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Old 07-15-2019, 09:52 AM   #1
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A True Story by Lucian of Samosata

'Widely hailed as the first science fiction story, A True Story by Lucian of Samosata is a voyage to the edges of the universe and reason. The title is the first clue that this will be a tall tale. As much a predecessor of Douglas Adams as Jules Verne, Lucian's fantasy explores not only outer space (where he brokers war and peace between the inhabitants of the sun and moon), but also the Elysian fields, the geography of the Odyssey, and the interior of a giant whale. We get to meet Homer, Pythagoras, Socrates, and other immortals, as well as a host of bizarre creatures. The text is riddled with puns, innuendo, parody and satire. The narrative breaks off in the second book. Whether there were more adventures or Lucian just ran out of ideas is unknown.'

This book has many variations of its translated title, including 'The True Story', 'True History', 'Lucian's True History', etc. It is also known in English as 'Trips to the Moon'.

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Anyone can discuss any part or aspect at any time, though there's a softly recommended timeframe of discussing the entire book by the time next month's selection is finalised (usually around the 10th).


This is the MR Literary Club selection for July 2019. Everyone is welcome so feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time; the more the merrier!



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Old 07-16-2019, 11:38 PM   #2
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I'm reading True History Decrypted: Full Text and Commentary of Lucian's True History published by Frank Redmond. It's $2.99 for the Kindle version. Reading an annotated version is making a big difference to me in understanding the text. I also saw that there are illustrated editions available. I think it would be fun to have the pictures accompany the text because some of the stories/places/people are quite imaginative.
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Old 07-17-2019, 01:23 AM   #3
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Hi Bookworm Girl, who's the translator of the version you are reading now?
I think it's always wise to read the annotated versions of any very old book because we need a lot of informations about the cultural background so as to understand it correctly and deeply.
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Old 07-17-2019, 09:56 AM   #4
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The text is translated by H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler. It has not been bowdlerized to remove what was considered improper content as I read some versions of the text translated in the Victorian era were.
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Old 07-17-2019, 10:07 AM   #5
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Thanks, Bookworm_Girl. I downloaded a free version and was going to post (well, am posting, heh) that there are free translations available at gutenberg.org and The University of Adelaide websites since there aren't any versions here at Mobileread.

On Amazon it is difficult to find a completely free version, but there are 'Works of Lucian of Samosata' in four volumes, the first three of which I can find and are free on Kindle. There are no Kindle previews of them, but there are paperback previews, and from the paperback preview The True History is listed as included in the second volume. Here is the Kindle link for it if anyone is interested.

However now I think I'll go with the same version as you.
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Old 07-17-2019, 12:01 PM   #6
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I’ll give the Project Gutenberg version translated by Hickes a try. It has illustrations by William Strang, J. B. Clark and Aubrey Beardsley.
Librivox also has an audio version though I haven’t yet heard it.

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Old 07-17-2019, 06:41 PM   #7
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There is an online copy of True History Decrypted: Full Text and Commentary of Lucian's True History at lucianofsamosata.info. Just put True History Decrypted in the search bar of the page the link lands one on and it should go right to it.

But the book itself is cheap enough and likely more convenient.
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Old 07-18-2019, 12:37 AM   #8
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I’ll give the Project Gutenberg version translated by Hickes a try. It has illustrations by William Strang, J. B. Clark and Aubrey Beardsley.
Librivox also has an audio version though I haven’t yet heard it.
Thank you! The book that I got uses an Aubrey Beardsley illustration as the cover image and cites this version as its reference. You have saved me the time of trying to find it because I would like to see the illustrations. I think it will enhance the experience.
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Old 07-18-2019, 07:29 AM   #9
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Has anybody tried the version of Delphi Classics, is it a good bargain?
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Old 07-18-2019, 07:42 AM   #10
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Has anybody tried the version of Delphi Classics, is it a good bargain?
They are usually very good bargains with excellent additional material and illustrations though they do use older public domain translations.. I haven't tried this one but it might be worth downloading a sample. A lot would depend on whether one would like to go deeper into the other works of the author.
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Old 07-24-2019, 12:57 AM   #11
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For anyone interested, there is an excellent extended article on “Proto-science fiction” in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia here

http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/proto_sf

The same source also has an article concerning Lucian:

http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/lucian

Personally, I think that The True History is satire using the conventions of imaginative literature in the broad sense. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy describes the work as “a parody of the travellers’ tales that were already multitudinous in Lucian’s day.”

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Old 07-24-2019, 08:41 AM   #12
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Has anybody tried the version of Delphi Classics, is it a good bargain?
Just an update—the Delphi volume iis an excellent buy! It contains the translation by H W Fowler as well as others.
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Old 07-31-2019, 11:55 PM   #13
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I have enjoyed this and is another choice of the group which I would likely otherwise never got to.

In the main I read the Fowler translation with the Redmond commentary. I also partly read the Harmon translation and glanced through the Hickes one. The Harmon one, although dating from 1913, contained the most fluid prose to me (enough so for it to come across well using a text to speech reader).

I could not really find much that for me gave the story any inkling as to it being science fictionish, rather I found it to be fantasy and satire with humor. In considering this I tried to put myself back in Lucian's time and scientific (really philosophic then) environment and while he takes us to the moon, for example, that is a fantasy voyage in a contemporary vehicle. In comparison, Well's science fiction also takes us to the moon but that is in a rocket ship of a type yet to be invented.

I found parts of Book II to be a lampoon of the classics authors and others. What drove Lucian to that I do not know as the targets were people of mythology or from several centuries before his time.

It is short enough and enjoyable enough that I will read it again, the Harmon version that time in full.

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Old 08-03-2019, 05:08 PM   #14
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I am glad that we read this book. It was an interesting and unique choice. I can safely say that I never would have heard of this book or author if not for the book club. I wish I had read Gulliver's Travels at some time in the past to understand its influence on Swift.

I also would describe it as more fantasy than science fiction. I enjoyed reading the article on proto-SF that fantasyfan posted (thanks again!) since I do not know much about the history of the science fiction genre. There were some lines that were laugh out loud funny. It was very imaginative. I am very glad that I read an annotated version so I was able to understand the allusions to the works that were the object of his satire. I am also thankful that the version I read also included an appendix of selections from works of that time period, placing the parody in context. Therefore this work was also an insightful read for me. I fully admit that I am very ignorant of classical literature and mythology.

How ironic that there is little biographical information of Lucian except what he tells in his works that may or not be autobiography. Because of his sarcasm, scholars can't trust the truth of his writing.

What a great concluding line! I hope no one waited patiently for the sequels.
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Old 08-13-2019, 04:27 AM   #15
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That's exactly the magic of our book club. Different participants have different background knowledges and points of view. One may know something that the others know little about. We can always share our knowledges and thoughts.
(I am sorry, because of the problems of my internet connection to this website, I can not take part in the activities of our book club regularly. But I am always with you all.)
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