Was Voltaire the first Sci-Fi author?

Was Voltaire the first Sci Fi author

Ada Palmer is a professor of European history at the University of Chicago. Her four-book science fiction series, Unknown country, inspired by 18th century philosophers such as Voltaire and Diderot.

"I wanted to write a story that Voltaire could have written if Voltaire had been able to read the last 70 years of science fiction and have all those tools," Palmer says. stated in Episode 495 of the. Geek Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Palmer says that Voltaire may have been considered the first science fiction writer, thanks to a piece he wrote in 1752. “Voltaire has a short story called 'Micromégas,' in which a stranger from Saturn and an alien from a star near Sirius come to Earth, and they are very large, and they will study the Earth and have trouble finding life forms because for them is a whale "They will finally realize that that little piece of wood on the ground is a boat, and that it's full of living things, and they communicate. it's a first-rate story. ”

The book Mary Shelley 1818 Frankenstein often regarded as the first science-fiction novel. Voltaire was writing much earlier than Shelley, so does he deserve the title instead? It depends on your interpretation of science fiction.

“[‘Micromégas’] technology does not include, ”Palmer says,“ so if you define science fiction as being dependent on technology - and being around, in the Frankenstein awareness, 'Does human knowledge give us access to powers that are beyond our predecessors? What does that mean? '- he does not ask that. But monsters and the first communicator are key elements of science fiction. ”

So there is no clear answer to the question of who should be considered the first science-fiction writer. With a fairly clear definition of the term, even a 2nd century writer such as Lucian of Samosata could be a candidate. Ultimately, Palmer says it's more important to ask the question than to come up with any specific answer.

"I do not want to argue, 'Yes, of course, everyone's science fiction history should start with Voltaire,'" she said. “But I want to argue that everyone's science fiction history will be richer by considering whether Voltaire is the beginning of science fiction, or whether it is sooner or later. Because that begs the question what science fiction is. ”

Listen to the full interview with Ada Palmer in Episode 495 of Geek Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some of the highlights from the discussion below.

Ada Palmer on science fiction rituals:

The amazing thing about science fiction and fandom fantasy, unlike so many other literary genres, is that when you go to a conference, the author is not off in the green room and just emerges from from time to time for an event and then disappearing; the authors hang out in the halls, and you can chat with people, and get to know people through the internet. So I got to know a lot of authors from meeting them at rituals, and from being a panel before I was an author - because I was talking about music, or I was talking about history, or I was talking about anime and manga. and cosplay, which were all areas in which I worked. So I got to know people, and to be known by people, through the wonderful and often so supportive world.

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Ada Palmer on the Unknown country series:

This global network of flying cars is as fast as they can get you from anywhere on Earth to anywhere else on Earth in about two hours. So suddenly everywhere on Earth there is a travel distance to work. You can stay in the Bahamas and have a lunch meeting in Tokyo and eat at a restaurant in Paris, and your spouse - who also lives in the Bahamas - can have a lunch meeting in Toronto and one another in Antarctica, and this is very good. reasonable travel time, especially with self - driving vehicles that allow you to work while in the car. So once that's true for a generation or two, people don't live in a place because they have political connections to it, they live in a place because there's a big house there which their parents really enjoyed at the time of their parents' shopping. house, and it no longer makes sense for geography to prove political identity.

Ada Palmer on Mars Terraforming Board Game:

Each player is a corporate body, and the UN provides funding to promote this, but you also make profits on your own, and you compete with the other corporations to transform Mars best… I noticed from playing Terraforming Mars that if you play it competitively, then separately you play it together, where you say, “Okay, we'm going to avoid competing for points, and we are going to work together to try to ensure that resources are in the hands of the company that uses them in the most efficient way, ”you transform Mars much better, much faster. So the board game is supposed to be a hallmark of this capitalist model of making space but of course it also shows that just working together and everyone helps all to get ahead forcing everyone to achieve more score and more terraforming of Mars.

Ada Palmer on Diderot:

[Jacques the Fatalist] this is Diderot's 18th century philosophical novel about how a man bends his son in the company of his master. This is a very warm prose style, in which Diderot speaks directly to the reader with great intensity and vulnerability… Reading that book feels like reading a time capsule, where you meet Diderot and become his friend, in a way that is very different from anyone. another book I have never read. You come out of his mind feeling that Diderot has shared his raw, incomplete, insecure, deep, deep thoughts and feelings with you, and has recalled your thoughts and ideas, in a way that is simply elegant.


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