Thursday, June 09, 2005

Investigating Links Between Ancient Greeks And Modern Science Fiction



Science Daily reports on University of Liverpool's Dr Karen Ni-Mheallaigh's research into the tradition of fantasy in ancient literature beginning with Odysseus' "fantastic travels in Homer's Odyssey." She examines "theories of modern science fiction writing and how these can be applied to texts from the ancient world."

Dr Ni-Mheallaigh is basically studying the work of 2nd century AD writer, Lucian of Samosata, who wrote True Histories, "a travel narrative that includes an account of a trip to the moon and interstellar warfare", Antiphanes of Berge, who wrote about his travels in the far north of Europe and Herodotus "who wrote about 'flying snakes; and 'giant gold-digging ants' in India".

Dr Ni-Mheallaigh says:
Fantasy writing in the ancient world is still relatively unexplored from a literary perspective. What is so interesting about these fantastical journeys is that many of them are written in the form of truthful travel logs and historical texts. The Greeks had a fascination with the exotic and other worlds and some writers travelled to the north and Far East to satisfy their intrigue. The cultures they found there were so different from their own that they were inspired to fantasize and speculate about even more remote and exotic worlds.

Lucian was the first to announce that what he wrote was untrue. But, says Ni-Mheallaigh, "His writing-style is however calculated to convince his reader that all his adventures are in fact true. His writing plays a very clever game with the reader's mind, and, like all science fiction and fantasy writing today, allows the reader to ponder, what if ... ?"

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