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SF Subgenre Guides
Lost Worlds Science Fiction
What is Lost Worlds Science Fiction?
Lost Worlds Science Fiction are stories of adventure with voyages to lost worlds (islands, continents, jungles, and even races). The voyage results in discovery of wonders like dinosaurs or ancient/advanced technologies.
Atlantis is a lost world, Middle-earth is an imaginary world. A lost world exists in an inaccessible place and usually contains a population that has long been isolated from our world. Lost worlds are different than imaginary worlds, which do not have a connection to history or geography.
The Lost Worlds sub-genre is a successor to the Fantastic Voyages sub-genre that was popular in the 18th century. Fantastic Voyages were written in a world that was still being explored, stories of Lost Worlds are written when geographical unknowns are few. In addition, new sciences of geology, anthropology, and archaeology influence the stories of Lost Worlds. As such, Lost Worlds has greater scientific content. The natural successor to the Lost Worlds genre is the Planetary Romance genre, which is what happens when you run out of reasonable "lost worlds" on planet earth and move to the vastness of space.
Hollow Earth is a notable branch of the Lost Worlds sub-genre that postulate isolated places in hollow interior spaces within the Earth, where life can thrive. These Lost World stories are based on a pseudo-geology rather than real science. A Lost Worlds story is one of the exploration and discovery of a lost world--a story of wish fulfillment.
This is a genre that often ties closely to the Fantasy genre, the fantasy equivalent being a lost landscape that lies across the ocean or beyond some impassible landscape feature (jungles, mountains, icelands) and feature strange peoples, races, and magic that's not present on the "known world." The science fiction equivalent is similar, just take out the magic and replace it with advanced technology or remove it entirely and create a per-historic untouched civilization.
You can view the crowd-ranked "Popular" Lost Worlds Science Fiction Books list and vote and/submit entries to it.
Other Features of Lost Worlds Science Fiction
- Level of Real Science
Low. While science may be key to discovering a lost world or while the science and technology found in a lost world may be superior to our own, it is not realistic.
- Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications
Moderate. Encountering a world that has evolved in isolation from our own is a possibility that opens the door for exploring great social and philosophical ideas. Not all Lost World stories take full advantage of the opportunity and offer only cursory commentary on the differences between the lost world and our own.
- Level of Characterization
Moderate. There are stock characters in Lost Worlds Sci Fi--the hero, the beautiful princess.
- Level of Plot Complexity
Moderate. Plot is of great importance to Lost Worlds Sci Fi because stories of discovery require a strong sequence of events. However, these plots are not inventive and are relatively predictable.
- Level of Violence
PG. There is violence in Lost World stories such as encounters with monsters or the hero defending a beautiful princess. Violence, however, is not graphic and tends to be a plot device rather than a focus.
Related Science Fiction subgenres
Lost Worlds isn't for you if...
If you don't like dinosaurs in your Sci Fi. If you prefer Sci Fi that incorporates more hard sciences and less wish fulfillment.
- 1 Journey to the Centre of the Earth
By Jules Verne. An adventure to the centre of the Earth via a volcano and is the first work to incorporate prehistoric animals into a story.
- 2 A Princess of Mars
By Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs takes the pulpy tropes of Lost Worlds and transports them to Mars.
- 3 The Lost World
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A classic example, this novel introduces dinosaurs to the sub-genre.
- 4 Dragonrider series
By Anne McCaffrey. This series takes place on planet Pern, which was colonized by a future Earth and then forgotten.
- 5 Lost Horizon
By James Hilton. A popular success, this novel has philosophical and social commentary and idealized the lost world as a paradise.
- 6 Star Born
By Andre Norton. In this sequel to The Stars are Ours, a world previously colonized by humans is discovered.
- 7 She
By H. Rider Haggard A pioneering work in the Lost Worlds genre, this novel is the story of two men who journey to a legendary lost city. Ideas of imperialism, archaeology, and gender roles are explored. This novel introduces the motif of the beautiful queen who seduces the hero.
- 8 The Bridge of Light
By A. Hyatt Verrill. A precursor to Indian Jones, the plot of this novel is a search for a lost city in South America.
- 9 The Greatest Adventure
By John Taine. An adventure story that starts with an intriguing fossil. A team of unexpected characters discover living dinosaurs in an isolated ecosystem in Antarctica.
- 10 The Land of the Changing Sun
By Will N. Harben. This novel is a classic example of a hollow Earth where the lost civilization is scientifically more advanced than our own.
- Congo (Michael Crichton)
- She (H. Rider Haggard)
- Star Born (Andre Norton)
- Dinosaur Summer (Greg Bear)
- Pym (Mat Johnson)
- Dinotopia (James Gurney)