary Shelley’s tale of scientific overreaching. I was fortunate to have been able to write the “genesis” story, “The Accumulating Man”, which is an (ahem) imaginative telling of how Ms. Shelley came to write her epic story of science gone terribly wrong (bwa-ha-ha!)
But, you may ask, does this not then suggest that Mary Shelley was also the mother of steampunk? Perhaps so, but my research suggests that steampunk, as a recognized genre, is of a more recent vintage. In fact, I’ve heard it asserted that one of my all time favorite writers—Tim Powers—is the “Father of Steampunk”. I’d argue that if Powers is the father of this delightful genre, then Jules Verne is its grand-pere (French for grandpappy).
Some commentators have opined that SF and steampunk are just different shades of fantasy. After all, does not Ray Bradbury refer to “fantasy and its robot child, science fiction” in his beautiful book of essays on the genres, Zen and the Art of Writing? That’s as may be, but I would argue that the title “Father of Epic Fantasy” has to go to JRR Tolkien, whose works have endured for decades and still stand head and shoulders above what those of us following in his pen tracks have produced.
What do you think? I’ve mentioned just a few of the progenitors of the genres in which I write, and leave out magical realism simply because I don’t know who might be considered the root of the tree. There are surely other candidates and other genres that I’ve neglected. Anyone care to weigh in?