Online Introduction

Lucian’s Wonderland

A science fiction book written during the Roman Empire! That is what this book is, with a strong dose of satire thrown in.

Lucian of Samostata was one of the funniest writers of the second century A.D. He lived in Syria and spoke Greek. The Vera Historia, or “True History,” is anything but. He admits that this book was his chance to tell marvelous travel tales without pretending that they are true history, as his predecessors have done less honestly. It is fantasy fiction, and pretty fine at that. He does not have much good to say about several “historians” of the past, although his criticism is gentle.

The whole book parodies not only the famous historians but the literary and philosophical icons, as well as the heroes of the past. Homer, Hesiod, Achilles, and Socrates are four of those who make an appearance in these pages. Whether the satire is obvious or not to everyone who reads it, the story of his adventure is full of typical fare for any space traveler. The ideas and plot from Lucian’s fertile imagination have been copied by many a later writer, as Willson relates in the Translator’s Introduction, as well as singers and film-makers.

His short Introduction is one of the best parts of the book. The next best and funniest chapter is . . . well, I guess that would be a spoiler. So you will have to decide which chapter you like the most.

The book is a paraphrase of the original Greek text, according to Willson, the translator. He has made the book a perfect one for both schoolchildren and adults. The art deco period illustrations, drawn by Garnett, are delightful, especially the adorably silly birds:

Black and white pen and ink drawing by A. Payne Garnett, of three prancing goofy birds with cabbage leaves for wings.

As for the printed text, there were almost no typos, and those only in the notes. A true miracle — unless “at anyrate” is a typo, but it is used twice that way.

Last comment: The Notes at the end of the book, have been incorporated on the chapter webpages, as well as on a webpage of their own in the proper page order found in the text.

So begin your adventure on the sailing ship with the prow of a goose!


Lucian’s Wonderland.