The role of fiction in both understanding and interpreting the world has recently become an increasingly important topic for many of the human sciences. This volume of Osiris focuses on the relationship between a particular genre of storytelling—science fiction (SF), told through a variety of media—and the history of science.
The protagonists of these two enterprises have a lot in common. Both SF and the history of science are oriented towards the (re)construction of unfamiliar worlds; both are fascinated by the ways in which natural and social systems interact; both are critically aware of the different ways in which the social (class, gender, race, sex, species) has inflected the experience of the scientific. Taking a global approach, Presenting Futures Past examines the ways in which SF can be used to investigate the cultural status and authority afforded to science at different times and in different places. The essays consider the role played by SF in the history of specific scientific disciplines, topics, or cultures, as well as the ways in which it has helped to move scientific concepts, methodologies, and practices between wider cultural areas. Ultimately, Presenting Futures Past explores what SF can tell us about the histories of the future, how different communities have envisaged their futures, and how SF conveys the socioscientific claims of past presents.