Readers of both this website and our Fortean anthology series Darklore will be familiar with Cat Vincent’s brilliant writings about the real-world influence of fictional characters. Cat was recently invited to give a talk at the wonderful Treadwells bookshop in London, in which he expounded upon the synergistic relationship between paganism and science fiction.
Luckily for those of us who aren’t near London, Cat’s talk was filmed and uploaded to YouTube by Treadwells – I’ve embedded it above. He begins in the early 19th century with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and moves forward through the decades from there. Here’s just a sample:
By the 1930s, science fiction had acquired many avid fans – some of whom started to organise meetings. Britain’s first science fiction convention took place in Leeds in 1938, and included such luminaries of future British SF as Arthur C. Clarke.
Another enthusiastic British fan was Olaf Stapledon who wrote a series of highly influential works in the 1930s which had more than their share of the mystical – his books, such as Last And First Men and Starmaker influenced many of his contemporaries – including CS Lewis, who was inspired to explore the combination of SF tropes and his own Christian apologia in Out Of The Silent Planet and its sequels.
The crossover between an interest in fantastic fiction and the weird and spiritual has dovetailed for a long time. Many attendees of that first convention were also connected to Fortean groups – even HG Wells had read Charles Fort, though he hated his work. The rise in interest in spirituality after the Great War had also influenced the fans – as did the arrival in that same year of 1938 of a new phenomenon: the superhero comic book.
For those interested in exploring this fascinating topic further, Cat has also helpfully collated footnotes to the information presented in his talk and posted them on his blog. Wonderful stuff.