inner space n.

the human mind; the innermost parts of one’s psyche

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction credits Robert Bloch with coining this term in a speech at the 1948 Worldcon. The concept is largely associated with J. G. Ballard (see quot. 1962) and the British New Wave movement of the 1960s.

[after outer space]

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism

  • 1920 B. de Casseres In Fairyland of Hyperspace in N.Y. Times 14 Mar. 26/2 (heading) Benjamin DeCasseres

    [a review of The Mystery of Space (1919) by Robert T. Browne]
    Outer and Inner Space. ‘Let the consciousness, therefore, be turned not outward but inward...let there be an exploration of the abysmal deeps of mind, of life and consciousness; for buried deep in man’s own inner nature is the answer to all queries which may vex his impuissant intellectuality.’ Outer space is, then, finite, like the vision of the eye or the logical speculations of the brain.

  • 1953 J. B. Priestley in New Statesman 5 Dec. 712/1 (title)

    They come from inner space. [Ibid. 712/3] We have to go somewhere, so we prefer superficially to think of ourselves travelling to the other side of the sun rather than sitting quietly at home and then moving inward, exploring ourselves, the hidden life of the psyche.

  • 1962 J. G. Ballard Which Way to Inner Space? in New Worlds May 2 (title) J. G. Ballard bibliography

    Which way to inner space?… The biggest developments of the immediate future will take place, not on the Moon or Mars, but on Earth, and it is inner space, not outer, that needs to be explored.

  • 1967 T. M. Disch Camp Concentration in New Worlds Aug. 20/1 page image Thomas M. Disch bibliography

    The materialist scientist lacks this fundamental insight, and so his whole attention is directed to Outer Space, whereas an alchemist is always aware of the importance of teamwork between Body and Soul, and so he’s naturally more interested in Inner Space.

  • 1968 H. Harrison Future of the Future in Amazing Stories July 5/1 Harry Harrison bibliography

    I would like to suggest that ‘inner space’ can be translated as ‘subjective’ and is no more complex than that. Ballard is not the only one to write subjective science fiction.

  • 1983 R. Short Gospel from Outer Space iii. 31 bibliography

    The romantic idea of visiting the far reaches of outer space has been rudely sobered up by our seeming inability to deal effectively with the more mundane problems of human inner space.

  • 1988 S. Finch Berlitz in Outer Space in Amazing Stories May 55 page image Sheila Finch bibliography

    It may well become necessary in the next century to chemically alter the human perception of reality in order for a new way of seeing, the alien way, to be available to the xenolinguist. We may find that in order to get along in outer space we need to remember what we’ve learned about inner space.

  • 1999 R. J. Sawyer in Interzone (#149) Nov. 30/3 page image Robert J. Sawyer

    The best of Canadian sf is just as much about the interior lives of ordinary people as is the best of mainstream literature. Americans have a space programme, and so maybe it makes sense for them to explore outer space; we Canadians don’t, and so perhaps its [sic] natural that we’ve turned to inner space.

  • 2006 M. E. Papke A Space of Her Own in J. Larbalestier Daughters of Earth v. 145 Mary E. Papke bibliography

    It focuses not on outer space as much as it does inner space (notably, that of a woman).

Research requirements

antedating 1953

Research History
In 1971, in the introduction to his story "The Winter Flies" (in Damon Knight, "A Pocketful of Stars"), Fritz Leiber claimed that "inner space" was "an expression I was freely using in the late 1940s—see my prose poem 'Fantasy on the March'", but that work (in the "Arkham Sampler" for Spring 1948) does not use the term.

Last modified 2021-10-20 13:01:42
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.