The story so far:

        1. The Epic of Gilgamesh
        2. Indian Epic Poetry
        3. Aristophanes
        4. Revelation

We continue our journey into the origins of Science Fiction, with the 2nd Century Syrian satirist, Lucian and his ‘True Story’.


This text is possibly the one with the most claims to be considered an early example of science fiction, because of its themes, rather than its science (or lack of thereof), touching as it does on alien encounters, space travels and interplanetary warfare, to name but a few. To an extent, it is reminiscent of what was defined a ‘space opera’ in the early 20th century. It is also important to remember that Lucian was a satirist, pushing extravagance in the book for comic effect to create a parody of travel stories, and to mock those contemporary accounts who accepted myths as truth.

True Story contains fantastic elements and SF themes. Let’s take a closer look.


A group of heroes set sail westwards, to find out what lies beyond. They reach an island, where fishes and bears swim in a river of wine and footprints from normal to giant size (SF for genetic mutations). So far, so normal (not really, but that’s OK).

The crew leaves the island and does a Dorothy, being whirlwinded away and deposited on the Moon (SF for travel to outer space). Here the real fun begins. It’s happen, that the king of the Moon and the King of the Sun are at war with each other (1SF for first encounter + 1SF for alien life-forms + 1SF for interplanetary war), for who can claim the right to colonise Venus (1SF for colonisation of another planet) using an army a fantastical beasts. The detailed description (1SF for skilled world building) of the planets and stars, which extends to people and geography as well, is quite unique, but very entertaining (for example, the Moon has no women and children grow inside the calves of the men) (1SF for genetic engineering).

The rest of the book, all the way to the conclusion, verges more on the fantastic, with the heroes returning to earth, getting trapped inside an already inhabited giant whale (what are the odds?), reaching a sea of milk, meeting mythical men and animals, to then discover a chasm in the ocean before exploring a far away land. (1SF for exploration) 

Conclusion: 9SF points. Satire aside, the science fiction themes are nonetheless present and easily identifiable. Way to go, Lucian!