This site is a record of the research I have been doing, initially to produce a poster-display about the lives and war experiences of science fiction and fantasy writers during what the British used to call the Great War, what they subsequently called the First World War, and what (under American influence) is now generally known as World War One, or WWI. For H.G. Wells in 1914, of course, it was “the war to end all wars”.
To see the list of writers I am dealing with, click on “The Writers” or “War Experiences” above: each writer has an entry under both of these categories. I am continuing to add people, though at a much slower rate than during the first half of 2014. Over the coming weeks and months (I have other commitments!) I intend to investigate Victor Bayley (who wrote as Wayland Smith), Paul Busson, Blaise Cendrars, Howell Davies (who wrote as Andrew Marvell), Geoffrey Dennis, Alfred Doblin, Jefferson Farjeon, John Hargrave, Storm Jameson, William Marston, Vivian Meik, Owen Rutter, Jean-Toussaint Samat, Evelyn Sharp, Frank H. Shaw, Lance Sieveking, Alexander Maitland Stephen, Leo Szilard, Ludwig Tügel, Farnsworth Wright, and Francis Brett Young.
The banner-display (financially supported by a generous donation from the Science Fiction Foundation) was exhibited at Loncon3, the World Science Fiction Convention that took in London in August 2014, exactly one hundred years after Britain’s declaration of war; after that it will be on loan to anyone who would like to use it. The images on the banners, at reduced size, are on this website: click on “Banners” on the bar near the top of this page. This web-site will remain, as, if you like, the footnotes for the display, and it will continue to expand as long as I find more material to add.
Apart from doing this site as a tribute to the founders of the type of writing I love most, I am finding it a fascinating insight into people’s lives during the years 1914 to 1918. These people may be linked by a specific type of literary imagination; but their experiences could not be more varied. Some of them, of course, got shot at in the trenches, and at least four of them—Émile Driant, Gerald Grogan, William Hope Hodgson and H.H. Munro—died there. But others flew planes, drove ambulances, nursed in hospitals, wrote propaganda, spied, or became conscientious objectors. Most of them lost friends, or family, or both. The Great War changed the lives of all of them, but in very different ways.
This website is definitely about the people, and not about the fiction; in particularly, it is not about science fiction or fantasy set in the Great War. For an introduction to that, see the entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
At the moment most of my writers are British, largely because of the current state of my research. The writing of science fiction and fantasy was an activity that was as common in France in 1914 as it was in Britain. At one stage, back in March 2014, I was adding French names almost daily; but finding out information about them was not easy. There is no full and up-to-date reference work like the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for France, and there seems often to be little information on-line. Jacques Spitz, for instance, I include solely because one scholar reports that he was active in both world wars; I have no other biographical information as yet, but I have included him on the basis of that one sentence.
It was only after the Second World War that some writers would think of themselves as “science fiction writers” or “fantasy writers”, of course; many of these writers are better known now for other types of writing. To take two examples, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling each wrote important examples of both science fiction and fantasy, even if they are better known now for Sherlock Holmes and Kim; and they both, despite their age, played a part in the War.
I shall deem a writer to be a writer of science fiction and/or fantasy if he or she has an entry in the print version of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (ed. John Clute and Peter Nicholls) (London: Orbit, 1993) or The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (ed. John Clute and John Grant) (London: Orbit, 1997), or in the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, which is being continually updated and enlarged (or the online Encyclopedia of Fantasy, which isn’t). But I am always hoping to find someone that John Clute hasn’t heard of, in order to get that person their rightful entry in Clute’s ever-expanding online text! (The other reference book I am using and am not giving full publishing data each time is Pierre Versins, Encyclopédie de l’utopie, des voyages extraordinaires et de la science-fiction, Lausanne: L’Age d’homme, 1972).
Even if they do get an entry in Clute I am at the moment only including them if they had a direct personal involvement in the war: more direct than, say, the fact that Eleanor Farjeon lost her beloved Edward Thomas. I have excluded Aldous Huxley and Charles Williams, for instance, because their lives seem barely to have changed during the war. I acknowledge here that writers like C.S. Forester, Franz Kafka and P.G. Wodehouse did try to enlist in the military, but failed their physicals. John Buchan’s health and age were against him enlisting initially, but was involved in Intelligence from 1916 onwards, and so is included; I thought Winston S. Churchill‘s engagement with SF&F too slight to merit his inclusion.
Finally, could I encourage anyone who finds this site to tell me if there are mistakes, or omissions. Thank you! Contact details and more information about me can be found here.