The Lost Worlds Romance: From Dawn till Dusk

The Lost Worlds Romance: From Dawn till Dusk

The Lost Worlds Romance: From Dawn till Dusk

The Lost Worlds Romance: From Dawn till Dusk

Synopsis

During the first part of the 19th century, the Lost Worlds Romance, a new literary form, appeared in which an explorer, most often a scientist, made a voyage to what was then considered to be a remote part of the earth where he discovered a fantastic lost world. This book surveys the Lost Worlds Romance from its beginnings, as it evolved from travel literature and utopian fiction, to its eclipse when there were no more unexplored corners of the earth and it took to the stars, evolving into modern science fiction.

Excerpt

There is little possibility of finding a "lost world" today. There may be an occasional tribe in the backwaters or the backwoods that remains to be discovered, worse luck for them when it happens. Perhaps some of the nations arising out of the ruins of the Soviet Union are the functional equivalent of "lost worlds," regions of the earth with their own culture and their own people of which most of us are unaware. But they are not exactly lost so much as forgotten. Moreover, their young people dress in jeans and revel in rock music, so they are not lost in the sense of the worlds described by Jules Verne or Sir Henry Rider Haggard or my fellow Chicagoan Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Somewhere between the death of Verne (1905) and the death of Haggard (1925) explorers and scientists eliminated the possibility of the existence of regions in the jungles or on the mountains or at the center of the earth, worlds to which we could venture to encounter the great surprise of people like us and yet different from us, cultures similar to the ones we know and yet in some important ways different. Greystoke and Quatermain became technologically obsolescent because the world had become too well known to permit speculation about the possible existence of their worlds.

Wonder worlds now have to be located in other planets or parallel cosmoi or in alternative histories like Tolkien's Shire. As Becker notes in this book which is almost as much fun to read as were the romances on which she focuses (perhaps because it recalls the pure delight of reading them as a boy), the new wonder worlds beyond the earth or alongside it or before its present history are notably less "Victorian." the chauvinism of the authors of the "lost worlds" genre, which she neatly skewers, is no longer tolerable. Some of the new "lost worlds" may indeed be given to the exploitation of women, but such exploitation is now viewed as intolerable to the explorers . . .

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