How does one map an entire genre of fiction? Can this even be done without horribly under representing some areas? This is just what Ward Shelley has attempted with his Science Fiction Whale diagram, entitled the History Of Science Fiction which you can see in much greater detail on Ward Shelley’s website here (or here). He has mapped the evolution of the genre, from the early days of literature right up to the cyberpunk era, and the mass of tentacles above encapsulate decades and trends in this field- even including Ron Hubbard and the Dianetics movement!
I think the archetypal whale was a great choice as the basis of the diagram, as a whale’s size is immense and seems like a good fit for the size of the task at hand. I can also draw some allusions to the use of whales and their kin (the Kraken immediately springing to mind) being common refrains in many books (similar to how the King Arthur fable plays out in many science fantasy novels) and the mysticism imbued with ‘creatures of the deep’ is a good reflection of the science fiction genre, which seeks to learn, explore and create.
I was happy to see some of my old favourites included in this chart- such as Ray Bradbury, Greg Bear and Douglas Adams. I also had a small eye roll at the inclusion of a ‘soft’ science fiction category, and the selected authors such as Octavia Butler (agree) and Margaret Atwood (disagree). That’s part of the joy of the genre however, as you’re allowed to make up your own mind as to who are the masters of it, and the fact that Shelley likely compiled this whole list himself warms me to him, and makes me disinclined to contest the order of some of the names- fiction is after all a very personal affair so I’m happy to agree to disagree on certain points.
I love how thorough Shelley has been with this diagram, and I also found that this not only maps the history of this branch of literature, but also my own love affair with science fiction, as I can personally point to the different branches my reading has taken and sigh in happy familiarity at the inclusion of authors that feel like old friends.