I presume that the authors of such stories are, so to speak, Displaced Persons—commercial authors who did not really want to write science fiction at all, but who availed themselves of its popularity by giving a veneer of science fiction to their normal kind of work. A leap into the future, a rapid assumption of all the changes which are feigned to have occurred, is a legitimate 'machine' if it enables the author to develop a story of real value which could not have been told (or not so economically) in any other way.Thus John Collier in (1933) wants to write a story of heroic action among people themselves semi-barbarous but supported by the surviving tradition of a literate culture recently overthrown.Even if it is a vice to read science fiction, those who cannot understand the very temptation to that vice will not be likely to tell us anything of value about it.
Sometimes a village or small town which we have known all our lives becomes the scene of a murder, a novel, or a centenary, and then for a few months everyone knows its name and crowds go to visit it. I had been walking, and reading Trollope, for years when I found myself suddenly overtaken, as if by a wave from behind, by a boom in Trollope and a short-lived craze for what was called hiking.
And lately I have had the same sort of experience again.
In America whole magazines began to be exclusively devoted to them.
The execution was usually detestable; the conceptions, sometimes worthy of better treatment. Then, perhaps five or six years ago, the bulge still continuing and even increasing, there was an improvement: not that very bad stories ceased to be the majority, but that the good ones became better and more numerous.
He is not interested in the process whereby the change came about. This supposition is equivalent to the rules of his game: criticism applies only to the quality of his play. Nor do I see much use in discussing, as someone did, whether books that use it can be called 'novels' or not. You may define the novel either so as to exclude or so as to include them.
A much more frequent use of the leap into the future, in our time, is satiric or prophetic: the author criticizes tendencies in the present by imagining them carried out ('produced', as Euclid would say) to their logical limit. The best definition is that which proves itself most convenient.
He is therefore, on my view, fully justified in positing such a state of affairs in England after the destruction of our present civilization.
That enables him (and us) to assume a familiar climate, flora, and fauna.
I shall begin with that sub-species which I think radically bad, in order to get it out of our way.
In this sub-species the author leaps forward into an imagined future when planetary, sidereal, or even galactic travel has become common.