Father of Sci-Fi?

December 13, 2016 | 1

“John Milton—poet, free speech advocate, civil servant, classics scholar—was arguably a forefather to Asimov, Bradbury, Delaney, and the rest. Their outlandish other worlds owe a debt to his visionary mode of storytelling; their romance—characters who go on quests, encounter adversaries at portals, channel the forces of light and dark—is his, too.” Over at SlateKaty Waldman makes the argument for Milton as sci-fi author. Pair with our discussion of his epic Paradise Lost as part of this piece about difficult books.

is social media editor at The Millions. She lives in Brooklyn where she's currently working on her first novel. Find her online @kirstinbutler, and of course, on The Millions‘ feeds.

One comment:

  1. Mary Shelley is definitely the mother of Sci Fi but I think her co-parent is a much older man (if not men). Milton’s chief literary resource (cobbled together by malnourished, vision-prone Bronze Age nomads a millennium or a few before John came along) surely gets the credit for prefiguring the more masculine strain of Sci Fi; its signature tropes of battles on a titanic scale and celestial setting and maybe even hardware, too.

    Nothing John Milton came up with could possibly out-Sci Fi this trippy Ezekiel stuff (I hope the Elizabethans behind the KJV didn’t embellish too much, but, even if, it would remain quite cool and not a little spooky):

    ***As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.***

    If you’ve ever read anything by the glorious, ’70s-era huckster Erich von Daeniken, you’ll know to interpret the very last sub-clause in that passage: it’s a several-thousand-year-old reference to *landing gear*! (insert sound of water pipe)

    PS “and they four had one likeness” = space suits?

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