20 Interesting Facts about Science Fiction

Trivia about classic science-fiction

In this post, we thought we’d share some of our favourite facts about science fiction, SF, sci-fi, call it what you will – partly because the world of science fiction has given the world some truly visionary writers but also some funny stories and curious facts. So, if you’re ready to boldly go to a literary galaxy far, far away…

Contrary to popular belief, Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds didn’t cause a nationwide panic.

In 2004, a group of science fiction authors wrote a novel, Atlanta Nights, designed to be unpublishable; it was accepted for publication.

In 1939, Stanton A. Coblentz wrote a science-fiction novel called Planet of the Knob Heads.

In 1969, Jack Vance published a novel called Servants of the Wankh; because the last word was dangerously similar to a rude British word, later editions altered the name of the alien race to ‘Wannek’.

Planet of the Knob Heads coverA ‘feghoot’ is an anecdote ending in a terrible pun; it is named after a series of science-fiction stories featuring ‘Ferdinand Feghoot’.

The term ‘genetic engineering’ was invented by science-fiction author Jack Williamson in his 1951 novel, Dragon’s Island.

The first known use of the word ‘prequel’ was in 1958 in reference to a novel by science-fiction author James Blish.

The word ‘spaceship’ dates back to 1880. (More great word facts here.)

The phrase ‘science-fiction’ is first found in print in 1851.

The phrase ‘parallel universe’ was first used in H. G. Wells’ 1923 novel Men like Gods.

William Gibson popularised the term ‘cyberspace’ in a short story of 1982 – though contrary to a persistent rumour, he didn’t coin the word.

The word ‘robot’ was invented by the brother of a Czech playwright in 1920.

Stand on Zanzibar coverThere is a life-size android version of the SF writer Philip K. Dick, built in 2005 by David Hanson. It has been christened ‘Robo-Dick’.

There are actually four, not three, Laws of Robotics.

Jules Verne’s 1863 book Paris in the Twentieth Century, set in Paris in 1960, correctly predicted cars, fax machines, and the internet.

In 1974, Arthur C. Clarke predicted the internet of the year 2001.

In the first chapter of his 1948 novel Space Cadet, Robert Heinlein predicted mobile phone technology.

John Brunner’s 1969 novel Stand on Zanzibar uncannily predicted many features of the 21st-century world, including overpopulation, Viagra, same-sex marriage, and even President Obama.

Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward: 2000-1887 predicted credit cards, garden cities, and electronic broadcasting.

Richard Matheson’s 1956 novel The Shrinking Man was inspired by a comedy film.

Image (top): Cover of Science Fiction including Planet of the Knob Heads (picture credit: The Lex Talionis on Flickr). Image (bottom): Cover of the SF Masterworks reissue of John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar.

8 thoughts on “20 Interesting Facts about Science Fiction”

  1. They didn’t know each other at the time, but Ursula K Le Guin was also in the same High School class as Philip K Dick. They both went to Berkeley High School. So they shared something as well as those middle K initials!


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