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Was Voltaire the first science fiction author?


Ada Palmer is Professor of European History at the University of Chicago. Her four-volume science fiction series, unknown landInspired by eighteenth century philosophers such as Voltaire and Diderot.

Palmer said in episode 495 of A geek’s guide to the galaxy Audio notation.

Palmer says that Voltaire can indeed be considered the first science fiction writer, thanks to an article he wrote in 1752. “Voltaire has a short story called ‘Micromégas,’ in which an alien from Saturn and aliens from a star near Sirius come to Earth, and they are huge, and they are exploring Earth And they have a hard time finding life forms because to them a whale is the size of a flea,” she says. “They eventually realize that that little patch of wood on Earth is a ship, and it’s full of living things, and they make contact. So it’s a story of first contact.”

Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein It is often considered the first science fiction novel. Voltaire was writing long before Shelley, so does he deserve the title instead? It depends on your definition of science fiction.

“[‘Micromégas’] “It doesn’t involve technology,” says Palmer, “so if you define science fiction as dependent on technology—and being, in Frankenstein Meaning, ‘Does human knowledge give us access to powers beyond what we had before? what does that mean? – Don’t ask for it. But aliens and first contact is a very basic sci-fi component.”

So there is no clear answer to the question of who should be considered the first science fiction writer. Given a sufficiently broad definition of the term, a second-century writer such as Lucien Samosata could be a candidate. Ultimately, Palmer says, asking the question is more important than arriving at any particular answer.

“I don’t want to argue, ‘Yes, certainly, everyone’s history in science fiction should begin with Voltaire,'” she says. “But I do want to argue that everybody’s history in science fiction would be richer by discussing whether Voltaire was the beginning of science fiction.” , or whether it is earlier or later. Because this is about the question of what science fiction is.”

Listen to the full interview with Ada Palmer on episode 495 of A geek’s guide to the galaxy (above). And check out some of the highlights in the discussion below.

Ada Palmer on sci-fi conventions:

The wonderful thing about science fiction and fantasy, unlike many other literary genres, is that when you go to a conference, the author is not in the green room and only appears occasionally to an event and then disappears; Authors hang out in the halls, you can chat with people, get to know people online. So I got to know a lot of authors from meeting them at conferences, and from being a committee member before I became an author – because I was going to talk about music, or I’d talk about history, or I’d talk about animation and manga and cosplay, which were all arenas I worked in. So I got to know people, and became known by people, through this wonderful and often supportive world.

Ada Palmer on unknown land series:

This global network of flying cars exists so fast that it can take you from anywhere on Earth to anywhere on Earth in about two hours. So all of a sudden it’s everywhere on Earth moving for a distance. You can live in the Bahamas and have a lunch meeting in Tokyo and eat in a restaurant in Paris, your wife – who also lives in the Bahamas – can have a lunch meeting in Toronto and another in Antarctica, which is ideal for a reasonable day travel, especially with self-driving vehicles that allows you to do work while you are in the car. So once that’s been true for a few generations, people don’t live in a place because they have political ties to it, they live in a place because there’s a wonderful house that their parents really liked at the time their parents were buying it a house, and it no longer makes sense that geography is the determinant of political identity .

Ada Palmer in Terraforming Mars board:

Each player represents a company, and the UN gives you funding to motivate it, but you also make a profit yourself, as you compete with other companies to reclaim Mars better… I’ve noticed from playing Terraforming Mars that if you play them competitively, then you play them co-operatively separately You say, “Well, we’ll ignore competing with each other for points, and we’ll work together to try to make sure that all the resources end up in the hands of the company that’s going to use them most efficiently,” you’re tweaking Mars in a better and faster way. So the board game is meant to be a celebration of this capitalist model of doing space, but it actually also shows that just making one team and helping everyone move forward makes everyone score more and get more Mars rehab.

Ada Palmer on Diderot:

[Jacques the Fatalist] Diderot’s bizarre 18th-century philosophical novel about the meanders of a man working as a servant in the company of his master. It has this wonderfully warm prose style, where Diderot addresses the reader directly with great intimacy and extreme vulnerability…Reading this book feels like reading a time capsule, where you meet Diderot and be his friend, in a way completely unlike any other book you’ve read before. You come out of it feeling like Diderot has shared his raw, incomplete, uncertain, deep, profound, human thoughts and feelings with you, asking for your thoughts and opinions in return, in a wonderful way.

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