Science fiction literature has been termed as the narrative of modernity by the authors who worked in this genre at its onset during the 17th and 18th centuries. Literary greats such as Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Isaac Asimov imagined parallel universes, robots, and machines working for and against humans.

They also wrote about humans venturing to undiscovered places on Earth and in space. Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (1867) is about Professor Otto Lidenbroc, a geologist, who ventures within the Earth to find a new world. Another of Verne’s novels, From the Earth to the Moon (1865), discussed the journey of three men to the Moon. In 1872, Verne published Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, a story about Professor Pierre Aronnax, a French natural scientist, and his two colleagues, who hunt a sea creature. The creature turns out to be a futuristic submarine, Nautilus, captained by Captain Nemo.

During the 1800s, when man did not invent machines or cars, Vernes’ imagination led the readers into far-off locales. They were later deemed true as man invented machines that could dig underground, go deep into the ocean, or fly into space.

The Time Machine by H G Wells does not take the protagonist across places on Earth but through time. It was written in 1895—during an era when time travel was looked upon with wonder. Wells used the themes of society and class in the story. He showed that the class differences of his time have evolved as two classes of human species reside thousands hundreds of years into the future.

It was Well’s critique on the social structure of his era that also holds for most societies today. Wells’ novel, The War of the Worlds (1898), is a popular classic science fiction literature. The story discusses aliens from Mars invading Earth. It is seen as a critical take of the imperialist regime where the Western nations occupied third-world states for their gains.

Isaac Asimov’s The Foundation series is another literary classic. First published as a series of short stories in 1942–50, and later in three collections in 1951–53, for thirty years the series was a trilogy. The story revolves around the Galactic Empire—a regime in the future. The protagonist, Hari Seldon, a mathematician, develops a theory of psychohistory to predict the future of large populations. He envisions the fall of the Empire. The novel shares a unique theory that if the population acquires knowledge of its behaviour—that is predicted—its collective actions—that are self-aware—become unpredictable.

Indeed, the genre of science fiction is based on speculation or the author’s imagination and creativity. For instance, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818—where her character Victor Frankenstein creates a creature with dead body parts by using galvanism—which is the generation of electricity by chemical means discovered during the 1790s.

Authors of science fiction either show how humans use technology for space exploration or how technology reshapes the social structure. Authors extrapolate how society—real, parallel, utopian, or dystopian—will function when living in a techno-scientific advanced world, or if moral values and social ills of today are still present in the future when humans are living in an highly advanced, mechanised society.