Wha’d ya got?
In an update from last Friday’s comment that Gulliver’s Travels was the first representation of aerial bombardment as a means of warfare, a reader sent a clarification:
It’s actually a common misconception that the concept of aerial bombardment was first written by Jonathan Swift. In reality, it was first proposed in Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac’s 1662 novel Les Etats et Empires du Soleil (or ‘The States and Empires of the Sun’), the second in the series Les Autres Mondes, which also happen to have the distinction of being the first extant science fiction novels.
Swift most certainly read Les Autres Mondes, because Gulliver’s Travels is written in an uncannily similar style. Both are fantastical travel logs,
following the journey of one person (presented as the author) as he travels through areas populated by caricatures of political figures and religious
and/or racial stereotypes whom the author wanted to satirize. The main difference is that Bergerac, being an amateur scientist, included more
theoretical science (including the concepts of the ramjet, multi-stage rocket, and hot air balloon) than Swift, who was of more of a fantastical
Like I said, this is a common misconception, most likely because a decent translation of Les Autres Mondes is hard to come by, and Gulliver’s Travels is taught in many English-speaking schools, so most educated English-speakers are much better acquainted with Swift.
Thanks for that Vijay: I feel more educated today!
See you all on Friday!