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Dying Earth

Entry updated 17 September 2013. Tagged: Theme.

A not uncommon category of sf story which has now developed its own melancholy mythology. Since the Sun is invariably moribund if not extinguished, this could also be called the dying-sun theme. Jack Vance gave this Far Future subgenre its name in The Dying Earth (coll of linked stories 1950). Important precursors are the section of H G Wells's The Time Machine (1895) set in the very distant future, and William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land (1912), in which the Sun has actually gone out and humanity inhabits a vast Keep, the Last Redoubt. A famous Pulp-magazine sf treatment appears in John W Campbell Jr's linked stories "Twilight" (November 1934 Astounding) and "Night" (October 1935 Astounding), both as by Don A Stuart. The most significant inheritor of the tradition is Gene Wolfe in The Book of the New Sun (1980-1983 4vols); Paul Park's The Starbridge Chronicles, opening with Soldiers of Paradise (1987), transfers the dying-Earth ambience to another planet. Many authors homage the Vance sequence (often as Sequels by Other Hands) in Songs of the Dying Earth (anth 2009) edited by George R R Martin and Gardner Dozois. [JC/DRL]

see also: End of Time; Series.

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