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Defoe, Daniel

(1660-1731) UK merchant, professional spy and man of letters born Daniel Foe, becoming Defoe in the 1690s after he began to write; the extremely prolific author of many works of various kinds under a variety of names (once estimated to exceed 200 in number), though the huge canon of unsigned and pseudonymous works once attributed to him has been convincingly diminished to somewhere slightly in excess of 300 titles in all. He is best known today for his novel The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner (1719) and its sequels [for fuller details, see Checklist], which, while not sf, provided a fundamental model for many sf stories (see Robinsonade). A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), in effect a historical novel set in 1665, a year Defoe could presumably barely remember, is a prototype of the Disaster novel. Some supernatural stories can be found in Tales of Piracy, Crime, and Ghosts (coll 1945), including a reprint of A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs Veal, the Next Day After her Death; to One Mrs Bargrave at Canterbury the 8th of September 1705 (1706 chap), which is in fact more reportage of a claimed sighting than an actual ghost story.

Of interest as an example of Proto SF is The Consolidator: Or, Memoirs of Sundry Transactions from the World in the Moon: Translated from the Lunar Language (1705) [for savagely cut editions under vts 1705 and later, see Checklist] as by The Author of the True-born English Man, the consolidator itself being a mechanical but feathered flying machine whose feathered wings are powered by a Machine fuelled by spirits (it is not entirely sure if angels or gin are the spirits in question); it is, in fact, an extremely early – perhaps the first – example of what would later be known as an Airship. Over and above the Consolidator, invented centuries earlier in China in consultation with the inhabitants of the Moon, Inventions proliferate; but they are universally introduced to make satirical points. The Moon itself is identical to Earth, though it does boast one device, a Cogitator which, when sat in, connects one's mind with clarity to the workings of the world, via a system of gears and springs. [JC/PN]

see also: Space Flight.

Daniel Defoe

born London: 13 September 1660

died London: 24 April 1731

works (selected)


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 04:25 am on 23 July 2024.