The answers to these questions lie in the origins of science fiction itself. Find the first examples of science fiction, locate the women appearing in them and see if they are worthy of the "babe" title. Sounds simple doesn't it?
I could discuss the origins of science fiction all day long. Whilst it is not really the intention of this web site to answer that particular debate (we are interested in the babes here), and whilst it is true that we will certainly savour the genre itself along the way, I have decided to take up this particular challenge, briefly, and you can see a summarised history in the column on the right.
However, from the point of view of scifibabes.co.uk, science fiction began in the late 19th century, when the Novels of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were being published. I will focus on film for now as this is the main medium and hope to include other media later.
One of the reasons I decided to write this section was because there is a sincere lack of history on the sci-fi babe. One exception is a good starting article by Flixter, entitled "Science fiction babes through time". It is, however, just that - a starting point. The article starts in the 1950s, and lists a maximum of a dozen babes per decade. Critically, it features images of the actresses and not the science fiction characters they are portraying, so for example we see Kirsty Alley as herself and not as the character Saavik. Worth visiting, though...
An improvement on this is made by Jessica Abs, who has produced a web site that includes the "100 sexiest women in sci-fi" and makes a superb attempt. The vast majority of the images are indeed of the characters themselves, not simply the sexiest image of the actress outside of the context of the genre, and the criteria set out at the start is clear-cut. The whole site is very well researched and the images are well worth looking at. A fantastic site! Not a lot of history, though, as most of the babes are from the modern era.
John has made a good attempt to go back in history in "Sci-Fi's most beautiful stars". On this site he does list babes from 1933 to 2008 so he deserves credit for delving into the sci-fi babes history. One problem is that many of the choices don't really fulfill the genre criteria, which John does himself acknowledge in his introduction, and he does include fantasy films in the genre. This is particularly relevant for the earlier years where there is a tendency to include characters from horror or fantasy to make up the numbers because sci-fi was in its infancy. It's a difficulty I had myself, but I think I've managed to get around it by establishing stringent criteria from the start. Not bad, though and worth a look at even if just to stimulate discussion about exactly what makes a sci-fi babe. I am indebted to John for identifying some films that the wiki list missed and hence adding to the list of babes.
So who was the first sci-fi babe?
Depending on your point of view, film was pioneered by either Thomas Edison, in 1891, who made and showed the first "moving picture", or it was the Lumière brothers who brought it to the "masses". Either way, it was in the late 1800s when film began to be made and shown.
The first recognised Sci-fi film of any length, Le voyage dans la lune, which was shown in 1902, included a bevy of beauties from the chorus girls of the Folies Bergères. Anyone of those could have been the first sci-fi babe. But they were only on hand to decorate the sets and represented stars and planets, rather than specific characters, unless you want to include "the lovely vision of Venus on a crescent" or a couple of "charming young girls holding up a star"? Here are some of the Folies, who came to the astronauts in a dream...
Georges Méliès, who made over 500 films and was undoubtedly the pioneer of sci-fi films, followed this up with a number of science fiction films in the next few years but with no noticeable female character to speak of.
In 1916, George adapted the Jules Verne Novel and made 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea . Jane Gail starred as the wild woman abandoned on an island as a child and was certainly a starring character. You don't get to see much of her as her hair covers her face most of the time, but its fair to say she didn't, and won't, win any beauty prizes, and certainly not the coveted prize of first babe of sci-fi.
Staying in France for a while longer (the land of the Lumière brothers), René Clair made the 1925 film Paris Qui Dort about a scientist who invents a ray gun that makes you fall asleep. Everyone except the watchman at the Eifel tower and a small group of air passengers, that is. This group included a female passenger, Hesta, played by Madeleine Rodrigue who, for a short time at least, became the only available woman in the world. This image taken from the film is actually very flattering to the actress, but it does brighten up our pages...
A genuine contender then?
But wait, who would believe that in 2006, a long-lost missing sci-fi film would be found...in Denmark? The film in question is Himmelskibet, a Science fiction film made originally in 1918 and restored to a very fine quality. You can see some of the restored work here. The film is set on Mars and the babe in question is the Martian leader's daughter, Marya, played by Swede Lilly Jacobsson.
Perhaps the most iconic science fiction film pre-1930 and possibly the most iconic female in early science fiction was Fritz Lang's Maria, who featured in Metropolis in 1927. Maria appeared in two forms and was played by German actress Brigitte Helm. Now we need to be sure that we are talking about the robot version of Maria and not the human character. The character certainly fulfills my criteria of a sci-fi babe (see my blog), even as a robot.
There is another candidate worthy of a challenge and she can be found in another of Lang's films, Frau im Mond (1929), or "Girl in the Moon" as it was known in America and the UK. Whilst Metropolis earns the greater recognition, this lesser-known film featured a very pretty actress, Gerda Maurus, who played Friede Velten.
But Metropolis was screened 2 years earlier than that...
Now, there was a film made in 1925, called Lost World, from the story by Arthur Conan-Doyle. In it starred a lovely actress called Bessie Love, who has made over 100 films, and she played the newspaper magnate's daughter, Paula White.
Notwithstanding the look of the era, the character herself is a bit drab and I wouldn't classify Paula as a babe. Watch the film though, it's a remarkable movie considering it was made in 1925 and the audiences at the time must have found it quite exceptional.
So, who was the first sci-fi babe?
Now that depends on your point of view. I've said in my blog that being a "babe" requires certain qualities. One of these is to be visually stunning. It's fair to say that stunning babes in film were thinly distributed prior to the sexual emancipation of women in the 1960s and weren't exactly portrayed as sexy or erotic, so we do need to take context into account.
But, for me, the first sci-fi babe was the robot Maria, from Metropolis. My main reason for this is that she is "deliberately" designed to be sexy rather than just appealing, as the other candidates are. She has all the bumps and curves in the right place and a wide-eyed facial symmetry that pulls at the primeval strings...
Before I finish, one of my biggest criticisms of some babe web sites is the fact that either the author or the readers (sometimes both) miss a very important point when it comes to celebrating sci-fi babes. In ranking them, or including or omitting some, much argument follows. Sometimes it is intelligent and sensible, but often the reaction is personal, to say the least, and can even be offensive. I am planning to include polls on this site in the future, but initially I won't rank the babes until I can find a way of keeping this site friendly, and I will establish strict criteria for any decision-making on my part. There will, however, always be the caveat, "in my opinion", and I would like readers to respect a basic tenet of this site, that...
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"
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>>On to Sci-fi babes of the 1930s