Wed
Mar 9 2011 1:07pm

History of Science Fiction Captured in an Amazingly Detailed Work of Art

History of Science Fiction by Ward Shelley

Ever wonder how cyberpunk fits in with hard science fiction? What about the connections between horror and SF? How does the golden age differ from new wave science fiction? Well, don’t despair because artist Ward Shelley is here to explain it all. In his epic painting, “The History of Science Fiction”, Shelley renders the various links between the genre with loving and beautiful detail.

History of Science Fiction by Ward Shelley

While being a handy guide to the genre, this map is also a piece of original art. Shelley has made numerous other paintings in this style dealing with other subjects interest to him, including The Beats, Frank Zappa, and a history of the Avant Garde. I was lucky enough to catch Ward Shelley’s solo show at the Pierogi Gallery back in 2009. After seeing a mention of numerous SF authors in his “Media Role Models” piece, I asked him if he liked science fiction. At that time he told me he was working on a big SF painting. Now, I couldn’t be more excited to see that it’s been finished!

When contemporary art combines with SF to create works like this, everybody wins.

Click here for a HUGE version of Ward Shelley’s awesome “The History of Science Fiction.”

[Link to images via Reddit]


Ryan Britt’s writing has appeared here, with Clarkesworld Magazine and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn.

11 comments
Ted Boone
1. tedboone
He needs to sell prints of that bad boy. I'd love to geek out with a copy hanging in my study/office.
Matthew B
2. MatthewB
"Obervation"
Mistake or unauthorized copy detector?
Chris Hawks
4. SaltManZ
That's awesome. I love the quote:
"Science Fiction deals with improbable possibilities, Fantasy with plausible impossibilities."

jim162065
5. jim162065
Where can get a print, very cool
jim162065
6. Lemus Solus
Does anyone know if there's a way we can cover this in searchable tags?
jim162065
7. Daniele A. Gewurz
Aristopanes -> Aristophanes
Erlic -> Elric

Sorry for the nitpicking: it's a great work!
jim162065
8. Fenric25
Nifty picture there, lots to look at all looping about in ways that make my head hurt. One small problem- in the sci-fi TV loop there, it mentions Doctor Who-until 1989, and then forgets to mention the revival of the series from 2005 onwards. Oh well, still a fun thing to look at.
B T
9. amphibian
There's no mention of the Mahabharata, which has precursors to nuclear warfare, machine guns, rockets, space travel, time travel, monsters, demi-gods and other kinds of things?

If you're going to toss in Beowulf and Gilgamesh, might as well be a little more complete and put in any cool African, Asian or South American epics that touch on the subject matter as well.

I'm much more forgiving about the right side of the painting, as it's practically impossible to cram everything in the modern age in there. However, with the early, early stuff that we do know about, it's not all Greeks and Norse.
jim162065
10. Pharazon
What I imediatley noticed as almost completley missing is the field that drives sci-fi and fantasy forward today; COMPUTER GAMES.

A bare mention of "1978 space invaders game" is not worthy of this great modern medium.
Brent Lee
11. Crim5onKing
You people complain too much. Great work Shelley.

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