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Inner Space

Entry updated 14 March 2015. Tagged: Theme.

In sf Terminology, an antonym to "outer space". The term was probably first used in the sf field by Robert Bloch in a speech at the 1948 Worldcon, but was not widely disseminated at that time. However, in "They Come from Inner Space" (5 December 1953 The New Statesman) – an essay he later included in Thoughts in the Wilderness (coll 1957) – J B Priestley more conspicuously suggested that sf mistakenly substituted visions of Space Flight and far frontiers for inward contemplation:

"Behind all these topical tales, fables and legends, it seems to me, are deep feelings of anxiety, fear, and guilt. The Unconscious is protesting against the cheap conceit and false optimism of the conscious mind. Having ruined this planet, we take destruction to other planets. This very extension in space of our activities is desolating, at least to minds that are not entirely childish, because it is a move, undertaken in secret despair, in the wrong direction. We have to go somewhere, so we prefer superficially to think of ourselves travelling to the other side of the sun rather than sitting quietly at home and then moving inward, exploring ourselves, the hidden life of the psyche."

Whether J G Ballard's first use of the term in "Which Way to Inner Space?" (May 1962 New Worlds #118; in A User's Guide to the Millennium coll 1996) was a separate coining or reflected a memory of this essay, it is clear that he intended to designate something not dissimilar. It is also possible that he had read "Invasion from Inner Space" [in Star Science Fiction #6, anth 1959, ed Frederik Pohl] by Howard Koch, a story about sceptical Computers revolutionizing society, but this is obviously a rather different usage – as is the caption "Inner Space Invaded" which appears on the film poster for The Underwater City (1962), released 19 April 1962, where the reference is to the then barely explored realm Under the Sea.

The term soon became a commonplace, especially with reference to New-Wave writers who like Ballard came into prominence in the mid-1960s. [JC/DRL/PN]

see also: Dream Hacking; Great and Small; SF Music;.

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