The Origins of Science Fiction: A Brief History of Science Fiction before the Twentieth Century.
An old man discovers a baby the size of his thumb in a glowing stalk of bamboo, and the baby grows into a beautiful woman princess from the moon. The emperor of Japan falls in love with her, but the moon people come to take her away in a flying saucer. So goes a tenth-century Japanese fairy tale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, one of the earliest known examples of science fiction.
But can we call a fairy tale, "science fiction?" The experts don't agree. Many old stories feature the moon, other planets, and scientific advance but none call themselves science fiction. Instead, experts apply the term proto-science fiction to these historic works.
This book is a brief introduction to the genre. It provides the history of science fictions origins, and shows the culture that influenced the work.
More than an introduction, however, it is also an anthology of the work; not only do you get to read the history behind the work--you actually get to read the work.
Dozens of works are included in this large collection; authors and works include:
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
The Last Man
Edgar Allan Poe
The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfall
20,000 Leagues Under the Seas
Around the World in Eighty Days
From the Earth to the Moon
A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
The Mysterious Island
Dr. Heidenhoff's Process
The First Men in the Moon
The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance
The Island of Doctor Moreau
The Time Machine
The War of the Worlds
The World Set Free
While I'm sure all these SF classics are available for free around the web, it might be convenient to grab them all at once in this collection.
The Origins of Science Fiction