Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fascinating Lore from Sci-Fi's Archives (Sub-Basement D)

From "Worlds Enough: Travels in an Adolescent Genre," by L.J. Davis, Harper's, January 2002, pp. 71-2:

"Also cited is Erasmus Darwin, the poet-scientist-physician, grandfather of the naturalist, inventor of the steering wheel, discoverer of photosynthesis -- and a corpulent libertine who played the trombone to his flowers, cut a semicircle out of his dining-room table so that he could get closer to his food, and sketched the world's first known schematic drawing of a hybrid ramjet-rocket engine ...

"As a novel, Frankenstein is a pretty punk piece of work. The good doctor is a crashing bore, the monster is no better, the book is a lot of talk, and at the end Mary [Shelley] can think of no denouement more compelling than to assemble her cast at the North Pole, where they close our little drama with another rousing gabfest. Nonetheless, a fragment of all this chin music is not without its interest. The thing that qualifies the book as the first modern science-fiction novel (though it is not, as I will shortly astound you by demonstrating, the first science-fiction novel) is electricity ...

"The history of science fiction usually begins here, with Frankenstein. The history is wrong ... the world's first sci-fi author was a certain Lucian of Samosata, a Romanized Syrian whose two lunar-space operas, Icaromenippus and True History, by some incredible fluke escaped the torching of the Alexandrine Library by the Emperor Theodosius in 391. Writing in the second century, Lucian took his protagonists to the moon ... On the moon, we learn, the poor have wooden phalluses and the phalluses of the rich are made of ivory, which sounds perfectly plausible to me. "

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: