Saturday, October 14, 2006

Lucian, Satirical Sketches

Lucian, Satirical Sketches, translated by Paul Turner

One of the things I do is collect Penguin Classics. I particularly keep an eye out for ones that are currently out of print. Sometimes, I forget what I already have (especially as my library is rather disorganized at present). So when I decided that it was about time I read Lucian's proto-sf story The True History, I forgot that I had actually picked up this 1961 Penguin of Lucian at a recent Classical Association conference. But then I turned it up, and read the whole volume, because, as Adam Roberts says in his recent History of Science Fiction, The True History needs to be read in the context of Lucian's other writings. It's an interesting miscellany. Turner only has room for about a quarter of Lucian's surviving output, and has deliberately selected those of Lucian's works that have a satirical nature, so no place here for the more didactic works such as How to Write History and On Salaried Posts In Great Houses (in this online translation called The Dependent Scholar). Lucian reveals himself in these works as having little time for charlatans, philosophers, and other pseudo-intellectual wasters of other people's time. Those writing about the history of sf often forget that, as Brian Stableford points out in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, The True History is a parody of the genre of the fantastic voyage, not an endorsement of it.

I'm currently working through Roberts' History, with a view to writing a blog entry about his chapter on sf in the ancient novel. I've also promised an article on The True History to the sf fanzine Banana Wings, but that won't appear until some time next year. Right now, I have Ben-Hur on DVD out from Blockbuster, which I've actually never watched all the way through, so that will fill out the rest of the evening.


Alexandra said...

I just finished (last night!) re-reading Roberts' Science Fiction and writing a review of it for an Aussie spec-fic site. I really liked his style, and what he says about scifi in general - the chapter on the origins of scifi was brilliant, but a bit of a killer for me - so many books I haven't read! In the review I compared it to Telotte's Science Fiction Film, which looks as scifi films having three different modes, basically: as fantastic, marvelous, and uncanny - although also admitting that it has a serious cross-genre tendency too. It's well worth a read if you haven't yet (and, of course, when you get the time, after the great chariot scene of Ben Hur... is it wrong of me to say that that was the most boring part of the movie??).

Tony Keen said...

It could lose a lap or two, that's true ...