Abstract

This essay examines the range of framing devices used by the authors of works of science fiction, primarily in the period 1880-1910, which saw a remarkable proliferation of such works as a result of heightened imperial competition, new scientific discoveries and other factors. The essay applies methods outlined in Gerard Genette's Paratexts to focus on the role of front and end matter — prefaces and afterwords – which was to mediate for the reader these extraordinary narratives, which ranged from travels in time and space to jeremiads of future wars, utopias, and accounts of lost worlds. Taking a lead from the practice of H.G. Wells, the essay shows how an intermediary “editor” is often used to explain the provenance of these narratives. Sometimes this mediation is a transparent device to set up utopian or political speculations; sometimes it gives the reader advance warnings of generic hybridity. These frames collectively announce and negotiate the end of realism as a narrative norm around the turn of the twentieth century.

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