The History of Science Fiction Illustrated

Brooklyn artist Ward Shelley has illustrated a 54” x 30” timeline entitled “The History of Science Fiction” covering literature, movies and television. The piece was created in 2009, and begins with the circumstances leading to the birth of science fiction, all the way to what Shelley refers to as Mainstream Styles. Other genres such as horror and sword and sorcery break away from their Gothic novel roots and into their own sections.

At first glance, you can spend a lot of time scanning the various sections and break-downs of each sub-genre. The timeline begins with the emotions of fear and wonder, and quickly divides into legend, mythology and philosophy. As more off-shoots of fiction begin to emerge, you can follow different paths to obvious historical staples such as Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. When you scan further down the timeline, you can spot important names such as Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein. There is also a nod to prolific science fiction writer Fritz Leiber and author/screen writer Leigh Brackett.

The branches that form film and television are smaller when compared to the literature section, but Shelley includes major films such as Forbidden Planet, Star Wars and Wall-E, and has several interesting titles in between. He even includes a section on anime. The television listings include the obvious genre staples like the Twilight Zone and Star Trek, but you’ll be surprised at what else you find.

Ward Shelley clearly knows his science fiction history as he is able to fit so many important authors and works of television and film, especially when you consider how wide open the history of science fiction becomes. One thing that makes looking into this huge timeline so much fun is to discover what titles and authors Shelley left out. I could not find Spider Robinson, Firefly or Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Comic books and graphic novels were also not included. I can’t imagine the time and effort it takes to create a piece of artwork such as this, but it’s a brilliant effort, and according to his web site, this might be made into a poster.

Ward Shelly’s The History of Science Fiction (ver. 1)

2 Responses to “The History of Science Fiction Illustrated”

  1. RDaneelOlivaw


    Nice first post! Imagine what a thesis topic that map could make! Tracing the various paths and identifying the connections and the key elements in the works at the branch points would be a tremendous amount of work…but lots of fun for a sci-fi aficionado. And even though I’ve been accused of writing a thesis paper or two on here myself, that’s NOT a task I’m going to take on…at least now. 🙂 Welcome to the ranks!

  2. Thanks! This was fun to write up, when I wasn’t distracted from constantly checking the timeline to ‘fact check’ my accusations of leaving out Firefly and the like. One thing I didn’t point out in the article is that several branches lead into other paths that go ‘beyond’ the borders of the art piece. I’m curious to see if he’s planning a huge Horror History time line as well.

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