The first science fiction story
August 13, 2020 4:43 AM   Subscribe

A True Story (Ἀληθῆ διηγήματα, Verae Historiae) is a novel written in the second century AD by Lucian of Samosata, a Greek-speaking author of Assyrian descent. The novel is a satire of outlandish tales which had been reported in ancient sources, particularly those which presented fantastic or mythical events as if they were true. It is Lucian's best-known work.
It is the earliest known work of fiction to include travel to outer space, alien lifeforms, and interplanetary warfare. As such, A True Story has been described as "the first known text that could be called science fiction".
posted by growabrain (7 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 4:46 AM on August 13, 2020

It is, of course, as all here, I deem, may heartily agree, the case that, mayhap, on the occasion where such need arises, it may serve as welcome respite to the Victorian academic's soul, to test to their very limit, and joyously so, the syntax of his [sic] mother tongue, and indeed, in equal measure, the very supply of commata as may be in store at their publishing house's printing shops.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 5:55 AM on August 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

Some of that artwork in the first link looks like it could have been pulled from an early D&D adventure.

Compare the fourth and fifth illustrations in the story with Old School D&D work by Trampier. The image of the giant spiders is especially resonant.
posted by darkstar at 8:35 AM on August 13, 2020

But also, I love this post! Everything after the introduction is really interesting. And, I just found out that in English, "commata" was apparently never in use as the "correct" (i.e. Greek) plural of comma... in German, using "Kommata" or "Lexika" etc. is an annoying and pretentiously old-fashioned thing to do, maybe like saying "stadia" in English. I'll see myself out now.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 9:04 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you take Cicero's dialogues as fictional, the Dream of Scipio happens in outer space, and it precedes Lucian by a few centuries.

Lucian is sort of amazing all round - his dialogues are hysterical sometimes, and he wrote one of few our texts on ancient dance. He is also half Syrian a thing he writes extensively about, even though in the period writers like him presented themselves as Greek through and through.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:22 AM on August 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Lucian also wrote an ethnographic description of the temple of Hierapolis in his native Syria, and just to show off, composed it in a parody of the old-fashioned Ionic style of Herodotus, which hadn't been in use for centuries. The Loeb Classical Library translator decided to capture this by rendering the whole thing in Elizabethan English: "In Surrye, not fer fro the Ryvere Eufrate, is a Cytee that Holy highte and holy is in sothe, for it is of Iuno Assurien. Yit I wene that the cyteene hadde not this name atte firste..."
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 5:50 PM on August 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

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