On Fringe

The Return of 1950s Science Fiction in Fringe

By Paul Levinson

“There is nothing new under the sun”–from Ecclesiastes 1:9–is as true for our sun as for any alien sun, any sun in an alternate reality or a parallel universe, or even for a world, if one could exist, with no sun at all. Which is to say, that statement is as true for science fiction and its wondrous worlds as it is for our own world and lives. This does not mean that everything is trite or clich©d. If done right, the old in a new package can be especially exciting precisely because it evokes echoes of what we know. This is the secret of Fringe, whose stories are a compendium of highlights from the golden age of science fiction in the 1950s and shortly after.

There are times in history when certain cultural forms reach new heights–the play in the Elizabethan age, the poem in the Romantic era, and Impressionism in music, painting, and poetry at the end of the nineteenth century. The 1950s were such a time for science fiction. Spurred by wonder, awe, and trepidation about what science could do–the splitting of the atom, the launch of rockets, the discovery of DNA–the world of readers and viewers was hungry for treatment of scientific miracles, real and imagined, in fiction. A bevy of great science-fiction writers responded–not just Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke (known as the big three), but Alfred Bester, Daniel Keyes, Rod Serling, and many others–and created what we now call the golden age  …

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