scientific romance n.

proto-science fiction written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (especially in Britain), exemplified by H.G. Wells; in later use, science fiction that is similar in style or approach; also, a work of this kind

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism


  • 1873 G. M. Towle tr. A. Marx Introduction in tr. J. Verne Tour of the World in Eighty Days 12

    The success of ‘Five Weeks in a Balloon’ induced him to turn his whole attention to scientific romance.

  • 1876 Easton Gazette 9 Dec. 2/4

    The wildest and most improbable of Jules Verne’s ‘Scientific Romances’ contains nothing more thrilling than an accident that has just occurred at Dunmore, one of the suburbs of this city, and the great shipping centre of the Pennsylvania Coal Company.

  • 1927 Amazing Stories Feb. 1076/1 (advt.) page image

    Scientific romances, mystery tales for sale.

  • 1947 J. O. Bailey Pilgrims Through Time & Space 318

    Whether scientific romances are considered art depends upon, first, the definition of art, and second, which of many romances are judged. If art is only the impassioned expression of powerful feeling, or if it is limited to the interpretation of mankind on the stage of the actual world, past or present, it does not include scientific fiction. But if art may include in its subject-matter the adventures of man’s mind, scientific fiction may be art whenever it is thoughtful and well written.

  • 1949 O. Welles Can Martian Help It If He's Colored Green? in Invasion from Mars 5

    Jules Verne, though not its founder, was perhaps its earliest best-known writer; H. G. Wells probably its most effective one, with such ‘scientific romances’ as The First Men in the Moon and The Invisible Man.

  • 1957 S. Moskowitz 1957 in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Feb. 66/1 Sam Moskowitz

    In England, Verne’s stories were dubbed SCIENTIFIC ROMANCES, and the term became so entrenched that when C. A. Hinton wrote a series of semi-fictional scientific speculations as to the nature of the fourth dimension and other imaginative subjects in 1888, they were published under the title of Scientific Romances.

  • 1973 B. Aldiss Billion Year Spree 10 Brian W. Aldiss

    The term ‘science fiction’ is a recent one. It was coined in the late 1920s as an improvement on the more ludicrous term ‘scientifiction’ long after the genre itself had come into being. It was then applied to crudely written stories appearing in various American magazines, of which Amazing Stories (1926 onwards) was the first. For more respectable forays into the same fields, the label ‘scientific romance’ was used.

  • 1985 B. N. Stableford Scientific Romance in Britain 1890–1950 3 Brian Stableford

    In view of this, the decision to use the old-fashioned and rather quaint term ‘scientific romance’ as a description may seem odd, but the reason for doing so is to make the point that the British tradition of speculative fiction developed during the period under consideration quite separately from the American tradition of science fiction, and can be contrasted with it in certain important ways.

  • 1985 B. N. Stableford Scientific Romance in Britain 1890–1950 8 Brian Stableford

    A scientific romance is a story which is built around something glimpsed through a window of possibility from which scientific discovery has drawn back the curtain.

  • 1985 B. N. Stableford Scientific Romance in Britain 1890–1950 9 Brian Stableford

    Scientific romance is the romance of the disenchanted universe: a universe in which new things can and must appear by virtue of the discoveries of scientists and the ingenuity of inventors, and a universe where alien places are populated according to the logic of the theory of evolution.

  • 1997 Science-Fiction Studies Mar. 144

    For the reader accustomed to the cinematic/pulp felicities of the traditional sf novel, the protagonist of a scientific romance will tend to seem passive and morose.

  • 1997 Science-Fiction Studies Mar. 143

    The last true survivor, Arthur C. Clarke, Clute treats with courtesy, because he belongs the [sic] Scientific Romance tradition; but even he has been corrupted by ‘the Chamber-of-Commerce consciousness of the otiose Gentry Lee’.

Research requirements

antedating 1873

Earliest cite

G. M. Towle translated by A. Marx, Introduction to "Tour of the World in Eighty Days"

Research History
Sarah Canfield Fuller submitted a 1985 cite from Brian Stableford's "Scientific Romance in Britain 1890-1950"; Stableford credits the book "Scientific Romances", by Charles Howard Hinton (1886) as the first usage of this term. We would like to obtain a citation from this work.

Fred Galvin submitted a 1949 cite from Orson Welles' "Invasion from Mars".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1957 cite from Sam Moskowitz's "How Science Fiction Got Its Name".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1975 reprint of Brian Aldiss' 1973 "Billion Year Spree".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1947 cite from J. O. Bailey's "Pilgrims Through Space and Time".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1950 cite from a review by Forrest J. Ackerman in Other Worlds Science Stories. The OED has a citation from a 1927 reprint of H. G. Wells's 1923 "Men Like Gods".
Bill Mullins submitted an 1876 from the Easton (Md.) Gazette.

In addition to antedatings, we would like cites from after 1957.

Added to the OED in September 2010, with an earliest cite of 1845 referring to a work of speculative science (in a review of Chambers' "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation") , and 1873 for a science fiction sense (from an introduction to a Jules Verne's "Tour of the World in Eighty Days")

Last modified 2020-12-16 04:08:47
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.