A lot of American science fiction fans tend to think that Hugo Gernsback invented sf when he started Amazing Stories in 1926, although of course Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are back there somewhere in the dim prehistory of the field. Actually, science-fictional ideas were very much in the air a century ago (in Russia, “mainstream” writers like Alexander Kuprin, Valerii Bryusov, and Alexei Tolstoi were writing about computerized cities, ecological catastrophe, and trips to outer space, and Kuprin even wrote a parody—in 1913!—of pulp sf, complete with mad scientist and super-weapons), and I was amused to come across a reflection of this in Proust’s The Captive. From pp. 259-60 of my edition:
A pair of wings, a different respiratory system, which enabled us to travel through space, would in no way help us, for if we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe everything that we saw in the same aspect as the things of Earth. The only true voyage of discovery, the only really rejuvenating experience, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is…
And later on the same page, musing about music:
And, just as certain creatures are the last surviving testimony to a form of life which nature has discarded, I wondered whether music might not be the unique example of what might have been—if the invention of language, the formation of words, the analysis of ideas had not intervened—the means of communication between souls. It is like a possibility that has come to nothing; humanity has developed along other lines, those of spoken and written language.
A nice break from gossip and genealogy!