“Though I’ve painted everything from gothic romances to mystery book covers, it’s the heroic look I’m inevitably called upon to produce. Typecasting can be irritating, but occasionally it leads to an interesting project.”
Captain America 111, Magazine Management Co. (Marvel Comics), March 1969. Stunningly beautiful art by Jim Steranko. Story by Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, Joe Sinnott, and Sam Rosen. There are not many comic books that are more perfect than this one.
I've always thought it'd be wild if humanity ever entered an irl sci fi future scenario and met another alien race, let's call them the Quacksians, because like, all previous sci fi would be invalidated and all future sci fi would have to include the Quacksians because that's the new baseline reality(and would Quacksians show up in future fantasy fiction alongside humans?). Then I realized that's what happened to a lot of stories when the moon turned out barren. Funny how these things happen.
A lot of science fiction novels talk about the fiction that exists in the world itself. It’s a good narrative device to show how people in the world itself see something. For example, in Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel, there are pulpy novels about the arrogant, rich spacers who visit earth: usually, they involve a beautiful spacer girl who falls in love with the tough earth hero. The point of telling us this is to show us how the residents of earth’s dome cities resent and distrust the spacers and believe they are aloof because of their wealth and arrogance, instead of the more humanizing truth: Spacers can’t mingle in an earth city because they have no immune systems.
Another one of my favorite examples of this is in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen, where, because real superheroes exist, comic books are all about pirates. I love that because apparently the major figure in comics history, the Stan Lee, Steranko, and Jack Kirby rolled into one of this timeline, is EC horror comic guy Joe Orlando. Orlando was a tremendously gifted artist but he never really “got” superhero books. I wonder if Don Heck, another gifted comic artist, is a more major figure in the Watchmen earth. He was a good artist who was good at Westerns and horror but who was terrible at fantasy elements.
(Side note: based on the art, for years, I thought Steranko did Watchmen.)
One of the best novels about how science fiction stories actually change scientific development and shape a science fiction world would have to be Alan Steele’s Chronospace (2001) which is about how UFOs are actually time machines. The idea is that time travel would only be possible in space, as that is where wormholes could be safely created. Combine that with the fact that they avoid all contact with us, there’s a good case that UFOs are time traveling observers from earth. When time traveling, our heroes learn that it was scifi that inspired their own time machine.
I’ve often championed this series, but one of the most
incredibly ahead of its time series would have to be L. Sprague de Camp’s “Hand of Zei”
and Planet Krishna stories from the 1950s, which are both a spoof of the John Carter of Mars
planet yarn, and a decent straight example at the same time. And part of the reason
I like it is because even though it’s written in the 1950s, it’s genre self
aware in a Whedonian style, with wisecracking and people identifying tropes. Yet this was written in the early 1950s!
One of my favorite details is that people sign up for jobs
in space exploration because they read Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and wanted
to do something romantic and exciting with their lives.