“Weird and fantastic realism”:
Science and Stories in the Work of Grant Allen
Grant Allen (1848-1899) was a well-known populariser of natural history who was widely recognised for his extensive knowledge of science and his ability to refashion complex ideas for general audiences. But his status as a popular writer, coupled with a lack of formal training, placed him at the margins of professional science and impeded his serious scientific ambitions. Although Allen tended to portray fiction-writing as an economic necessity, both contemporary and recent critics have noted stylistic innovations that place him within germinal popular genres of the fin de siècle. This paper aims to show that Allen’s contributions to late-Victorian popular literature derive in part from his negotiation of fiction and non-fiction genres. Focusing particularly on his experiments with the short story, it considers how and to what extent he distinguished scientific from literary writing, while revealing his views on plausibility in fiction to be more complex than is typically recognised. Little-studied reviews of Allen’s popular fiction suggest the wider contemporary impact of his experimentations. That critics recognised his style as unconventional endorses a reappraisal of his place within developments in late-Victorian popular literature.
Science fiction; scientific romance; Grant Allen; short story; fin de siècle; H. G. Wells; Andrew Lang; Richard Jefferies; supernatural; science and imagination; John Tyndall; generic hybridity
Date of Acceptance: 5 July 2021
Date of Publication: 8 July 2021
Double Blind Peer Reviewed
Mills, Beth. 2021. “ ‘Weird and fantastic realism:’ Science and Stories in the Work of Grant Allen.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 3.1 (Spring): 140-154.