UFJF - Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora

Science Fiction as Mainstream Literature: The Spanish Scientific Romance And Its Reception Before the 1936 Spanish Civil War* [part 1]

Data: 16 de fevereiro de 2012

edição atual|  eds. anterioressubmeter texto sobre esta revista |  expediente
current issue|  earlier issuessubmit articles about this journal |  journal people

 

Mariano Martín Rodríguez

Universidad Complutense de Madrid

martioa@yahoo.com

 

ABSTRACT

After humble beginnings in the 19th century, early Spanish science fiction experienced a boom in the early decades of the last century, after the first translations of the Wellsian futurist narratives were extremely well received by the public and the critics. This happened at a time when several young Spanish intellectuals were looking for a more cosmopolitan world view in contrast with the traditional isolationism of their country. Some of them even lived in London for a period of time, where they became familiar with British institutions and culture, including the scientific romance, which was rapidly assimilated. Indeed, both the Wellsian and Swiftian models would soon be combined in a series of original scientific fictions, such as Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s El paraíso de las mujeres (Women’s Paradise, 1921), Luis Araquistáin’s El archipiélago maravilloso (The Marvellous Archipelago, 1923), or Salvador de Madariaga’s La jirafa sagrada, translated by the author himself from his English original (The Sacred Giraffe, 1925). All these works follow a speculative and satirical pattern that uses irony to convey a message of intellectual freedom. Due to their fusion of thought, humour and reasoned imagination in an innovative fictional framework, they were acknowledged by contemporary critics as brilliant examples of modernist writing. Furthermore, there was virtually no pulp literature as such, but rather weekly mass publications which were not genre oriented, as they used to publish all kinds of literature, from erotic tales to social narratives, along with science fiction short stories, usually written by renowned authors. Scientific romance in the Wellsian or other modes was then considered a respectable form of literature, as well as an adequate vehicle for social and political commentary. Therefore, it was a legitimate part of the Spanish mainstream literature, at least until the 1936 Spanish Civil War put an end to the Silver Age of Spanish culture.

 

 

KEYWORDS: scientific romance, Spain, mainstream literature, reception

 

FULL TEXT

English is today the only lingua franca of science fiction. As a result, the different national traditions in the literature of this genre are internationally non-existent unless their history is also written in English, or their main works are translated into English. Spanish science fiction has not fared particularly well in this regard. Not a single name from Spain appears in the world science fiction canon yet. While this canon remains overwhelmingly Anglo-American, several Spanish-American writers such as Adolfo Bioy Casares are regularly mentioned in international encyclopaedias and surveys of the genre. In contrast, the rich science fiction literary production in Spain is largely ignored, with some exceptions. An anthology entitled Cosmos latinos (2003) offered the English-speaking readership a selection of science fiction stories originally written in Spanish, both from Latin America and Spain. However, putting together Spanish-American and peninsular science fiction implies that a common language means also a common tradition. This idea can be historically misleading. Science fiction had its own dynamics in Spain. Despite the fact that some of its features can also be seen in Latin America, such as its former mainstream status (Cano 2006, Ferreira 2011), its history reflects rather the European framework in which it evolved, at least before the Americanisation of Western European science fiction after the Second World War virtually put an end to the main feature of the continental scientific romance: the fact that it was fully integrated into the mainstream literary realm, as its reception by the intellectual establishment demonstrates. In Spain, this was certainly the case. Speculative fiction[i] reached a level of quality perhaps not unworthy of the cultural glory of the Spanish “Silver Age”, which began around 1900 and ended in 1936, when the Civil War tore apart the country, and its literature.

 

However, the genre had an inauspicious beginning in Spain. The satirical and philosophical imaginary voyages, as well as the utopian tradition inaugurated by Thomas More, were not completely absent from Spanish literature,[ii] but the few instances that could be mentioned are usually unoriginal, being adaptations or pale copies of foreign models, most of them French, while others such as the nationalist utopia Sinapia (probably end of 17th century) remained manuscript until modern times. Proto-science fiction began to be increasingly cultivated in Spain only in the second half of the 19th century,[iii] when the novela científica (scientific romance or novel) started to circulate as such. This particular “forgotten subgenre” (Dendle 1995) was primarily didactic.[iv] The narratives looked rather like fictional textbooks, and their plot was usually a mere means to popularise science. For instance, the anatomy and functioning of the circulatory system are pleasantly described in Amalio Gimeno’s novel A Blood Inhabitant (Un habitante de la sangre, 1873) through the adventures of a red blood cell endowed with sentient individuality, and the cells in the body portrayed as a metaphorical city where health and disease fight each other as do the virtues and vices in medieval allegories.[v] The symbolic character of this novel reappears in some of the speculative stories of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, which he wrote in the last decades of the century, although he published them much later in his Vacation Stories (Cuentos de vacaciones, 1906), which has recently been translated into English by Laura Otis (Ramón y Cajal 2006). In fictions such as “The Corrected Pessimist” (“El pesimista corregido”) scientific method becomes an instrument to confer additional authority on what is essentially a moral parable, without any attempt to gain the reader’s suspension of disbelief as to the likelihood of the extraordinary facts reported. Therefore, these stories can hardly qualify as science fiction in the modern sense, and their didacticism probably makes them quite unattractive today. In addition, they were often fairly one-dimensional in their positivist optimism. For most of their authors, science was nothing short of a panacea. For instance, speculative fantasies such as “Four Centuries of Good Governance” (“Cuatro siglos de buen gobierno”, 1885), which is probably one of the earliest uchronias,[vi] is a rewriting of the country’s history by Nilo María Fabra, according to which Spain “has retained its global power in the late nineteenth century and is about to leave Earth to colonise Mars”,[vii] thanks to the implementation of rational policies similar to those advocated by Cajal, among others. As Bell and Hawk argue, “indeed, Fabra’s most common motif is the portrayal of science as a positive and essential element for society’s progress and human happiness” (2003: 36). Nevertheless, technical progress was not always seen as inherently good – not even then. Fabra’s most famous short story in his country[viii] foreshadows both future descriptions of totalitarianism and the warnings posed in many scientific romances against technology no longer checked by a humanist world view. “Teitan the Proud” (“Teitán el Soberbio”, 1895) is Fabra’s portrayal of a dictator ruling over the whole world as a “personification of the state-God”,[ix] who gets a mechanical device to read people’s thoughts in order to complete his grip on power.

 

This tale is an exception in Fabra’s extensive proto-science fictional production, but it can be symptomatic of a European-wide change in the field. Speculative literature increasingly became a warning exercise. The future was no longer imagined as the illusory security promised by Positivism. On the contrary, current shortcomings could become worse and bring about nightmarish societies, as well as the demise of mankind, whose fate was to be dictated by the inexorable laws of evolution anyway. Darwinism and the spread of the proletarian movements and doctrines were two of the forces calling into question former certainties, and these gave rise to the new scientific romance. This eschewed blatant didacticism[x] in favour of an ironic questioning of reality, following the example of the philosophical tale in the Age of Enlightenment. As in the fictions of Jonathan Swift or Voltaire, “scientific romance is always inherently playful and is never without at least a hint of seriousness. Both these things are inherent in the nature of the exercise and we should not fall into the trap of considering playfulness and seriousness to be contradictory. (…) This combination of playfulness and seriousness makes scientific romance inherently iconoclastic” (Stableford 1985: 9). It also makes it inherently ambiguous, as its construction usually reveals a search for a plurality of readings, as in Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1872) or, above all, in H. G. Wells’ first scientific fictions, which were deservedly acclaimed both in Britain and abroad, while their critical appeal has subsided little since their publication. Wells’ reputation was essential for the shaping of the European scientific romance. In Spain, the translation of The War of the Worlds (1898) by one of the leading young intellectuals of the age, Ramiro de Maeztu,[xi] was of paramount importance for the genre’s acceptance as a respectable literary endeavour there. A highly influential critic, Eduardo Gómez de Baquero, hailed the arrival of “a new form of the marvellous in literature”.[xii] Wells had carried out “a recovery of wonder in literature with originality and skilfully building on the materials furnished by current scientific culture”[xiii] in order to “give the fantastic an appearance of historical reality”.[xiv] Thus, speculation and plausibility had been combined to renovate imaginary fiction in a modern way.

 

After this clear-sighted and highly positive appraisal, some of Wells’ scientific romances were rapidly translated and published in Spain (Lázaro 2004: 50). Their success can be inferred from the fact that they even gave rise to parodies.[xv] However, almost a decade passed before Wells’ model was followed in earnest. The engineer Carlos Mendizábal Brunet intended to fill up the gaps in the plot of The Time Machine by describing in realistic minute detail the protagonist’s second journey into the future in his long narrative Elois and Morlocks (Elois y Morlocks, 1909; as Lázaro Clendábims). The Spanish author spared no effort to explain how both races had come to be, and how the rediscovered Christian faith redeemed them to build up a new common humanity according to doctrine of the Catholic Church. The novel is, accordingly, full of preaching: “If Wells places on top of a social subject matter scatological views typical of a philosopher of History, Mendizábal crushes it with them”[xvi]. His novel is, therefore, heavily didactic and rather old-fashioned. Nevertheless, it was well received, mostly by the Catholic press, and it was followed by a sizeable number of confessional scientific romances set in an apocalyptic future, such as Antonio Ibáñez Barranquero’s Jerusalem and Babylon (Jerusalén y Babilonia, 1927) or Carlos Ortí y Muñoz’s Times End (El fin de los tiempos, 1933).[xvii] All these works were well-regarded in Spanish Catholic fundamentalist circles, but the literary establishment largely ignored them, probably due to their limited aesthetic ambitions. Ramiro de Maeztu himself published a devastating review of Mendizábal’s novel,[xviii] in which he also rejected the genre[xix] which he had done so much to introduce into Spain, maybe unwillingly.

 

The main current of the Spanish scientific romance is indeed represented by some of Maeztu’s followers. Although Maeztu never wrote any speculative fiction, he played a crucial, if indirect, role as mentor for a group of young intellectuals who moved to London after him to complete their education as Maeztu had prompted them to do after the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War in 1898. This defeat entailed, among other things, Spain’s geopolitical marginality, which contrasted so much with its former historical prominence. To face this bitter reality, many believed that the technical modernisation advocated by the positivists was not enough to bring Spain back to Europe’s heart. It was also considered necessary to know first-hand what was triggering the success of the major industrial and colonial powers, and to put an end to the traditional isolationism of Spanish culture. The young writers who later formed the “Generation of 1914”, whose de facto leader was the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, adopted this cosmopolitan approach with enthusiasm. Many of them went to study or work abroad. Some went to France or Italy, but most chose Germany and/or Britain. London, as the centre of the largest empire and economical power of that time, was the preferred destination, following Maeztu’s example. Three of the most influential Spanish intellectuals of that generation (the novelist Ramón Pérez de Ayala, the journalist and socialist politician Luis Araquistáin and the versatile writer and one of the parents of Europeanism, Salvador de Madariaga) were some of the “London boys” (chicos de Londres, as Maeztu called them in a letter; Santervás 1990: 142 and footnote 45) who settled there for at least a couple of years, familiarising themselves with the practices of a truly liberal democracy and meeting British men of letters such as George Bernard Shaw or Wells himself. They became directly acquainted with modern English literature, the spirit of which pervades their original works, even if their writing was deeply rooted in their country’s intellectual life and traditions. The fact that these three authors also wrote scientific romances is, therefore, little surprising.[xx]

 

The first one to move to London and to return to Spain was Pérez de Ayala, who was also the first in applying aptly the Wellsian model in a curious dystopia in dramatic form, Sentimental Club (1909). Despite its brevity, this is an important work, at least historically, being one of the clearest precedents of the modern dystopian mode, long before 20th-century experiments in totalitarianism. His work was so pointedly prophetic that he hardly had to modify the contents of his attack on imposed collectivism when he rewrote Sentimental Club and published it under the title of The Sentimental Revolution (La revolución sentimental, 1929), when Russian red terror was widely known to all those whom utopian delusions had not blinded. This short play takes us to a distant future in which all humankind is subject to a radically egalitarian communist regime. Any external distinctiveness in clothing or appearance has been suppressed, as well as sexual reproduction itself, in this technologically advanced but emotionally void future. Centuries-long repression of sentiment has resulted in a peaceful and obedient mankind. The sentimental revolution will come after a historian has access to documents of the barbarian past, and shows them to a group of men and women who gradually rediscover, guided by him, the joys of romantic love, together with the ones brought by the deadly sins. The end is open, as only the preparation of the revolution is described, although it is implied that it will triumph. Contrary to most dystopias, there is neither a tragic catharsis, nor an oppressive atmosphere. The tone is rather light, even farcical, as the author desires to warn his readers pleasantly, not to impress them with a vision of horror. Nevertheless, its clever portrayal of a system where “any form of sexual activity other than that sanctioned by authority is seen as inherently subversive”, in which “it is the instinctual, spontaneous, uncontrollable quality of sexual desire that makes it a threat to officially imposed conformity” (Ferns 1999: 122), calls to mind the later classical dystopias of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. It is precisely this dystopian character that has instigated some academic attention. His author esteemed it enough to compile the second version together with other short fictions in a volume also entitled La revolución sentimental as late as 1959. This is the book which made the play more widely known in critical and literary circles, as both Sentimental Club and The Sentimental Revolution were first issued in pulp collections,[xxi] which were not usually reviewed by critics, if only due to their staggering number (there was a different text published every week, and there usually were several collections competing for the public’s favour at the same time), which prevented them from doing so. However, unlike its American counterparts, pulp publications were then fully integrated into the main literary realm in Spain. The fact that an intellectually demanding work such as Pérez de Ayala’s appeared in two of such periodicals is in no way exceptional. On the contrary, what made them a unique phenomenon in Europe was not only their abundance and massive success, but above all their overall literary quality, which remained high throughout the period between 1907 (when the first, El Cuento Semanal, appeared) and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Their paratextual features were as poor as those of the Anglo-Saxon pulps or the French feuilletons. Actually, they were not books, but low-quality booklets that did not exceed sixty pages in general. However, the contents were usually far better than the material on which they were printed. They often had beautiful illustrations, such as Art Deco drawings by Rafael de Penagos in the 1920s, while many of their authors make up the canon of early 20th-century Spanish literature.[xxii] Therefore, what could seem commercial literature from a sociological perspective was only a convenient way for writers and intellectuals to reach a large readership without debasing their art. In fact, they used to publish their fictions in the press, the pulp collections and in volumes without any real distinction regarding the texts themselves. Short stories first published in newspapers or pulp periodicals were often collected in volumes with only a few or even no changes. There were also cases in which a story passed from a book to a widely distributed pulp periodical. All this shows that virtually only mainstream literature existed in Spain in that period. In addition, there was indeed little place in the market for specialised genre collections, in which a distinctive lowbrow genre literature could really develop. Most weekly mass publications were actually not genre oriented. Their listings include mostly erotic tales and realistic social narratives, but also fantastic tales and a few scientific romances and plays.

 

Along with Sentimental Club, one could mention a couple of these highbrow pulp stories that have been collected in modern anthologies, such as Luis Antón del Olmet’s Truth in Delusion (La verdad en la ilusión, 1912), a sarcastic vision of an aseptic future not unlike the one depicted by Pérez de Ayala, albeit anarchist, or José María Salaverría’s finely ironic tale The Wonderful Planet, aka A World Revealed (El planeta prodigioso[xxiii] or, Un mundo al descubierto, 1929), which takes the form of a historical lecture delivered by a Martian scholar to an audience in their planet about the Earth, its inhabitants and their irrational ways. Due to its inclusion as a “Fantastic Colophon” (“Colofón fantástico”) in his successful nonsensical book[xxiv] The Man Who Bought a Car (El hombre que compró un automóvil, 1932), Wenceslao Fernández Flórez’s The Recent Fauna (La fauna reciente, 1928) has also been widely read; it describes humorously the car’s evolution to animal sentience. On the other hand, some interesting stories published in serial collections await rediscovery, such as Emilio Carrere’s satirical The Moon Ambassador (El embajador de la luna, 1925), which narrates the visit of a grotesque Selenite to popular neighbourhoods in Madrid, while a more serious tone predominates in three other interesting tales that combine imaginary scientific innovations with fantastic tropes.[xxv] Artificially induced telepathy turns out to be a tragic gift in Marcos Rafael Blanco Belmonte’s The Science of Pain (La ciencia del dolor, 1907). Devolution to an ancestral animality reveals the woman’s true being in Rafael López de Haro’s Doctor Iturbe’s Case (El caso del doctor Iturbe, 1912). Finally, in Alfonso Hernández Catá’s The Abortion (El aborto, 1921 in the volume entitled La voluntad de Dios,[xxvi] or God’s Will; 1922 in the pulp weekly La Novela Corta, or The Short Novel), the invention by a German-speaking scientist of a device able to transfer all the skills of a dying person to a living one is tested on a village idiot in rural Spain where a friend of his does archaeological research, with terrible results: the formerly happy idiot commits suicide after receiving a philosopher’s mind, and the foreign inventor and his friend are stoned to death by the villagers. Thus, Hernández Catá succeeds in criticising both the colonial approach of foreign science in a backward country and the brutality of a rural society deeply reluctant to scientific progress. The realism of the tale sharpens the effect of an anti-pastoral mode that is quite typical of modern Spanish literature, at least in mainstream literature, which clashes with the rural nostalgia that characterises the works, speculative or not, coming from more developed countries. After all, technical progress was still a prerequisite for Spain’s regeneration,[xxvii] although the modernist approach was, as said before, ambiguous. Knowing more does not bring happiness to Hernández Catá’s characters, and the anti-technological stance can also be seen, as a secondary topic, in Pérez de Ayala’s play, as in subsequent dystopias such as the prophetic short story by Miguel A. Calvo Roselló entitled “A Strange Land” (“Un país extraño”, 1919), or in a pacifist warning such as the apocalyptic tale by Blanco Belmonte “Mankind’s Twilight” (“El ocaso de la humanidad”, 1920), both written in the aftermath of the industrialised massacres of the Great War and the Russian Revolution. Nonetheless, an unconditional attack on mechanisation such as Miguel de Unamuno’s story “Mechanopolis”[xxviii] (“Mecanópolis”, 1913) was rather uncommon in Spain. One of the leading European intellectuals of his age, Unamuno had abandoned the progressive ideals of his youth to champion an essentialist approach which saw the quest for eternity as the main human goal, a primarily spiritual task for which technical advances were not relevant, or were even counterproductive. Written “under the inspiration of Erewhon: or, Over the Range (1872), a pioneering novel by Samuel Butler, it describes a city inhabited and controlled by thinking machines; the denunciation of the mechanized, inhuman and phantasmagorical world of Mechanopolis fits perfectly the anti-industrialist views of its author”.[xxix] But, unlike Butler’s narrative, “Mechanopolis” makes little use of irony. It is rather a poetic parable with a symbolic richness that provides a literary attraction of its own. Nothing less could be expected from such a consummate writer as Unamuno, although he was not really congenial with the workings of scientific romance.

 

However, it might be convenient to say that Unamuno wrote his tale in a moment when the genre had not yet fulfilled its promise in Spain. Sentimental Club remained virtually isolated until the period following the Great War. Wells’ translations also ceased to be published back then. All of a sudden, the situation changed dramatically, and science fiction, deriving from the British model or otherwise, experienced nothing short of a boom in the early 1920s. Wells was again at the origin of this regain in interest. In 1919, the Spanish-Cuban novelist Alfonso Hernández Catá offered the Spanish readership a translation, with an interesting preface, of several of Wells’ short stories in a volume entitled El país de los ciegos y otras narraciones (The Country of the Blind and Other Stories). This initiative was followed by a wave of new Spanish versions, thanks to the publication between 1921 and 1926 of almost all Wellsian scientific romances by the Barcelona publishing house Bauzá, including the most recent ones. In addition, Hernández Catá’s translation was intelligently reviewed by poet and critic Gabriel Alomar, who put Wells’ work in its right literary context. This British author had learnt from precursors such as Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe, but he belonged to “the English tradition of Thomas More’s social planning and Swift’s humor, being at the same time a citizen of Utopia and of Lilliput”.[xxx] His “transcendental art”[xxxi] was, indeed, Swiftian in its origin. It shared with the old master a philosophical beauty able to communicate us a shuddering sense of man’s relativity, in both his nature and his social order, allowing us to question every false certainty towards a personal and more solid reading of the world. After the Great War crisis and the subsequent downfall of the former idols of the tribe, the Swiftian lesson, updated in the modern scientific narrative as “the romance of the disenchanted universe” (Stableford 1985: 9), was heard again loudly. Alomar pointed out its literary potential for a Spain that, while it remained neutral, was nevertheless suffering the universal crisis of values characteristic of Modernity in its zenith, a crisis which was also aesthetic. The traditional novel was losing ground to a variety of narrative experiments, and the public seemed to embrace them. The use of a science fictional novum in a framework inherited from the classical imaginary voyage was one of the procedures tried out to build up a kind of narrative fitted to the new times.

 

GO TO PART 2

 


 

* This essay reproduces, with some updated bibliography (to which one should add all the articles published by Agustín Jaureguízar/Augusto Uribe in his website http://www.auguribe.com) and additions, the one entitled “Science Fiction as Mainstream Literature: The Spanish Scientific Romance and its Reception before the Spanish Civil War”, published at the British journal Foundation (volume 39, number 110, winter 2010 (sic!), 38-59) with too many printing errors. We are grateful for Foundation‘s kind permission to reissue this paper here. This should be considered as its final version.

[i] I follow the elegant definition of this term used by W. Warren Wagar (1982: 9):

(…) we shall use the phrase “especulative literature” (…) to denote any work of fiction, including drama and narrative poetry, that specializes in plausible speculation about life under changed but rationally conceivable circumstances, in an alternative past or present, or in the future. Nearly all “science fiction” adheres to this definition.

[ii] By the term “Spanish literature” I mean the literature written in Spanish in Spain. For the rich science fiction literary output in Catalan prior to the Spanish Civil War, there is a comprehensive overview (Munné-Jordà 2002). In Galician, one should at least mention The Man Who Gave Life to a Dead Person (O home que deu vida a um morto, 1926), a short story by Leandro Carré Alvarellos that can also be read as fantastic, and the tale entitled “Eleven Thousand Nine Hundred Twenty-Six” (“Once mil novecentos vinteseis”, 1927), by Rafael Dieste, which has been translated into Spanish and reprinted several times. I am not aware of any work of this genre in the Basque language until quite recently.

[iii] There is a recent short overview of the Spanish science fiction in the 19th century and its intellectual circumstances, with a useful bibliography (Lawless 2011). As my focus is on the scientific romance in the Spanish “Silver Age”, I only mention the works not considered in that overview, and which are good examples of the positivist stance adopted by many Spanish intellectuals in the last decades of the 19th century.

[iv] There were also a few speculative narratives with satirical or merely comic intent, such as Clarín’s (Leopoldo Alas) “A Future Tale” (“Cuento futuro”, 1886) and Enrique Gaspar’s The Anachronopete (El anacronópete, 1887). This name, that means “what flies against time”, designates what is considered to be the first fictional time machine.

[v] A similar literary approach was adopted by Juan Giné y Partagás in anatomical allegories such as A Journey to Brainpolis (Un viaje a Cerebrópolis, 1884), The Onkos Family (La familia de los onkos, 1888), and Mysteries of Madness (Misterios de la locura, 1890), which was translated into Italian.

[vi] This subgenre has been hardly cultivated until recent times. In the Spanish Silver Age, one could mention Ricardo Baroja’s leftist True History of the Revolution (Historia verídica de la revolución, 1931), as well as a very short alternative history of Spain by Azorín (José Martínez Ruiz) entitled “What should have happened. Historitory” (“Lo que debió pasar. Historiatorio”, 1934; historiatorio is a neologism created by Azorín on the model of laboratorio, or laboratory), while Augusto Martínez Olmedilla’s novel How Napoleon Died (Cómo murió Napoleón, 1930) is both alternate and secret history.

[vii] (…) une Espagne restée une puissance mondiale majeure en fin du XIXe siècle et sur le point de partir à la colonisation de la planète Mars (Henriet 2009: 34). All the translations are mine.

[viii] In Cosmos latinos (37-43), the translated story is “On the Planet Mars” (“En el planeta Marte”, 1890) instead.

[ix] personificación del Estado-Dios (Fabra 2006: 215).

[x] Nonetheless, nineteenth century didacticism survived in scientific romances written by older authors, such as José Ferrándiz’s Two Worlds Speaking (Dos mundos al habla, 1922), an astronomical romance which presents a Venusian eugenic utopia seen through sympathetic lenses.

[xi] Published in instalments in El Imparcial, one of the main Madrid newspapers in March-April 1902.

[xii] una nueva forma de lo maravilloso en literatura (Gómez de Baquero 1902). The use of the term “maravilloso”, which in Spanish has mostly to do with fairy tales, might sound odd in science fiction today, but it coincides with the French denomination (merveilleux scientifique) used to distinguish the modern speculative romance by the likes of J.-H. Rosny aîné and Maurice Renard from the Vernian tradition in French, which was still followed in Spain by popular science fiction novelists such as Coronel Ignotus (José de Elola), who wrote a series of Planetary Voyages in the 22nd Century (Viajes planetarios del siglo XXII, 1919-1927), and Capitán Sirius (Jesús de Aragón), author of interesting scientific tales of adventure such as A Strange Love Adventure on the Moon (Una extraña aventura de amor en la Luna, 1929), and The Aerial Continent (El continente aéreo, 1930). However, the French merveilleux scientifique seems to have been ignored by Spanish intellectuals, except for an essay by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (1933) on Rosny’s work (including his “novelas científicas”), and its narratives were not translated in Spain until much later. In fact, European speculative literature other than the British one had apparently little influence in the development of this genre in Spain, although the German best-seller The Tunnel (Der Tunnel, 1913), by Bernhard Kellermann, inspired Jesús Rubio Coloma’s Iberian imperialist fantasy Between Two Continents – The Novel about the Tunnel Under the Straits of Gibraltar (Entre dos continentes: la novela del túnel bajo el estrecho de Gibraltar, 1928).

[xiii] Una restauración de lo maravilloso en literatura realizada con originalidad y aprovechando hábilmente los materiales de la actual (Gómez de Baquero 1902).

[xiv] dar color de realidad histórica a lo fantástico (ibidem).

[xv] One of the most outstanding is Juan Pérez Zúñiga’s Six Days Out of the World (Seis días fuera del mundo, 1905), which parodies The First Men in the Moon. Nevertheless, in Zúñiga’s short novel, where inspiration from Wells’ novel is overtly acknowledged, the Moon is not inhabited by intelligent insects, but by stools… A later parodic tribute to another romance by Wells, The Invisible Man (1897), is Francisco Vera’s rather fantastic The Bisquared Man (El hombre bicuadrado, 1926). There are also some parodic Martian romances, such as Luis Gabaldón’s The Conquest of a Planet (La conquista de un planeta, 1905), and Benigno Bejarano’s The Madman’s Secret (El secreto de un loco, 1929; this work was strongly revised by Bejarano in its second edition of 1932, entitled The End of an Astral Expedition [El fin de una expedición sideral]), which is an interesting comic modernist narrative.

[xvi] Si Wells superpone a la temática social perspectivas escatológicas propias de un filósofo de la Historia, Mendizábal la aplasta con ellas (Uribe 2002: 39).

[xvii] There is a recent study (Jaureguízar 2011b) on this kind of religious apocalyptic romances which mentions some other works, such as Bernardo Morales San Martín’s Man’s Twilight (El ocaso del hombre, 1920), and Juan José Valverde’s The Beast from the Book of Revelation (La Bestia del Apocalipsis, 1935), but both of them are rather allegorical. A further paper by the same scholar (Jaureguízar 2011c) gives a useful overview of Spanish apocalyptic scientific tales, usually not religious and most of them quite well written, such as Azorín’s “The End of a World” (“El fin de un mundo”, 1901), and Ángeles Vicente’s “An Absurd Tale” (“Cuento absurdo”, 1908), among others.

[xviii] Both volumes [Mendizábal’s is a two-decker] could be summed up in one, without losing a single idea or nuance, much to the advantage of the dynamic movement of the action and, consequently, the inside of the work (sus dos volúmenes podrían compendiarse en uno solo, sin que se perdiese ni una sola idea ni matiz, y con enorme ventaja para el movimiento dinámico de la acción y consiguientemente del interior de la obra; Maeztu 1909).

[xix] When these science fantasisers devote themselves to ramble about the influence of future research on the human nature, they enter dangerous territory, and this explains their naivety when addressing human action (cuando estos fantaseadores de la ciencia se meten a divagar acerca de la influencia de las futuras investigaciones sobre la naturaleza humana, entran en un terreno peligroso […]. De ahí su candidez al ocuparse de las obras humanas; ibidem).

[xx] I give more details on this particular example of international cultural exchange in a recent essay in Spanish (Martín Rodríguez 2011b).

[xxi] El Cuento Semanal (The Weekly Tale) and La Novela de Hoy (Today’s Novel), respectively.

[xxii] For instance, the renowned novelist Emilia Pardo Bazán published in El Libro Popular (The Popular Book) an interesting femininist prehistoric fiction entitled In the Caverns (En las cavernas, 1912). I am not aware of other prehistoric romances published before 1936 in Spain than the one entitled The King of Cavemen (El rey de los trogloditas, 1925), by paleontologist Jesús Carballo.

[xxiii] Its first edition, under this title, was published in a volume together with Salaverría’s novel The Hidden Sin (El oculto pecado, 1924).

[xxiv] It has been translated into at least three languages: French, German and Portuguese.

[xxv] Furthermore, Carrere combines science and spiritism in The Sixth Sense (El sexto sentido, 1921). There are also some faustian novels which use science in a gothic mode, such as Doctor Wolffan’s Son (El hijo del doctor Wolffan, 1917), by Peruvian-born Manuel A. Bedoya, Bernardo Morales San Martín’s Immortal Eve (Eva inmortal, 1917), and Carlos Mendizábal Brunet’s Pygmalion and Galatea (Pygmalión y Galatea, 1922). The tale “Five Hundred” (“Quinientos”, 1936), by José María Salaverría, can also be mentioned.

[xxvi] Hernández-Catá also published in this same book a tale of genre interest entitled “Fraternity” (“Fraternidad”).

[xxvii] Once a world power, Spain appeared to be at the beginning of the 20th century a backward country that needed to be regenerated, both politically and economically, in order to recover its rightful place among the leading European nations. The Spanish regenerationist movement also produced some works of genre interest, such as Antonio Ledesma Hernández’s long novel Canuto Espárrago (1903), which includes some scenes of biological warfare.

[xxviii] This tale has been translated into English and published in Cosmos latinos (2006: 48-51).

[xxix] Bajo la la inspiración de Erewhon: or, Over the Range (1872), novela precursora de S. Butler, se describe una ciudad deshabitada y controlada por máquinas pensantes; la denuncia del mundo mecanizado, inhumano y fantasmagórico de Mecanópolis encaja perfectamente con las tendencias antiindustrialistas de su autor (Santiáñez-Tio 1995: 24).

[xxx] La tradición inglesa del proyectismo social de Tomás Moro y a la del humorismo de Swift. Wells es, a la vez, un conciudadano de Utopia y de Liliput (Alomar 1921).

[xxxi] arte trascendental (ibidem).

Laboratório de Estudos em Ficção Científica Audiovisual