Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was published in 1818 after much encouragement from her husband, Percy Shelley. Frankenstein, which follows the life of a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, is arguably the beginning of the science fiction genre in literature. As a combination of both Gothic and speculative fiction, Shelley's novel explores the darkness in human kind's scientific obsession and the egoism of man to believe that one day he can play God with nature. The Frankenstein of 1818 is a far cry from the film adaptations of the 20th and 21st centuries, nearly unrecognizable from the classic tale. The "monster" of Shelley's novel never receives a name - the title coming from the last name of the monster's creator. The story is about much more than a monster on a rampage. Rather, it focuses on the "what if" of bringing back the dead, creating new beings, and controlling the faculties of life itself.
On October 30th, 1938, Orson Welles read a live broadcast of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Although the details are a bit sketchy, this portrayal of literature on the radio is one of the most fun stories to tell about how science fiction rocked the early 20th century. It is the idea that the media could immerse us in literature to the point of becoming reality that interests us as scholars. Whether it really caused the uprising and panic that we love to tell young readers, it doesn't matter. Every one of us has wanted to feel the fantastic elements of literature come to life.
Other books by Wells to look at:
The Time Machine
The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Invisible Man
Jules Verne may be one of the biggest influences on the science fiction genre. He was a novelist, playwright, and poet. I'm not sure I can think of a single title he's written that hasn't become a movie adaption.
Books by Jules Verne:
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Around the World in Eighty Days