Snippets 102. One of the very earliest works of what we would now term “science fiction” was the Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon, by Cyrano de Bergerac (yes, he was a real person, not just a work of fiction!), written in 1657. The narrator of the book travels to the moon by means of a rocket-powered flying machine, the first time this concept had ever been used in a work of fiction. There were many, many works of fiction set on the moon written prior to the moon landings (and this was not even the first – it is predated by Kepler’s Somnium) and it is always fascinating to read the ideas authors came up with about what the surface of the moon might actually be like. In common with many novels, this one does not go far enough in imagining a landscape so totally different to Earth, and draws too much inspiration from our own planet.
When I had, according to the computation I made since, advanced a good deal more than three quarters of the space that divided the Earth from the Moon; all of a sudden I fell with my heels up and head down, though I had made no trip; and indeed, I had not been sensible of it, had not I felt my head loaded under the weight of my body: The truth is, I knew very well that I was not falling again towards our world; for though I found my self to be betwixt two moons, and easily observed, that the nearer I drew to the one, the farther I removed from the other; yet I was certain, that ours was the bigger globe of the two: Because after one or two days journey, the remote refractions of the Sun, confounding the diversity of bodies and climates, it appeared to me only as a large plate of gold: That made me imagine, that I byassed towards the Moon; and I was confirmed in that opinion, when I began to call to mind, that I did not fall till I was past three quarters of the way. For, said I to my self, that mass being less than ours, the sphere of its activity must be of less extent also; and by consequence, it was later before I felt the force of its center.
In fine, after I had been a very long while in falling, as I judged, for the violence of my precipitation hindered me from observing it more exactly: The last thing I can remember is, that I found my self under a tree, entangled with three or four pretty large branches which I had broken off by my fall; and ray face besmeared with an apple, that had dashed against it…
When I was got up, I had hardly taken notice of the largest of four great rivers, which by their conflux make a lake; when the spirit, or invisible soul, of plants that breath upon that country, refreshed my brain with a delightful smell: And I found that the stones there were neither hard nor rough; but that they carefully softened themselves when one trode upon them.
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