The Ancient Age of Science Fiction

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The Ancient Age of Science Fiction




HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION
At this site, it seems only right to include all the history of science fiction as a thread; we begin, thus, here:
PREHISTORIC and ANCIENT TIMES:
Some might argue that science fiction storytelling has existed as long as storytelling itself - perhaps some paintings or drawings on cave walls WERE the earliest manifestations of science fiction literature (though I don't think any of those contained drawings of flying ships).
Atlantis City>
The Epic of Gilgamesh (2100 B.C.) is pointed to by many as perhaps the first sample of proto-sci-fi, as well as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, though these are also looked upon as myth-making, such as Greek & Norse mythology. Plato's descriptions of Atlantis would follow; he also wrote The Republic, where-in he imagined a future society. In the 2nd century A.D., a Greek satirist, Lucien of Samosata, wrote about space travel, including a tale of Ulysses going to the moon. Beowulf is another very early possible example. But many of these are ephemeral possibilities - religious in nature - and serve as merely a starting point.
___Plato> __Utopia>

The Renaissance produced a lot of thinkers, including in the area of speculative fiction. In 1516, Thomas More published his famous political work Utopia, describing an unknown island (this was soon after the discovery of America). There was an early fascination with the moon (our closest heavenly body, hanging over us perpetually) - Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto wrote an epic poem about it in 1532; Johannes Kepler, an astronomer, wrote the book Somnium and used scientific reasoning to imagine the trip; and there was also Francis Godwin's The Man in the Moone (1638) - this is regarded as the first science fiction tale written in English. The 2nd English SF writer was John Wilkins, brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell, also writing about the moon.

The famous Cyrano de Bergerac (he with the big nose) got into the act with his A Voyage to the Moon in 1657, followed two years later by a visit to the sun. In 1668, Margaret Cavendish, the first woman to get involved in SF writing (no, it wasn't Mary Shelley), published The Blazing World, involving utopia and out-of-body travel.

In 1694, Gabriel Daniel wrote the book A Voyage to the World of Cartesius, which may have been the first use of the term "space" as a reference to "outer space." In 1705, the Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe first attempted a story called Consolidator: or, Transactions from the World in the Moon.

<Jonathan Swift

In 1726, Jonathan Swift produced Gulliver's Travels, more of a political satire, yet with probable sci-fi elements. What is more astonishing is that Swift described two moons of Mars which were not discovered until 150 years later! Voltaire also took a stab at space travel in Micromégas (1752). The early 19th century is when sci-fi literature would begin to flower, when the future began to look as something truly wrought with change. In 1803, Erasmus Darwin wrote The Temple of Nature; in 1805, Jean-Baptiste de Grainville presented The Last Man; and, next year, William Burke produced
The Armed Briton.

Perhaps, in some alternate reality, Thomas Erskine's Armata: A Fragment, published in 1817, represents the true beginning of sci-fi literature (a year before Mary Shelley's novel). This may be the first version of a parallel (twin) Earth concept (a favorite of mine in science fiction). But, Erskine wrote nothing further in this genre and Shelley's work became the well-known starting point of science fiction as we now pretty much know it in books and cinema.

Shelley wrote about a mad scientist - his arrogant use of science in defiance of faith - and a thinking creature brought to life from dead tissue by scientific means, not magic. These themes continue in science fiction to this day.

BoG
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