Greek science fiction

"A true story"

Lucian, Syrian by birth but Greek by culture, wrote his "True Story" parodying the weird tales told by Greeks from the Odyssey onwards. He was born about 120 AD, trained as a lawyer, but spent most of his life as a travelling lecturer, before he settled down in Athens to some more serious philosophy. Many of his books (he wrote over 80) weren't at all serious. "A True Story" anticipates Jules Verne, George Lucas and, especially, Douglas Adams.

Mental Health Warning from the author. All books are full of lies - especially serious books and most especially philosophy. My book is uniquely honest because I guarantee that it does not contain a single word of truth. There is no evidence for any of my claims. None of of the events happened to me. I did not do any research. Every word is bullshit. Reader - you have been warned. DO NOT TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY.

SETTING out from the Pillars of Hercules one day, I was sailing out into the Atlantic with a following wind. The excuse for my trip or indeed the reason was an overactive brain, mindless curiosity and a wish to find out to what end the ocean existed and what men who inhabited the beyond looked like. For this reason I had on board every variety of food, I had enough water, and I'd recruited 50 like-minded friends. I also had a good number of weapons, and the best helmsman that money could buy. As captain, I readied the vessel - she was a pinnace - for a long and arduous voyage. Sailing with the breeze behind us for a day and a night we were making good headway, though still in sight of land. At sunrise next day the wind began to blow, the swell increased, a storm blew up and we had to strip her naked (the ship). Turning downwind we surrendered to our fate and were storm-toss'd for 79 days. On the 80th the sun suddenly came out and we could see an island quite close by. It was mountainous and wooded, and surrounded by calm sea. Already the worst of the storm was over. Putting in and disembarking we lay down on the beach for a long time, knackered after the major battering we'd taken.

When we came to, we picked 30 of us to stay and guard the ship, while 20 went with me to check out the island. We'd gone nearly half a mile through the forest, when we came across a bronze slab. It had some letters on it - in Greek, but very faint and worn away. It seemed to say: "DIONYSUS WOZ ERE", and underneath "SO WOZ HERCULES". There were two footprints close by, in the rock. One was 100 feet long, the other shorter. I reckoned Dionysus' was the small one, the big one Hercules'. We showed our respect, and pressed on. We hadn't got far when we found a river, of wine. Near as dammit to a good Chian(ti). It was wide and deep enough in places to be navigable. This seemed to be some sort of proof that the slab was genuine - here was clear evidence of Dionysus' visit!

ampelomixia, anyone? I decided to follow the river upstream, to locate the source. There was no spring, but only huge grapevines with massive bunches of grapes. From the root of each vine bubbled out a rivulet of sparkling wine, and the streams joined to make the river. There were a lot of fish in the river - a choice of red or white of course, with a bouquet similar to wine. We ate so many of them that we got horribly drunk. From then on we mixed them with ordinary water-type fish, to reduce their alcoholic strength.

Then we found a place where the river was shallow enough to wade through, and we crossed over. Here we found a really novel species of vine. The actual trunk growing out of the ground was thick and tough, but on each stem grew a woman, topless and perfect in every detail. They were like the pictures of Daphne turning into a bush just as Apollo is about to catch her. Branches full of grapes grew from their fingertips, and their hair was actually tendrils and vine-leaves. When we went up them they made us welcome with a hug - and they chatted to us - some in Lydian and Indian, but mostly Greek. And they started kissing us - tongues and all! Everyone who got kissed got hideously drunk. But they wouldn't let us pick their fruit- they screamed in agony when we pulled one off. Some them actually wanted us to shag them. Two of our friends were up for it, but they couldn't withdraw - they got stuck inside: it had immediately taken root! Already their fingers were sprouting shoots, they were growing tendrils, and about to fruit like the others any minute. We abandoned them, I'm afraid, and headed back to the ship. We told our friends the whole amazing story - including the vine-shagging. We filled our pots with water, and wine from the river, spent the night on the beach, and put to sea at dawn. There was a nice gentle breeze…

BY midday the island was out of sight. Then the tornado hit us. A giant twister spun the boat round violently and sucked her up to a height of around 200 kilometers. It didn't drop us back into the sea, but while we were up there, a wind caught us, and we were blown along under full sail. We were airborne for seven days and seven nights. On day eight we saw a huge country, like an island in the air, but shaped like a ball, and shiny and bright. We put ashore and dropped anchor. We got out of the boat, and went to explore: the country was inhabited, and farmed. During the day, we couldn't see anything in the sky, but as soon as it got dark we could make out lots of other islands quite close; some were larger, some were smaller. They were the colour of fire. We could also see another country beneath us, and cities in it, and it had rivers and seas and forests and mountains. We guessed this must be our own world.

We decided to press on inland. But we met the Hipporaptors and got ourselves arrested. The so-called Hipporaptors are men riding giant vultures, using the birds as horses. The vultures are enormous and, mostly, three-headed. A clue to their size is the smallest of their wing-feathers would be about as long and thick as the mast of a decent-sized merchant ship.

The Hipporaptors' job is to fly around the place looking for foreigners, The Moon, Luna, Selene whom they grab and take to their king. Naturally they arrested us, and took us to the king. He had a good look at us, and said "So, strangers, you are Greeks, are you?". When we admitted it, he asked how we'd got there, with so much sky to cross. We told him everything, and then he started giving us his life-history. He said he was also a human being, and his name was Endymion. He'd been abducted from our country while he was asleep, and when he arrived became king. His country was the one that shines down on us, the Moon. He told us not to be downhearted: we would get everything we needed. "If I win the war against the Sun, you'll live happily ever after here with me."

We asked who exactly were the enemy, and what the war was all about…