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The Placement of Lucian’s Novel True History in the Genre of Science Fiction

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Abstract

Among the works of the ancient Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata, well-known for his scathing and obscene irony, there is the novel True History. In this work Lucian, being in an intense satirical mood, intended to undermine the values of the classical world. Through a continuous parade of wonderful events, beings and situations as a substitute for the realistic approach to reality, he parodies the scientific knowledge, creating a literary model for the subsequent writers. Without doubt, nowadays, Lucian’s large influence on the history of literature has been highlighted. What is missing is pointing out the specific characteristics that would lead to the placement of True History at the starting point of Science Fiction. We are going to highlight two of these features: first, the operation of “cognitive estrangement”, which aims at providing the reader with the perception of the difference between the convention and the truth, and second, the use of strange innovations (“novum”) that verify the value of Lucian’s work by connecting it to historicity.
The Placement of Lucian’s Novel True History
in the Genre of Science Fiction
KATELIS VIGLAS
Abstract. Among the works of the ancient Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata,
well-known for his scathing and obscene irony, there is the novel Tr u e
History. In this work Lucian, being in an intense satirical mood, intended to
undermine the values of the classical world. Through a continuous parade
of wonderful events, beings and situations as a substitute for the realistic
approach to reality, he parodies the scientific knowledge, creating a literary
model for the subsequent writers. Without doubt, nowadays, Lucian’s large
inf luence on the history of literature has been highlighted. W hat is missing
is pointing out the specific characteristics that would lead to the placement of
True His tory at the starting point of Science Fiction. We are going to highlight
two of these features: first, the operation of “cognitive estrangement”, which
aims at providing the reader with the perception of the difference between
the convention and the truth, and second, the use of strange innovations
(“novum”) that verify the value of Lucian’s work by connecting it to historicity.
Keywords: Lucian of Samosata; Tr ue H isto ry; satire; estrangement; “novum”;
Science Fiction
Introduction
Initially, we are going to present a biography of Lucian in relation to the spirit
of his era and some judgments on his work. Furthermore, we will proceed to
a brief reference to the influences exerted by his novel True Histo r y on the
history of literature, especially on the genre of Science Fiction. In general, the
search for the roots of the genre of Science Fiction in the literary canon could
take us back to the beginning of the first written records of ancient civilization.
Thus, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Plato’s The Republic, Lucian’s satires, the Utopia
of Thomas More, and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, are sometimes
included in genealogies of Science Fiction (Scholes-Rabkin 1977: 6–7).
Lucian’s description of voyages to the Moon and Sun provided inspiration to
many proto-Science Fiction writers, all of whom recounted similar fantastic
voyages. For those Science Fiction writers, Lucian may be considered a
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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12697/IL .2016.21.1.13
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spiritual forefather, but not in a generative sense lineal (Disch 2000: 32–33).
The decrease of the influence of Lucian’s work has been caused by religious
or moral restrictions since it was considered blasphemous for long historical
periods.
The novel True History is characterized by para-literary elements,
surpassing the conventional and traditional forms. Also, some brief references
to the novels narrative are necessary in order to understand its overview
and to realize its quality. But the challenge is to add two main reasons which
explain the historically known influences of Lucian’s work on classical
literature and which arise from the contemporary criticism, as parts of a
fundamental definition of Science Fiction. These two additional points are,
first, the concept of “cognitive estrangement”, and second, the category of
“novum”, that are the “strange” (παραδοξότατα), the “new” (καινά) and the
“bizarre” (ἀλλόκοτα) elements contained in the novel under consideration.
Lucian’s life and judgments on his work
Lucian lived and worked in the Roman Empire at the time of the Five Good
Emperors (96–180 AD). During the reign of Trajan, from 98 to 117 AD, the
Roman Empire saw the largest expansion of territory. The Hellenization
was very extensive and many oriental ideas f looded Rome. Lucian was born
between 115 and 125 AD, in the ancient city of Samosata near Euphrates,
the former capital of the Kingdom of Commagene. There are many scattered
references to his life in his works, but most of them are not reliable. He
received his education at an advanced age in Ionia and he practiced rhetoric,
traveling in mainland Greece, Italy and Gaul, before becoming a satirist. While
still alive, he won many riches and fame, especially thanks to his entertaining
and impromptu speeches. His contemporary, the physician Galen, mentioned
that Lucian mimicked Heraclitus, creating some false writings of the Ephesian
pre-Socratic philosopher. In 163, he came in contact with the co-emperor
of Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Aurelius Verus. He died in Egypt after 180 AD
(Gagarin 2009: 1596–1599).
Lucian’s work expressed the spirit of his era and the religious syncretism.
He belongs to the tradition of Menippean Satire, as he developed alterna tive
forms of expression in order to undermine traditional literature (Freunden-
buck 2005: 109–112; Hutcheon 1994: 9; Muecke 1986: 7). He has not had a
good reputation since antiquity. In the Byzantine encyclopedic dictionary of
the 10th century named Souda, it is noted that he was considered a blasphemer,
slanderer and atheist. In 1559, some of his dialogues were included in the papal
The Placement of Lucian’s Novel True Hi stor y in the Genre of Science Fiction
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VIGLAS
List of Prohibited Books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum). In Europe, after
the Reformation, both Protestants and Catholics strongly criticized his work.
However, an upsurge of interest in the latter occurred under Postmodernism
(Roberts 2006: 21–23).
1
The Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin connected
it with popular “laughter” (γέλως) since from ancient times they placed it
in the genre of “spoudogeloion” (σπουδογέλοιον, a compound of “serious”
(σπουδαῖον) and “laughable” (γελοῖον)) (2008). Bakhtin placed the origins
of such a literary genre in the reversal of the hierarchies during the popular
carnival. In this regard, Lucians work combines the sublime with the
ridiculous, reflecting a “carnival sense of the world” (Bakhtin 1999: 107).
About eighty-six works have been attributed to Lucian – although probably he
is not the author of all of them – which can be divided into categories, while
some of them are of little interest. In his works, essays, biographies, dialogues,
poetic and rhetorical texts, and some novels are included. Among the latter,
True Histor y and Icaromenippus should be considered as the first texts of
Science Fiction (Clute-Nicholls 1995).
Among others critics, James Gunn agrees that the first extended narrative
that has enough of the qualities of Science Fiction is the True History by
Lucian. Although Lucian’s sailing ship is no spaceship, and his adventurers
have no intention of going to the Moon, the authors purpose is not to make
such a journey credible or to speculate about what we might find if we could
really make the journey. Lucian was writing satire, but his sailing ship is not
that much different from Edgar Allan Poe’s balloon in his short story The
Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall (1835) or Jules Verne’s cannon shell
in the novel From the Earth to the Moon (1865), and the story probably was
read largely for its adventure and its inventiveness. Finally, Gunn holds the
view that True Histo ry inspired a long chain of literary descendants, including
Johannes Kepler, Francis Godwin, Cyrano de Bergerac, Jonathan Swift,
Voltaire, Edgar Allan Poe, et al. (Gunn 2002: 1–2).
Certainly, there are many theories of literature with which Lucians work
could be discussed and interpreted in various ways, as are Gunn’s views
from within the so calledScience Fiction ghetto. Moreover, Gunn gives
the following definition of the genre of Science Fiction: “a fantastic event of
development considered rationally”, although he notes that it lacks precision.
Also, the same critic considers Science Fiction as the branch of literature that
deals with the effects of change on people as it can be projected into the past, the
future, or to distant places. He points out that Science Fiction often concerns
itself with scientific or technological change, and it usually involves matters the
1
Lucian was named H. L. Mencken of Greek Literature (Hendrick-Shea 2005: XV I).
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importance of which is greater than the individual or the community. For this
critic, Science Fiction is a literature of (1) ideas; (2) change; (3) anticipation;
(4) the human species; (5) discontinuity, in contrast to literary fiction which is
the literature of continuity (Gunn-Candelaria 2005: 5–12).
The “cognitive estrangement” and the “novum” according to
Darko Suvin
However, in the current study, Darko Suvins thinking is chosen to prove
Lucian’s primary position in the Science Fiction canon, because of his modern
and clarified perception about the nature of this genre. The terms Suvin
coined are clear and straightforward as hermeneutical tools. His thought is
considered here as an adequate, historically defined perspective of the past,
not necessarily timeless or universally accepted. The present approach cannot
be in any way considered an anachronism.
Suvin in his book Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (1979) initiated the term
literature of “cognitive estrangement”. The concept of estrangement played an
important role in the literary criticism of the 20
th
century. This concept was
used extensively by the Russian Formalists, Surrealists and Postmodernists.
Major theorists of this concept were Viktor Shklovsky and Berthold Brecht,
before it was used by Suvin.
2
According to the latter, in terms of Science
Fiction (ibid. 4), the concept of “science” corresponds to that of “knowledge”
and the concept of “fiction” to that of “estrangement”, but they are not
identical (ibid. 13). By the concept of estrangement, Suvin characterizes the
relationship between the narrative and the empirical world, in the sense that
the estranged world of narrative contains some wonderful items that do not
seem to be part of our reality (Spiegel 2008: 371; Suvin 1988: 37). According
to Suvin, whenever a wondrous item is inserted into an imaginative world,
a break happens between the two reality systems, producing a sense of
estrangement (ibid. 375). He further argued that this literary genre began
with Lucian and the Greeks, before the name and the awareness of it existed.
Although the majority of critics accept that Suvin’s coherent tradition exists,
he did not provide extensive accounts from the sources in order to support his
position (James 2000: 29).
Another related element of “cognitive estrangement” in Science Fiction is
the strange inventions, that Suvin called “novum” (1979: 63–84). The concept
2
The corresponding word in German is Verfremdung and it is used for the concept of
“ostranenie” (Spiegel 2008: 369).
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of “novum” according to Suvin implies an entire transformation of the world of
the literary work, or at least of the main points on which it can rely. Therefore,
if the essential trend of Science Fiction is to express the readers of its time, at
the same time includes an opening towards the Unknown or the Other, that
is the “novum”. According to Suvin the “novum” is an intermediate category
stemming from a rare bridging of the literary with the non-literary, the
narrative with the empirical, and the morphological with the ideological field,
integrating the literary work in its undeniable historicity. In this way, Science
Fiction can be verified as knowledge (ibid. 68).
Comments on the novel True History
In the work Tr u e Hist ory, Lucian tried to ridicule the idea that the literary,
historical and philosophical tradition before him reveals the truth (Sidwell
2004: 307–308). Lucian was humorously imitating the Greek romance novels
of his time and would have snickered to think of someone taking the idea
of flying to the Moon as anything but absurdity. In much the same way, the
subsequent Science Fiction “satirists and farceurs have taken their impetus
from pulp Science Fiction, using its stock figures – astronauts and aliens – for
their own japes and gambols” (Disch 2000: 32–33).
As can be seen from the description of the plot and the synopsis of his
work, there are three main phases of the journey of the narrator: the ascent to
the Moon, the fall into the sea along with entering the belly of a whale, and the
long stay on the Island of the Blest.
At the beginning of the novel, Lucian says that the satirical stories are for
listeners what relaxation is for people interested in sports (Harmon 1961: 248).
He says in the first person:
“Not having had any adventures of significance, I took to lying. But my lying is
far more honest than theirs, for though I tell the truth in nothing else, I shall at
least be truthful in saying that I am a liar.”
This is a mocking reference to the famous words of Socrates: “I know one
thing that I know nothing.
3
If, according to Socrates, what matters are the
ignorance and the certainty in the name of finding an intelligible reality,
Lucian disbelieves the possibility of the acquisition of certainties based on
metaphysics and ontology. The condition of “cognitive estrangement” applies
in this case since the possession of truth is undermined.
3 Repor ted by Plato in the f irst part of Apology (Colebrook 2004: 6–7; Nehamas 1998: 46).
163
Lucian, as Thomas More in his Utopia will do later, provided numerous
ambiguities, contradictions and paradoxes which highlight a subversive
irony, undermining the credibility of what he said (Yoran 2010: 159–160).
4
Even Rudolf Erich Raspe’s work entitled The Surprising Adventures of Baron
Munchausen, in which he describes many strange and surprising events, bears
the unmistakable influence of Lucian.5
Beginning of the voyage, discovery of new worlds and the ascent
to the Moon
Lucian presents as poetic license himself involved in a voyage that begins
with fifty others in a ship with supplies. They are directed west to the Pillars
of Hercules to discover the end of the Ocean and the people who live on the
other side (Georgiadou-Larmour 1998: 8). This is therefore a trip for reasons
of curiosity and search of the external reality. As will later appear in the novel
Candide by Voltaire, where even in the legendary Eldorado of Latin America
(2006: 39) the allegorical and satirical reference to philosophical concepts
does not cease, Lucian combines adventure with cognitive search. In their
course, they find an island and twenty of them explore the area. On their way,
they encounter a river where plenty of wine flows. In fact, upon eating the
fish, they become drunk. Lucian, intending to mock the legends of fertility
of land and vegetation, writes that they see some women who look like vines,
like the nymph Daphne. But when they try to kiss them they are drunk again,
and when some embrace them, they also become plants.
6
On another island
they come into contact with the Vulture Dragons and they will meet other
hybrids. Lucian’ hybridization is analogous to the attitude of Jonathan Swift
in Gulliver’s Travels (Franklin 2009: 91). In the latter the protagonist travels
to the land of the horses Houyhnhnms, who are the rulers, and where the
deformed humanoids called Yahoos have the role of slaves (Swift 2005: 207).
4 In his era, More was best known as a translator of the works of Lucian, rather than for
his work Utopia (Branhan 1985: 23). In Mores Utopia, the strangeness and contrast
as satirical means exist from the beginning, e.g. the traveler’s name is Hythloday
(“hythlos” in ancient Greek means “nonsense”). Moreover, More’s work sometimes is
called “Lucianic”, because of both its serious and comic character (Davis 2010: 32).
5 The influence is so extensive, that an older commentator of the third edition of Raspe’s
work entitled his critic in The Critical Review: or, Annals of Literature as “Lucian revived”
(18 76 : 79).
6 Here we have to do with the “doubts whether an apparently animate being is really alive;
or conversely, whether a lifeless object might not be i n fact animate” (Freud 2003: 135).
The Placement of Lucian’s Novel True Hi stor y in the Genre of Science Fiction
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Then, Lucian and his companions ascend into space with their ship
through a tornado. The author uses an inverse way of approach than what was
known in his time in the Hermetic Texts, the Chaldean Oracles, the Gnostic
Gospels (Couliano 1984), and the texts that describe the Christian experience
of ecstasy, which will often recur in the mystic literature of the Middle Ages.
Indeed, this part of Lucian’s novel exercised a decisive influence during the
late Middle Ages over the Divine Comedy (1321) of Dante Alighieri, in which
the poet through the help of the ghost of Beatrice makes a trip to the astral
space. On the Moon, Dante encounters not real beings, but those who were not
entirely faithful to the religion (Canto III, l. 30). Even Swift in Gulliver’s Travels
narrated a trip to the flying island Laputa (Swift 2005: 144; Lacaze 2002:
34). Also, in the story Micromégas, Voltaire described a journey into space,
although far beyond the solar system of the Earth, to the planets of the Sirius
system. Lucian’s whole arsenal of bizarre situations and beings, and a tendency
towards demystification, are equivalent to a value system in which vitality is
equated with freedom (Suvin 1979: 98). Lucian refers, then, to the rise into
the celestial spheres, not through a “spiritual vehicle”, which Plato had already
presented in the myth of the Republic (Res Publica 616c 3; Timaeus 41e1–2;
Numenius 1973: fr. 18),7 but literally by a material medium.
It is then that Lucian places the action on the Moon, initiating a “Seleno-
graphic Tradition” (Suvin 2011: 38), which continued after the Renaissance.
In the Italian epic Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto, the poet sends
Duke Astolfo on a hippogriff to the Moon, to meet a dreamy and heavenly
environment, which he viewed from the Earth (Ariosto 2009: 604). Also, in
Cyrano de Bergerac’s Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon
(1657), the hero travels to the Moon to meet biblical and mythological figures,
with which he converses on philosophical issues. Similarly, Edgar Alan Poe,
8
Jules Verne, and Herbert George Wells in his The First Men in the Moon (19 01)
successfully continued the tradition started by Lucian.
The meeting between the Greeks and the strange entities takes place
suddenly. The king of the inhabitants of the Moon, Endymion, battles with
Phaethon and the inhabitants of the sun. The war began when the subjects of
7 This image is probably the impact of the old Eg yptian doctri ne of the “boat of the soul”
(Plotinus 2004: 404).
8 Modern research has shown that the texts published in 1835 in the newspaper The
New York Sun about the alleged discovery of life and culture on the Moon, which were
characterized as “The Great Moon Hoax, were inspired by Tr ue Hist ory, and Poe’s
short stor y The Unparalle led Adventure of O ne Hans Pfaall pu blished in the s ame journa l
in 1844 (Hilton 2005: 1–20).
165
Endymion started to conquer the morning star, Lucifer, in order to establish
a colony. Lucian gives to the concept of otherness
9
forms belonging to the
aesthetic category of the grotesque. For example, he writes that Phaethon
tried to prevent the inhabitants of the Moon with the help of Ant Dragons.
The description of the troops is full of weird and funny beings. The weapons
resemble missiles filled with mallow poison.
10
The exploratory nature of
Lucian’s voyage and his companions is connected with conquering action. The
first victory belongs to Phaethon. After the initial victory of the inhabitants
of the Moon, their opponents return, overturning the result. Eventually, the
two rival sides capitulate. The specific nature of extraterrestrials, the various
races and the wars between them refer to similar situations and phenomena of
the socio-political space of the ancient times. The Greco-Roman culture had
already integrated many of the foreign societies (Georgiadou-Larmour 1998:
47; Fredericks 1976: 54). In this respect, True H istor y is a precursive reference
to the “colonial era” (Grewell 2001: 31).
Lucian describes various phenomena encountered on the Moon, as the
“belly of the leg” (γαστροκνημία, the leg performs the action of a belly) and the
people who are called Arboreals (Δενδρίτες). Additionally, the gastronomic
habits of the ancient Greeks and Romans are included in the bizarre things, for
which there are references to the culinary texts of the period (Giacosa 1992:
13; Olson-Sens 2000: 231). The people on the Moon have clothes of glass, soft
for the rich or woven of bronze for the poor. The social stratification of the
Earth is ref lected in the world of space, without changing the symbolism of the
elements since in the Roman era the bronze objects were thought to be inferior
to those of glass. The “soft glass” as fabric is reminiscent of the plastic material
of the 20
th
century. These strange situations and objects seem to confirm the
theory of Lucian’s “carnivalism”. At the place called Lamp City, writes Lucian,
between the Pleiades and the Hyades, their ruler stays awake all night and calls
each of the lamps by name, otherwise their light dies. The mythical scheme of
the voyage is based on the switch life/death, darkness/light, closing/opening.
The live lamps foreshadow the development of artificial intelligence and the
robotics of our time.
9 The Platonic opposition between the category of sameness and the category of
otherness is widely known (Timaeus 35a3, sq. Theaetetus 185c9, Sophist 254e3, 255b3,
256d12–e1).
10
“βέλη μαλάχης ἰῷ” (Lucian 1961: 266).
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Return to Earth and the entrance to the whale
Later, the Greeks reach the sea and enter the belly of a whale, where they
find some strange things and people. Lucian’s narrative incorporates and
parodies many elements of the allegorical interpretation of the Odyssey since
for Porphyry (3
rd
century AD) the latter symbolizes the cave that is the
material world (Lamberton 1983: 40). A war follows, in which the Greeks
win. However, the fights continued with “men sailing on enormous islands as
though on triremes.
11
Even herds of dolphins as assistants and anchors made
of glass make their appearance. Eventually, after a forest fire in the whale, they
leave, when the whale opens for the second time her mouth, on the fifth day
of the ninth month (Lucian 1961: 296). The precise measurement of time
in which the imaginary events are recorded, has as a reference point that
Suvin called “zero world” (Suvin 1979: 71), i.e. Lucian’s home (Whitmarsh
2008: 153–154).
12
The measurement of time, which is based on the diary of
Lucian’s homeland, accentuates the estrangement, highlighting the otherness
and the unthinkable of the imaginary worlds, which form a contrast to the
unquestionable dominance of the Greco-Roman culture.
Certainly, François Rabelais’s satirical story entitled The Life of Gargantua
and of Pantagruel was influenced by Lucian’s work, particularly as regards the
idea of “gigantism” (Auerbach 2003: 267–9). In the Second Book of Rabelais’s
work, the author says that Pantagruel during a heavy rain covered a whole
army with his tongue. Then, the description of the narrator’s (“Alcofribas
Nasier”, an anagram of François Rabelais) journey in Pantagruel’s mouth
follows. When Alcofribas enters the gap of the open jaws, he discovers a
completely unknown world: square plains, forests, fortified cities, and more
than twenty-five kingdoms. The residents living in Pantagruel’s mouth are
convinced that their world is more ancient than Earth (Dentith 2005: 243;
Bakhtin 1984: 337).
11 “ἂνδρας μεγάλους, ὃσον ἡμισταδιαίους τὰς ἡλικίας, ἐπί νήσων μεγάλων προσπλέοντας
ὣσπερ ἐπί τριήρων” (Lucian 1961: 298).
12 The function of “estrangement” must be distinguished from the situation in a strange
environment. An adult in a wholly strange environment may be at home and within
himself. He may depend more on himself, the less a strange environment welcomes
him . But this sit uation should not be con nected wit h the estra ngement or the alien ation
(Bloch-Halley-Suv in 1970: 120).
167
Transition to the Island of the Blest and the place of the ungodly
After the appearance in the plot of a frozen surface, the use of sleds, the
breaking of the ice, and the island of Cork, the action moves to the Island
of the Blest. The Island of the Blest, according to Lucian, has a light like the
gray morning toward dawn, when the sun has not yet risen, and its ruler is
called Rhadamanthus. The arrival at the Island of the Blest can be viewed as
a culmination of the voyage of quest. Lucian recounts that he met a city all of
gold and the wall around it all of emerald, gates of single plants of cinnamon,
a ground within the walls of ivory, temples built of beryl, altars of amethyst, a
river of the finest myrrh, large houses of glass as baths, and cloths of delicate
purple spider-webs. The residents of this legendary country do not have
bodies, although they are substantial and they move and think and speak: they
are like upright shadows.
Finally, in the Elysian Fields outside the city surrounded by dense trees
of all sorts, a banquet takes place. After a period of six months, in the middle
of the seventh month, the travellers are faced with another incident, when
Helen tries to escape with one of Lucian’s companions. But the fugitives are
caught and are punished. Then they sent off to the place of the ungodly. At that
point, Lucian describes a hell, with gloomy and misty air, groans of people, the
absence of trees, cliffs, thorns and other ills. Then he presents the Island of
Dreams, which had gates of ivory. In the end, after battling to a location with
huge pelican eggs, bigger than a jar of Chian wine, the story comes to an end,
with the appearance of a large, “awkward and terrible ocean chasm”,
13
which
has a gulf about a hundred and fifteen miles deep and a bridge constructed of
water.
What is the reason why Lucian leaves in the third and final part of his
novel the transition to the Island of the Blest and especially to the place of the
ungodly, since the descriptions of these places cannot actually be completely
enjoyable? The answer is that probably he tries to keep his irony until the end.
The irony culminates when Lucian writes that in the place of the ungodly
those are more penalized who in their previous life said or wrote the biggest
lies. This comment is not just a joke. It is the culmination of the “cognitive
estrangement” towards the mystery of death. If death is the absolute otherness,
to deal with it with irony, makes it really stranger to life, which ultimately
triumphs.
13 μάλα φοβερόν και παράδοξον” (Lucian 1961: 348).
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Conclusion
In conclusion, we could say that in Lucian’s novel the scientific knowledge in
the fields of geography, astronomy, zoology, and anthropology runs through
the narrative since the reader learns constantly about new and different
islands, rivers, plants, birds, fish, celestial bodies, hybrids, strange objects,
etc. (Georgiadou-Larmour 1998: 45–46). But Lucian presents the scientific
erudition as a falsification of true knowledge by his imaginative and utopian
constructions. It could be argued that the author’s utopian thinking is an
expression of the Greek socio-political life (Suvin 1979: 61).
14
The spirit
of utopia, due to Lucian’s shocking scenes, is not only a distant mirror of
a familiar reality, but an attempt of a creative approach to it (Bloch-Anne
Halley-Suvin 1970: 125; Suvin 1979: 10). True His tory was aimed only
partly against the culture within which it was produced since the desire of
representation from which the novel proceeded surpassed morphologically
this culture. The “Selenographic Tradition” that began with Lucian’s work
is not therefore related only to the future history of the Moon, but to human
history itself (Suvin 2011: 40).
Lucian’s work is partially a pastiche, but as a whole it is original and
inventive (hence the “novum”). There is a difference between “pastiche” and
“parody”: the former celebrates, rather than mocks, the work it imitates; the
latter aims at imitating, making fun of, or commenting on an original work,
by means of satiric or ironic imitation. Lucians True Histor y rather shares
the features of pastiche and parody, as it does not merely imitate but also
transfigures its models, exacerbating the caricature aspects of these models.
In the case of True Histor y, the combination of intertextuality (pastiche/
parody) with the genre of Science Fiction which belongs to popular literature
succeeded, because of the author’s literary skills.
The traditional definition of irony as antiphrasis, or saying the opposite
of what one means, is not Lucians primary aim. Instead, his irony is more a
“semantically complex process of relating, differentiating, and combining
said and unsaid meanings – and doing so with an evaluative edge” (Hutcheon
1994: 89). Lucians work is an imitation of his forerunners, used as an ironic
means of subversion and it tests the limits of ancient civilization. However,
although Lucian’s irony relies on knowledge shared within the “discursive
community” of his place and time, in addition, it can be transmitted to the
future generations due to its anticipation of future events.
14 What Bloch has done for the theory of utopia Suvin has arguably done for Science
Fiction (Par rinder 200 0: 11).
169
The novel True History causes at the same time a sense of comedy and a
sense of seriousness, hiding disguised meanings behind its outlandish stories,
in order to condemn ironically human weakness. The influence this novel
had on important works of world literature, which can be considered as
precursors of the Science Fiction of the 20
th
century, makes it clear why it is
usually considered to belong to this genre. Moreover, in the novel two decisive
characteristics are included, that lead to the same conclusion. The one is that
the empirical and conventional situation of the reader is estranged and the
other is that novel’s strange findings (“novum”) refer to an alternate reality
(Booth 1975: ix), which is verified cognitively. Due to the existence of these
two features, Tr ue Hi s tory should not be classified as mythology, religion or
imaginative and supernatural literature, but the beginnings of Western Science
Fiction.
Κατελής Βίγκλας
kvigklas@gmail.com
Αγίου Γεωργίου 30
GR-374 00
Νέα Αγχίαλος Βόλου
ΕΛ ΛΑΔΑ / GR EECE
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The Placement of Lucian’s Novel True Hi stor y in the Genre of Science Fiction
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