June 26, 2010

"Wondering if the myth of Dedalus and Icarus has ever been thought of as the first science fiction story."

Page 38, "The Last Novel," by David Markson.

14 comments:

Paddy O said...

I would think the one that begins with this passage would be the first one:

When on high the heaven had not been named,

Firm ground below had not been called by name,

When primordial Apsu, their begetter,

And Mummu-Tiamat, she who bore them all,

Their waters mingled as a single body,

No reed hut had sprung forth, no marshland had appeared,

None of the gods had been brought into being,

And none bore a name, and no destinies determined--

Then it was that the gods were formed in the midst of heaven.

Lahmu and Lahamu were brought forth, by name they were called.

EDH said...

Serving as Mr. Obama's guide in Giza was Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. He led the way in and around the pyramids and the Sphinx, including a visit to the Tomb of Qar, who Hawass described as a well-known priest, scholar and judge in ancient Egypt. On the wall were hieroglyphs of Qar, primitive images engraved in the stone. He was a thin man man with big ears.

"That looks like me!" exclaimed President Obama. "Look at those ears."

The president summoned to his top aides to take a look, and repeated his observation about the Qar hieroglyph.

"Look, that's me," he told them. None of his senior staff was willing to disagree with the boss. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel smiled politely, if not knowingly.

Actually, the graven image bore more of a resemblance to Mr. Spock of "Star Trek" fame. Wasn't there an episode where the crew of the Enterprise went back in time to the Egypt of the Pharoahs? If there wasn't, there should have been. That might have explained a hieroglyph of Spock on the wall of an ancient tomb. Maybe President Obama went back in time. That'd be a good scenario for a pitch meeting in Hollywood.

Out of the tomb and into the 100-degree heat of Giza, the president and his staff posed for a picture with the pyramids and the Sphinx in the background. Just across the street from them, another icon. Not of Egyptian culture, but American: a KFC restaurant. It didn't make it into the presidential photo.

D. B. Light said...

Not Science Fiction so much as a marvelous metaphor, witness what Jack Gilbert does with it in "Failing and Flying".

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Fred4Pres said...

Not Science Fiction so much as a marvelous metaphor...

Good science fiction is always marvelous metaphor, because it is less about the future and more about commentary on the present.

edutcher said...

All of mythology has a strong sci-fi element. Noting what is verifiable and trying to explain the rest by what seems to fit.

Beth said...

Why not? The flying apparatus would make it science fiction as opposed to some other genre of the fantastic.

Sea Urchin said...

I like the poem, DB. Although my favorite Icarus poem is Ann Sexton's "To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph." I read it first in some novel -- I can't remember what, but I was a teenager, so it was likely YA fare of some kind -- and being struck by it. I still can't think of the story of Icarus without "Consider Icarus, pasting those sticky wings on..." leaping into my head. I don't have the whole poem memorized, just that first line.

Funny how a phrase can stick with you.

Cedarford said...

Wondering if the myth of Dedalus and Icarus has ever been thought of as the first science fiction story.

Timeline wise the Hebrew sci fi writers beat the Greeks by thousands of years, the Islamoid sci fi writer Mohammed by even longer.
Though the Jews ripped off all the Mesopotamian sci fi stories and added their own, you have to credit them and Mohammed for creating credulous masses that still believe them today...While everyone agrees the original Mesopotamian and Greek sci fi work is myth.

traditionalguy said...

The funny thought is that the latest incarnation of myths uses Fiction Science. Science we all know is the measurement of data observed (and re-observable by others that get the same measurement)being used to understand our place in our world. The Fiction Science substitutes false data and then claims that no observation measurements by Deniers will be permitted. We are then left living by belief in myths like the Greeks did before Aristotle spoiled their fun. There is nothing new under the sun.

Joe said...

the Islamoid sci fi writer Mohammed by even longer.

Need to brush up on your history, Cedar.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

What about Gilgamesh or the Mahabharata? Some elements of The Odyssey might count, as well.

AST said...

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; . . .

W. H. Auden

Revenant said...

Good science fiction is always marvelous metaphor, because it is less about the future and more about commentary on the present.

I have to disagree there. The whole "metaphorical commentary on the present" schtick is mostly reserved for B-list science fiction and fantasy. There are only a few classic works written as metaphors for the present. Science fiction is primarily speculative, and thus naturally focused on what does NOT currently exist in the world we live in.

amba said...

Wait! You got me to order "This is Not a Novel" -- now I need this one too?