We’ve gone pretty far back in our Throwback Thursdays. We’ve looked back to the days of Jack London with ‘The Iron Heel‘, and squinted to Voltaire with his short story, ‘Micromegas‘. Break out the binoculars, because we’re going to see as far as 100 CE with Lucian’s ‘True History’.
There is actually quite a bit of debate amongst the science fiction academics as to whether or not ‘True History’ constitutes fantasy or science fiction. After all, it involves battles between the People of the Sun and the People of the Moon, and space spiders spinning webs between the two. Not to mention, the adventurers who witness said events ended up in space after their ship got blown off course right after going through the Straights of Gibraltar.
Not a lot of it screams science. Fiction, to be sure. But not science. But then again, you sort of have to place it in the context of what they knew at the time. For all they knew, there was indeed a place where the ocean met the stars, and that there is an intergalactic war between people who somehow breath on the moon, and people who somehow stay cool on the sun over who gets to colonize Venus, which has a poisonous atmosphere.
Though, most people hesitate to call it science fiction, not for the space spiders or the aliens that give birth from their calves, but because it was written as a satire. Lucian uses the tales of ‘True History’ to poke fun at all the texts of his day and age that spoke about mythical happenings as if they were truth. Essentially, he wasn’t intending to be write of a future he thought was possible, or worlds he thought may exist.
However, his satire is exactly what qualifies his story as science fiction. The greatest science fictions have always been the ones that comment on society in some way, often by using other worlds as a foil for ours. That is exactly what Lucian is doing when he creates his mini-space opera. He also explores themes that are often explored in science fiction, from galactic colonization (the moon and the sun are fighting over Venus), to artificial atmospheres, creatures that are manmade (which some say could follow along the lines of robot scifi), and aliens. It surprisingly runs the gamete of science fiction tropes.
If you’re interested in old science fiction, or just want to make a decision for yourself on whether or not ‘True History’ qualifies, you can read it here.