Wednesday, 9 March 2011

SF and other text source visualisations

Via MetaFilter: The History of Science Fiction, a lovely infographic by Ward Shelley that was one of the winning submissions to 7th Iteration of the Places & Spaces: Mapping Science Exhibit on "Science Maps as Visual Interfaces to Digital Libraries" (2011).

"History of Science Fiction" is a graphic chronology that maps the literary genre from its nascent roots in mythology and fantastic stories to the somewhat calcified post-Star Wars space opera epics of today. The movement of years is from left to right, tracing the figure of a tentacled beast, derived from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds Martians. Science Fiction is seen as the offspring of the collision of the Enlightenment (providing science) and Romanticism, which birthed gothic fiction, source of not only SciFi, but crime novels, horror, westerns, and fantasy (all of which can be seen exiting through wormholes to their own diagrams, elsewhere). Science fiction progressed through a number of distinct periods, which are charted, citing hundreds of the most important works and authors. Film and television are covered as well.

It has a number of works of proto-SF that I keep meaning to read, and suggests some intriguing "genetic" paths for the origins of genres. For instance, treating the Western as an offshoot of Gothic seems a strange but by no means unarguable theory, given the tropes of Westerns: wild landscapes, imperilled heroines, clear-cut good and evil, grotesque villains, and brooding Byronic "man with no name" heroes.

See also the Winning Entries page for Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, which leads off in other interesting directions, such as Chris Harrison's projects on Visualizing the Bible (maps of "social networks" created by plotting people and places occurring in the same Bible verse).

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