THE SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE ROLE PLAYING GAME
RULES - SOURCES
By Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 2005, portions Copyright © 1993-2002
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The first release of these rules was originally converted to HTML by Stefan Matthias Aust, to whom many thanks.
This copy of the rules has been split into several separate files. A version consisting of a single large file is also provided. These documents should be accompanied by several files including larger versions of the game tables and a short summary of the main rules for the use of players.
Recommended Reading (Non-Fiction)
- Brian Aldiss & David Wingrove: Trillion Year Spree 
An excellent history of SF, focused primarily on origins and early work in the genre. A previous version (Billion Year Spree , by Aldiss only) contains most of the same material on early SF and scientific romances; the revisions were mostly concerned with improved coverage of modern SF.
- Brian Aldiss (ed): Science Fiction Art 
A good large-format collection of SF art from the late nineteenth and twentieth century,
very useful for "futuristic" machines and cities.
- Kingsley Amis: New Maps Of Hell 
An excellent source on early science fiction. Currently out of print.
- Reyner Banham: Megastructure - Urban Futures Of The Recent Past 
- Felix Barker & Ralph Hyde: London As It Might Have Been [1982, 1995]
Two interesting books on architecture. The first discusses a dream of of the sixties and seventies; multi-function "super-buildings" used for work and leisure, which have some potential for expansion and incorporate transportation systems. The examples begin with medieval bridges and Victorian piers, leading on to complexes that would span most of North America. A must if you are thinking of designing a city of the future as it was once imagined. The second book focuses on London, and a range of proposed architectural and engineering projects that never came to fruition, featuring such wonders as monorails over Regent Street, mausoleum pyramids in North London, and dirigible mooring towers almost everywhere. Reprinted 1995.
- I.F.Clarke: Voices Prophesying War 
Study of future war stories, from the eighteenth century to the present day.
- John Clute & Peter Nicholls: The Enclopaedia of Science Fiction 
- John Clute & John Grant: The Enclopaedia of Fantasy 
The Orbit second edition of the SF encyclopaedia (1400 pages, also available on Grolier CD-ROM) is expensive, but an excellent source for information on scientific romances. Its section on games was largely written by me; just don't believe anything said about me in the list of contributors! The first edition  can occasionally be found second hand, but is not as useful. The Fantasy Encyclopaedia is also extremely useful, and again contains a games section by me.
SFView, a computer program from Ansible Information, is a Windows add-on for the Grolier version of the SF Encyclopaedia (now published by Focus Multimedia, and available as a bundle with SFView from Ansible Information) which gives it a greatly improved user interface, fixes numerous errors that were added by Grolier, and updates it as new information becomes available. A Macintosh version is not available.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
The 1911 edition is often considered to be one of the definitive references for this period. It's on line at https://1911encyclopedia.org/ but there still seem to be many OCR errors, especially in the more obscure entries which are unfortunately often the most usful.
- Chris Morgan: The Shape Of Futures Past 
A scholastic study of speculative fiction from 1800 to 1945.
- Jess Nevins: The Encyclopaedia of Fantastic Victoriana 
An exhaustively comprehensive reference for Victorian fantasy and SF characters and settings.
- David Pringle: Imaginary People [1987, revised 1989]
An interesting but occasionally infuriating study of the career of fictional characters in a wide variety of genres.
- David Seed (ed): Anticipations: Essays On Early Science Fiction And Its Precursors 
This collection is published by Liverpool University, and is probably most useful for readers with a serious academic interest in the roots of science fiction, and the convergence of several forms of fiction in the modern genre.
- Brian M. Stableford: Scientific Romance In Britain 1890-1950 
A study of this genre and the features which distinguish it from Science Fiction, which may sometimes be somewhat blurred in the Forgotten Futures game.
- Leonard De Vries: Victorian Inventions 
A coffee-table book of ingenious Victorian gadgetry, from airships to theatrical illusions. Profusely illustrated, highly recommended.
Recommended Reading (Fiction)
This is a necessarily brief listing which can only cover a few personal favourites from hundreds of relevant stories and novels. It includes authentic scientific romances, and a good deal of modern SF and general fiction which relates to the field, or seems to derive style from it.
- Stephen Baxter: Anti-Ice 
A modern "steampunk" novel set in a world where Britain controls a strange form of power which can drive mighty machines or destroy a city. The story begins with the destruction of Sebastapol, during the Crimean war, and includes a trip to the moon, encounters with the forces of Anarchy, and nuclear terrorism.
- Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships 
The only authorised sequel to Wells' "The Time Machine", taking in several alternate universes and some extremely wide-ranging physics. Like any work derived from Wells, it is often gloomy but well worth reading.
- John Brunner (ed): Kipling's Science Fiction 
A useful collection, including the A.B.C. stories featured in the first Forgotten Futures compilation (but not the accompanying poetry or advertisements from With The Night Mail). A companion volume covers fantasy.
- Karel Capek: R.U.R. (play) [1920, trans 1923]
Humanoid robots (literally "workers") are created, but eventually rebel and destroy the human race. One of the first depictions of robots (actually androids, chemically synthesised human replicants) and the consequences of their mass-production. Capek's novel "War With The Newts"  tackles similar issues.
- G.K. Chesterton: The Napoleon Of Notting Hill 
A future Britain split into tiny warring nations.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Lost World 
The Poison Belt 
The Disintegration Machine 
When The World Screamed 
The Horror Of The Heights 
Four of the Professor Challenger stories, plus a notable story of monsters in the stratosphere. A fifth Challenger story, The Land Of Mist , is possibly Doyle's worst novel and recommended only to fanatic completists. The five have been collected in one volume. Forgotten Futures III includes all six of these stories. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories are essential reading for background detail and characterisation.
- E.M. Forster: The Machine Stops 
The collapse of an over-mechanised Utopia.
- George MacDonald Fraser: Flashman (& sequels, various dates)
The exploits of Flashman, the villain of the novel "Tom Brown's Schooldays", a coward who receives the Victoria Cross (V.C.) and becomes one of Britain's most respected soldiers. Although recently written, they are highly recommended for research into Victorian period detail and descriptions of the attitudes and notables of the era.
- William Gibson & Bruce Sterling: The Difference Engine 
A modern novel exploring an alternative 19th century in which there was a Radical revolution, information technology arrived early, and "our lady of the engines" (Ada Lovelace, a mathematical genius and associate of Babbage) is creating the first artificial intelligence.
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland 
A radical feminist Utopia based on parthenogenetic reproduction. Probably only available as an electronic text released by Project Gutenberg.
- Colin Greenland: Harm's Way 
An excellent modern recreation of a scientific romance in the style of Dickens and Jane Austen. Featuring clipper ships sailing to Mars and Venus, iron moons, angels, and mysterious assassins. Highly recommended.
- George Griffith: A Honeymoon In Space 
An interplanetary adventure, originally published as a series of short stories in 1900, which seems to have influenced a surprising amount of early SF. The hero, his bride, and dour engineer Murgatroyd set off for a honeymoon cruise in space, visiting various worlds and meeting hostile and friendly aliens. Echoes of these stories can be found in space operas and stories by many authors including E.E. "Doc" Smith, Ray Bradbury, John W. Campbell, and C.S. Lewis.
The story cycle is the background for the second Forgotten Futures Collection, 'The Log Of The Astronef', which includes all six.
- Harry Harrison: A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! 
Can George Washington, descendant of the famous traitor, complete the tunnel that will link Britain to her American colonies? Who is trying to sabotage the work? Will Washington reach England in time to join the first train through the tunnel? These and many other questions are answered in a wonderful evocation of the Victorian adventure novel, set in a world where America lost the War of Independence. Also known as "Tunnel Through The Deeps".
- William Hope Hodgson: Carnacki The Ghost-Finder 
An excellent collection of period stories featuring a scientific psychic detective and his brushes with real and faked supernatural events. All stories are included in the fourth Forgotten Futures collection.
- Aldous Huxley: Brave New World 
The classic novel of genetic manipulation and thought control.
- Rudyard Kipling: Actions And Reactions 
A Diversity of Creatures 
Two excellent collections, which between them contain the A.B.C. stories and some of Kipling's best writing. See Forgotten Futures I for these stories and MUCH more on Kipling.
- C.S. Lewis: Out of the Silent Planet 
Perelandra (aka "Voyage To Venus") 
That Hideous Strength 
This trilogy is probably best described as ANTI-Scientific Romance, but still includes some powerful writing and vivid descriptions of excellent aliens.
- Peter Martin: Summer In 3000 
An interesting example of a socialist Utopia, whose science is based largely on bioengineered plastics and gene modification, drawn into conflict with a horrific religio-fascist USA. Long out of print and very difficult to find; a little too inclined to lecture its readers.
- Michael Moorcock: The Warlord Of The Air 
The Land Leviathan 
The Steel Tsar 
(Collected in one volume as The Nomad Of Time )
The "Oswald Bastable" stories; the narrator literally walks into alternate worlds, derived in part from the work of Wells and Kipling. Very highly recommended.
- Kim Newman: Famous Monsters (story) 
Modern homage to H.G. Wells, in which one of the tentacled survivors of the War of the Worlds takes up a career in B-movies. A collection with this title, published in 1994, is also recommended.
- Kim Newman: Anno Dracula 
The Bloody Red Baron 
Dracula infects Queen Victoria with vampirism, and becomes her consort and ruler of Britain... Suddenly vampirism is the height of fashion, but a desperate resistance organisation has a cunning plan. Modern, not really a scientific romance, but fun and useful for details of personalities (real and fictional) of the late nineteenth century.
The Bloody Red Baron takes the story on to the first world war, with the deposed Dracula now working for the Kaiser; most of the flying aces on both sides are now vampires, and some don't need aircraft any more...
- Christopher Priest: The Space Machine 
The Prestige 
The first is a light-hearted romp based loosely on H.G. Wells' fiction, in the style of a scientific romance. The second is a serious novel about Victorian magicians, including some excellent weird science.
- William Rushton: Dr. W.G. Grace's Last Case 
Another (very) light-hearted Victorian romp. After the War of the Worlds, Dr. Watson and Dr. W.G. Grace (the World's Greatest Cricketer and all-England croquet champion) team up to solve a murder, and stumble across a diabolical plan to destroy the human race. With guest appearances by Dr. Jekyll, Moriarty, Queen Victoria, A.J. Raffles, Buffalo Bill, Picasso, and many others. Not recommended as a source, unless you want to get VERY silly, but LOTS of fun!
- A. Kingsley Russell (ed): The Rivals of H.G. Wells 
Anthology of late Victorian and early Edwardian short fiction by a variety of authors, reproduced (with illustrations) from British magazines of the period. Includes work by George Griffith, Jack London, Fred M. White, and others, and several examples of the ever-popular British catastrophe story, in which London is destroyed by gas explosion, flood, ice, fire, and volcano.
- George Bernard Shaw: Back To Methuselah 
Play studying the consequences of immortality.
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein 
Despite its early date, this novel is a fascinating discussion of scientific responsibility and morality.
- Olaf Stapledon: Last And First Men 
A panoramic history of the future, extending from the 1930s to the death of the solar system.
- Olaf Stapledon: Odd John 
The first is based on the evolution of a mental superman, and the consequences of his attempts to found a new civilisation. The second deals with the creation of dogs with human intelligence.
- Jules Verne: From The Earth To The Moon 
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth 
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea 
Master Of The World 
Despite appallingly bad translations, and some occasional lapses in science which are primarily translation errors, all of these stories are scientific romances at their best.
A recent discovery, Paris In The Twentieth Century, may also be useful.
- Thea Von Harbou: Metropolis 
The book of the film; Von Harbou was Fritz Lang's wife and co-author of the script. There are many other adaptations of this story and its setting, including an graphic novel; Superman's Metropolis 
- Edgar Wallace: The Four Just Men 
Not a scientific romance, but an excellent turn of the century thriller with some interesting sidelights on British attitudes to foreigners. The later sequels are less useful.
- H.G. Wells: When The Sleeper Wakes 
The War Of The Worlds 
The First Men In The Moon 
The Time Machine 
Mankind under the rule of immensely rich capitalists, the classic novel of alien invasion, and two definitive journeys, whose impact on science fiction can't be overestimated.
- John Wyndham: The Day Of The Triffids 
The Kraken Wakes 
Trouble With Lichen 
Three rather late scientific romances; two catastrophe stories (always a popular theme with British authors) and a novel about the discovery of immortality.
- Yevgeny Zamiatin: We 
Life in a world socialist state where personal names and the word "I" are forbidden.
Another brief listing of a few personal favourites:
- The First Men In The Moon 
Professor Cavor's antigravity ship flies to the Moon, where Selenites are preparing to invade Earth. Wells played somewhat for laughs, but still an interesting adaptation of an important work. Special effects are poor by today's standards.
- Just Imagine 
A man from the thirties is transported to 1980s New York, and can't cope with the changes. A musical, notable for lavish sets but poor dialogue and acting.
- The Lost World 
One of several adaptations of the Conan Doyle classic, featuring Ray Harryhausen's early stop-frame model animation and effects, including a Brontosaurus loose in London. Silent, but better than the subsequent remakes.
- Jules Verne's Rocket To The Moon 
A dire comedy version of From The Earth To The Moon, from the same team as The First Men In The Moon, it nevertheless has some nice Victorian high-tech devices, but unfortunately never gets into space.
- Metropolis 
Workers in a hellish underground complex provide luxuries for the rich bosses, who panic when they see signs of revolt. An important precursor of many later films including Bladerunner.
- The Time Machine 
Reasonably faithful enactment of Wells' classic story, let down by wooden acting.
- Things To Come 
World War 2 lasts from the thirties to the sixties, ending in the formation of a world government run by scientists. Biased heavily towards Wells' notions of politics and history.
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 
Despite occasional lapses into silliness this is a reasonably evocation of the comic and of the "kitchen sink" approach to steampunk; pile in every character and device and hope that the end result is fun. It works very well in the comic, not quite so well in the film but it's still worth watching.
- Van Helsing 
Like The League... above this film uses the "pile it high" approach to the late 19th century, this time for horror rather than science fiction. The plot is often desperately silly but it has some good moments, most notably when trying to evoke the old RKO movies it emulates.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow 
An excellent evocation of the magazine serial combined with 1930s-1950s pulp SF. Most scenes seem to be based on magazine covers of the period, with a "gosh wow" factor that makes up for occasional wooden acting.
Numerous other comics have attempted an evocation of the style of the scientific romance, but most have failed dismally.
- Brian Augustyn: Gotham By Gaslight 
Master of the Future 
Two 'graphic novels' starring Batman, set against a Victorian background. Some interesting characterisation can be found in both stories; the first pits a Victorian version of Batman against Jack The Ripper, the second against a villain straight from the pages of Jules Verne. Period detail is excellent. The 'Elseworlds' series from DC has included several other stories with Victorian or Edwardian settings; the above are particularly good examples. For a profoundly silly take on Victorian detectives see the L.E.G.I.O.N. 007 annual , also part of this series.
- Grant Morrison: Sebastian O 
A 3-issue series in which the Victorian era acquired television and computers somewhat early, with unfortunate results. Extremely violent, not always faithful to the era, but good for imagery and costuming.
- Bryan Talbot: The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright [197?-89]
Published in several different formats over this period, this is (usually) a 9-part story of inter-dimensional warfare. Several sections are set in a world with quasi-Victorian technology. Highly recommended.
- Alan Moore: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen [2000-2004]
Two short magazine serials about The League, an organisation of adventurers including Captain Nemo, Alan Quartermain, The Invisible Man and others. The first series pits them against Dr. Fu Manchu, the second against the Martians of The War of the Worlds. It's possibly the best evocation of the "kitchen sink" approach to steampunk; pile in every character and device and hope that the end result is fun. Every scene includes a few references to other stories, from Dickens to Wells, and spotting them is immense fun. It works very well indeed.
Replica and reprinted maps are wonderful props for any game, and a useful starting point for "future cities" as they were imagined around the turn of the century. It should be possible to obtain them for most areas; the examples that follow are useful for a British campaign.
- Alan Godfrey Maps, 57-58 Spoor St., Dunston, Gateshead, NE11 9BD, Britain
The "Godfrey Edition" of 15"/mile (1/4224) scale Ordnance Survey maps are photographically reduced from late 19th and early 20th century 25"/mile originals. They give very clear coverage of London, and partial coverage of many other areas of Britain, adding a history of each area and other useful data on the back. Map details include individual houses, footpaths, tram lines, and so forth. London alone needs more than a hundred sheets, each showing an area of roughly 1.5 square miles, for full coverage, but most campaigns will only need a few key areas. 7 or 8 new maps are published every month. Particularly recommended:
The range includes some 36"/Mile (1/1760) scale plans of especially important sites, such as the Tower of London and Dublin Castle. A catalogue is available by post.
- 63(11) - Whitechapel 1893 - A must for any campaign with echoes of Jack the Ripper.
- K710 - Crystal Palace 1871 - A marvel of Victorian engineering, including a history of what was once Britain's largest exhibition site plus plans and pictures of its interior.
- David & Charles, Brunel House, Newton Abbot, Devon, Britain
This company reproduces 1"/1 mile scale maps (1/63360 scale) from 19th-century originals. They cover large areas, but this scale is too small to show much detail, and clarity is poorer than the Godfrey maps. London is mostly on sheet 72, with outlying areas on sheets 71, 79, and 80. No catalogue available. Current prices, mail order & foreign details not known.
- Small-scale Victorian maps of London can also be found in:
Chaosium also publish maps of 1920s America and the imaginary towns of Arkham and Innsmouth for the Call of Cthulhu game.
- Cthulhu By Gaslight (Chaosium Inc.)
- GURPS Horror (Steve Jackson Games)
- Masque of the Red Death (TSR)
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Revised and converted to HTML 23/4/98, Revised and updated 1/2005 - If you have any queries or comments on these rules please contact the author.