Was Voltaire the First Sci-Fi Writer?


Ada Palmer is a professor of European history at the University of Chicago. His fictional four-volume story, An unknown world, was inspired by 18th-century philosophers such as Voltaire and Diderot.

“I wanted to write an article that Voltaire would have written if Voltaire had been able to read fiction from the past 70 years and have all these tools,” says Palmer in Section 495 of the book. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Palmer argues that Voltaire could hardly be considered a science fiction writer, thanks to a fragment he wrote in 1752. “Voltaire has a short story called the ‘Micromégas,’ in which a visitor from Saturn and a star from the constellation near Sirius would come. The earth, and it is vast, and they explore the Earth and have difficulty finding life because to them the whale is as big as a flea, ”he says. “He finally realizes that the little tree on the ground is a boat, and it is full of living things, and they connect. Then it is a matter of first contact. “

Book of Mary Shelley 1818 Frankenstein it is often regarded as the first science fiction novel. Voltaire wrote a lot earlier than Shelley, so should he have the title? It depends on your interpretation of science fiction.

“[‘Micromégas’] it has nothing to do with technology, ”says Palmer,“ so if you could interpret science fiction as a whole — and stay close, Frankenstein in the sense that, ‘Does human knowledge give us access to a higher power than we had before? What does that mean? ‘- he does not ask. But aliens and first contact is a very fictional science fiction story. ”

Hence, there is no clear answer to the question of who should be considered the first fictional writer of science. Given the loose meaning of the word, even a 2nd year old writer like Lucian of Samosata he can be a counselor. In the end, Palmer says it’s more important to ask a question than to get any other answer.

“I do not want to argue, ‘Of course, the history of any science fiction novel should start with Voltaire,’ ‘he says. “But I would like to say that everyone’s scientific fiction will be rich in debate as to whether Voltaire is the origin of science fiction, or whether it happened before or after. Because this comes down to the question of what science fiction is all about.”

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

Ada Palmer at a science fiction conference:

The strange thing about science fiction and fiction, unlike many other types of writing, is that when you go to a meeting, the writer does not sit in the green room and only occasionally appears and disappears; writers are chatting in the halls, and you can chat with people, and you get to know people through the internet. That’s why I got to know a lot of writers by meeting them at conventions, and being a band writer before I became a writer – because I used to talk about music, or talk about history, or talk about anime and manga. and cosplay, which were all circles I worked with. That’s why I got to know people, and to be known by people, through this wonderful and supportive world most of the time.

Ada Palmer pa An unknown world list:

There are so many international networks of flying cars so they can take you anywhere in the World to anywhere in the world in about two hours. That is why suddenly there is so much travel in the world. You can live in the Bahamas and have a lunch in Tokyo and eat at a restaurant in Paris, and your spouse – who lives in the Bahamas – can have a lunch in Toronto with someone in Antarctica, and that is fine. a day to go, especially with self-driving cars that allow you to work while you are in the car. So when it happens for generations, people are homeless because they have political affiliations, they live in a place because there is a big house that their parents loved very much when their parents bought it. house, and it is no longer logical for geography to reflect politics.

Ada Palmer pa Around Mars board game:

Every player is an organization, and the UN gives you money to promote this, but you also make a profit yourself, and you compete with other organizations to make Mars better… if you play competitively, and then privately play with them, when you say, “Well, we neglect to compete with each other. to get information, and to work together to make sure everything is in order. That is why board games are supposed to celebrate this type of space capitalist but it also shows that simply connecting with everyone to help everyone move forward makes everyone do better and achieve the terraforming of Mars.

Ada Palmer on Diderot:

[Jacques the Fatalist] and 18th-century Diderot’s novel about the plight of a valet in the company of his master. It has a lot of this hot style, in which Diderot speaks directly to readers in a loving and vulnerable manner … another book I read. You come out at the end feeling like Diderot shared with you raw, incomplete, uncertain, deep, personal thoughts and ideas, and ask for your thoughts and ideas in return, in a very interesting way.


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