Science fiction did not exist until 1929. There were, of course, plenty of novels and stories to which the term would be retrospectively applied – the scientific romances of H G Wells in England, some of Jules Verne's voyages extraordinaires in France and many of the tales by Edgar Allan Poe in America – but the term itself had yet to be used. The story of how the genre got its name begins in 1926 with Amazing Stories, the first of the pulp magazines specializing in what its founder and editor Hugo Gernsback called scientifiction. Stories by Wells, Verne and Poe regularly appeared in Amazing but scientifiction was a mouthful, so when Gernsback launched a new magazine in 1929 he changed it to science fiction.

EDWIN A ABBOTT Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, 1987 Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A Abbott

First published 1884.

Published in Penguin Classic Science Fiction January 1987, with an introduction by Banesh Hoffmann.
* The cover illustration is unattributed.
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H G WELLS The First Men in the Moon, 1987 The First Men in the Moon by H G Wells

First published 1901.

Published in Penguin Classic Science Fiction January 1987.
* The cover illustration is unattributed.
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In 1930 another magazine Astounding Stories was launched under the editorship of Harry Bates, whose own Astounding story Farewell to the Master was turned into the classic sf movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. However, it was the appointment of John W Campbell Jr as editor in 1937 and a change of name to Astounding Science Fiction the following year that marked the beginning of the so-called 'golden age' of science fiction, with stories by a new generation of young writers such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Robert A Heinlein and Ray Bradbury.

JOSEPH O'NEILL Land Under England, 1987 Land Under England by Joseph O'Neill

First published 1935.

Published in Penguin Classic Science Fiction January 1987, with an introduction by Anthony Storr. The cover illustration is by Rodney Matthews.

Astounding's dominance in the 1940s was challenged by the launch of Galaxy Science Fiction in 1950 and in the years that followed both magazines began serializing novels prior to their publication in book form. Frank Herbert's The Dragon in the Sea, Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity, Eric Frank Russell's Three to Conquer, Harry Harrison's Deathworld and Cyril Judd's Gunner Cade were all serialized in Astounding, while Galaxy did the same with Drunkard's Walk by Frederik Pohl, The Space Merchants and Wolfbane by Pohl and Kornbluth, and Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man and Tiger! Tiger!.

PHILIP K DICK The Man in the High Castle, 1987 The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

Reissued in Penguin Classic Science Fiction March 1987 with a cover illustration
by Fred Gambino.
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OLAF STAPLEDON Last and First Men, 1987 Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon

Reissued in Penguin Classic Science Fiction March 1987 with a foreword by Brian Aldiss. The cover illustration is by Allan Craddock.
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This move away from short stories to novel-length fiction led to a resurgence of sf published in book form and a corres- ponding decline in the pulps, which are now remembered chiefly for their colourful, cartoonish cover art which typically depicted strange scenes from other worlds, or alien invaders wreaking havoc in this one. Rockets arcing through space were also common, as were technicolor visions of futuristic cities, home-grown mutants and super-sized creepy-crawlies.

H G WELLS Men Like Gods, 1987 Men Like Gods by H G Wells

First published 1923.

Published in Penguin Classic Science Fiction May 1987, with an introduction by George Hay. The cover illustration is by Stephen Crisp.
FRITZ LEIBER The Wanderer, 1987 The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber

Reissued in Penguin Classic Science Fiction May 1987 with a cover illustration
by John Avon.
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But the image that sums up the pulps best of all is that of a muscular all-action hero in a fish-bowl helmet, who arrives just in time to see off the monstrous jaws and claws that loom over a virginal young girl in a half-swoon and not much else. Brandishing a ray gun, he scoops the girl up, lases the tentacles off her bug-eyed assailant and thus puts an end to any further mischief. It is chivalry transported to a far-flung future, an sf-esque reworking of the knight in shining armour who leaps from his trusty steed (now a rocket in a rock-strewn crater), slays the dragon and saves the damsel in distress. Whether such interplanetary derring-do bore any relation to the magazine's contents was another matter.

RAY BRADBURY The Day it Rained Forever, 1987 The Day it Rained Forever by Ray Bradbury

Reissued in Penguin Classic Science Fiction October 1987 with a cover illustration
by Keith Scaife.
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When Penguin turned to pulp for the covers of its Classic Science Fiction series in 1987 it seemed the golden age of sf had returned. One of the first three titles was Edward Abbott's Flatland with a computer-generated graphic on the cover, though this was relatively restrained compared to the comic-strip facsimiles of pulp-inspired covers that followed, and a medley of red, white and yellow typography emblazoned across the covers in various shapes and sizes added further verisimilitude. Seen here, they barely look like books at all and could easily be mistaken for the magazines they mimicked. What gave them away was their size, though this had increased from the traditional A-format of 181 x 111 mm to the larger B-format of 198 x 129 mm that Penguin had first used in 1945 and reintroduced in 1980.

ALFRED BESTER Tiger! Tiger!, 1987 Tiger! Tiger! by Alfred Bester

Reissued in Penguin Classic Science Fiction November 1987 with a cover illustration
by Peter Jones.
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OLAF STAPLEDON Star Maker, 1988 Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

Reissued in Penguin Classic Science Fiction February 1988 with a cover illustration
by Danny Flynn.
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The series came with its own atom logo atom logo which streaked across the top of the front and back covers, leaving in its wake an incandescent afterglow and the series name ablaze in fiery colours. The atom also hovered at the top of the spine above the letters CSF, while the penguin was relegated to the base of the spine and a lower corner of the cover.

ALFRED BESTER The Demolished Man, 1988 The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

Reissued in Penguin Classic Science Fiction April 1988 with a cover illustration
by Peter Jones.
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PHILIP K DICK Time Out of Joint, 1988 Time Out of Joint by Philip K Dick

Reissued in Penguin Classic Science Fiction May 1988 with a cover illustration
by Tom Stimpson.
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The series was presumably intended to attract a younger audience, although this seemed at odds with the inclusion of more 'challenging' sf such as Stapledon's Last and First Men and Star Maker or Philip K Dick's The Man in the High Castle, and in truth the series appeared to be little more than repackaging for any sf title released at that time. As proof of this the reissue of Last and First Men still contained the foreword by Brian Aldiss for the edition that had launched the Penguin Science Fiction series in 1963. In fact, most of the books were reissues and the only new titles were the three that launched the series, plus Men Like Gods by H G Wells.

KEITH ROBERTS Kiteworld, 1988 Kiteworld by Keith Roberts

Eight linked stories first published together in 1985.

Published in Penguin Books 1986 and reissued in Penguin Classic Science Fiction May 1988, shown left, with a cover illustration by David O'Connor.

Kitemaster
Kitecadet
Kitemistress
Kitecaptain
Kiteservant
Kitewaif
Kitemariner
Kitekillers
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KEITH ROBERTS Pavane, 1988 Pavane by Keith Roberts

Six linked stories first published together in 1968 with a seventh story, The White Boat, added in later editions.

Published in King Penguin 1984 and reissued in Penguin Classic Science Fiction June 1988, shown left, with a cover illustration by David O'Connor.

The Lady Margaret
The Signaller
The White Boat
Brother John
Lords and Ladies
Corfe Gate
Coda
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Penguin's pulp revival proved to be short lived and the series fizzled out after fourteen titles, but its demise marked more than just the end of a series. Rumours that Penguin was axing its sf list had first circulated in 1980 and appeared to be confirmed by the departure that year of the company's sf editor Paul Sidey. The rumours came to nothing and the sf list continued for another eight years but was finally killed off when the Classic Science Fiction series was dropped.