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Week 9 - Subcultural Greece and Rome

Subcultural Greece and Rome 1: Science Fiction

Edwardian beginnings:

  • Scientific romance, weird fiction: classical allusion in the early modern SF/fantasy authors. (Lucian, True History)
  • Key early authors: Arthur Machen, Saki, H. P. Lovecraft.

Galactic Empires:

  • Isaac Asimov, Foundation series: the trope of an Empire in decline and fall. (Gibbon)
  • Evil Empires: the Star Wars sequence (and countless fat fantasy trilogies).
  • Roman counterfactuals: S. P. Somtow, Aquiliad (1983); William Golding, ‘Envoy Extraordinary’ (1956).
  • Space Odysseys … and a Space Aeneid.

Blind alleys:

  • Future-gladiator potboilers.
  • Polemical SF: Howard Fast, ‘Cato the Martian’.

Case study 1: Melissa Scott, The Kindly Ones (1987).

  • Shogun meets Aeschylus; the ‘Kinships’.
  • Agamemnon; Orestes; Electra and Iphigeneia.
  • Greek contexts, ‘Greek’ ideas: the para’anin and the Oresteian honour code.

—General point: Greece, big ideas, fazing the mundanes.

Case study 2: C. J. Cherryh, Foreigner sequence.

  • Six novels to date (two trilogies).
  • The world of the atevi.
  • Fourteen words for ‘betrayal’, and none for ‘friend’: atevi language.
  • Cherryh as SF author and (conservative) classicist.
  • ‘The benefits of a classical education’ repackaged?

Some further reading on classics and SF

Donald A. Wollheim (1971), The Universe Makers

For fun:

Diana Wynne Jones (1996), The Tough Guide to Fantasyland