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Truth is Stranger Than Fiction


Truth is stranger than fiction is that real sense of Victorian modernity

So quite often in these books we see the phrase, truth is stranger than fiction; this is fairly new, it comes in at the beginning of the century I think and it really taps into quite a lot of people writing these books are trying to say; you like your monster stories, we have even better monster stories because they're true monsters that used to live here.  You like this idea of communicating with someone on the authorised of the world, well we can do that, you like your magic carpets flying through the air, well now now have balloons. And so one thing I think that is encapsulated in that idea of truth is stranger than fiction is that real sense of Victorian modernity, that what was previously a fairy tale is now reality and I think that captures something that sort of optimism in the 19th century, certainly in these kinds of books which sometimes do criticise the contemporary science but mainly are really quite invested in its success and its not a complete guarantee certainly at the beginning of this period that science is going to have this real sense of cultural authority, that theres going to be all of these paid scientific positions, that children can go say, mum, dad, I want to be a scientist when I grow up, this is something that only really makes sense towards the end of this period and I think these books are an important part in making that a possibility.

I think there’s a really interesting relationship between science fiction, all these science fiction romances, these new types of fiction that were coming into being at this time, and these kinds of works and there a great continuity there.  I think sometimes we treat the history of science fiction as its own separate category and actually some work has been done that really definitely shows the continuities between the new imaginative ways of writing that were brought in to try and communicate in educational works these new discoveries, how that then goes back up into what becomes science fiction.  So things like voyages around the galaxy, imaginative trips back in time, encountering creatures that were once lost and are now alive again, all of these things we see in these kinds of children’s science books just as much as we see them in science fiction books so I think some of these are very much part of the same conversation that’s happening at the time.