Antiquity and science fiction

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Antiquity and science fiction

Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Tue May 04, 2004 3:12 pm

Salvete!

Recently I bought "Ilium", a new (2003) novel by Dan Simmons, who is one of my favourite sf writers. It's an sf-adaptation of the Trojan wars. Until now I'm not tooo pleased with it, it's a bit too caricatural for my taste and the style is sloppy.

However, I was wondering if any others among you have read sf or fantasy that had a Roman or Greek touch to it, or referred especially to works of Antiquity. I do think that sf and Antiquity are a good, refreshing combination... it can lend sf more literary depth and can free Antiquity from its scholarly swamp of dust it sometimes seems to be sunk in.

So... discuss!

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Roman Science Fiction (Yes!!)

Postby Aldus Marius on Wed May 05, 2004 3:03 am

Ave, mi Draco!

On the Outpost Web site, in the Creative Research section, is my Marius Peregrine's Excellent Historical-Fiction Reading List!. There is a small but sturdy SF section therein, along with my thumbnail reviews of all the ones I've actually read and not merely heard of. Favorite authors/books/series so far have included...

-- Harry Turtledove's Videssos Cycle, in which a Roman cohort gets zapped to a world where magic works; they have a lot to learn, of course, but also a lot to teach

-- David Drake's Ranks of Bronze, probably the seminal work of Roman SF: Survivors of Crassus' Parthian legions are sold as slaves to an alien race that uses them to fight low-tech wars on distant planets

-- Sean McMullen's The Centurion's Empire, or, What Happens when the Romans figure out time travel and one of 'em decides to pay us a little visit

-- The Far Arena by Richard ben Sapir, aka the truck that hit me. A gladiator is discovered and revived in our era. As a science-fiction story it's only so-so; but the historical parts, where the Roman flashes back to how he got into this fix, are not to be missed. This was the book that got me so into the Heritage.

Not SF but can't let slip by without mentioning: Child of the Eagle by Esther Friesner. Venus shows up on pridie Idibus Martiis and persuades Brutus not to do it. In exchange for...? --Ahh, that's the fun part. I've never read and enjoyed a better revelation of the whole dynamic between men and their Gods.

Enough to get you started...? There's more at the Outpost:

http://labienus.home.texas.net/RomanOutpost

In amicitia,
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SF & Ancts

Postby C.AeliusEricius on Tue May 11, 2004 11:08 pm

I'll put in a word for Daivd Drake's Roman stories. They are few in number, that not being what the masses hanker for. Ranks of Bronze is a good one, and perhaps his first novel. Basically it is about some of Crassus's legionaries who are picked up wholesale by aliens who need experts in low technology warfare. There was an anthology titled Vettius and Friends of short stories involving a Roman named Vettius. Also very good. Two other roman ones of Drake's are wierd. Well, all of his stories are wierd. From the various biographical sketches of him I've run across he started his roman scribbling while in Vietnam, reading Amminaus for his sanity [!]? One said he was an interrogator, another said he was a tech-grunt who got a gig cleaning stuff for high brass inspections. I don't quite believe either. And I believe both. Thos otehr two books are Killer and Birds of Prey. I had to look up one of those titles and found this site:
http://www.baen.com/author_catalog.asp?author=ddrake
Some of the books shown have the look of having some ancinet based material in them. But you never know until you thumb through it.
A thing I've learned about book titles; they are not always the same on one side of the Atlantic as the other. In fact they are quite often different. And I do not just mean translations. So it might take some extra poking around to find anything the Yanks (or Rebs) tell you about.

STAY CLEAR of the Rome in modern times bboks of Kirk Mitchell.
I liked the first one well enough for a pulp read to get the other two from Amazon. He does not develope his universe. It is basically like Rome has survived through time to the 20th Century, and has not changed at all except for the last forty years or whatever when one emperor invents some things like railroads and tanks and automatic weapons. Of course ... never mind. The pulp does not hold up as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs, and has pretensions of Alexander Kent or Pat O'Brien. And every relgion from Norse through Judaism, a timeslip Islam, Apache ways, and even a respectful if condemning nod to the Aztec blood baths are recognised as "real". All except the Religio Romana and Hellinismos. WE have no gods, only empty idols that no one believes in, and seems tonever have believed in. My stoic control triumphed. I did not throw the book across the room.

Enough for now.

Valete.

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Postby Anonymous on Wed May 12, 2004 1:16 pm

Salvete Omnes!

It's not exactly SF but Robert Silverberg's 'Roma Eterna' is worth looking at. It's really a series of short stories set through the ages in a world where the Empire doesn't fall. Silverberg does have a few of his own axes to grind but some of the stories are well worth reading.

While we're talking favourite books with a Roman theme I recently read Steven Saylor's 'Catlina's Riddle'. I'd enjoyed most of his other books as well but this one I especially loved.

By the way Frank Herbert's 'Dune' books have a (very well buried) classical theme with many of the leading characters claiming descent from Agamemnon, Menelaus et al. Many of the themes in the novels seem to reflect some classical influences (Sophocles' Theban plays and in particular Aeschylus' Oresteia spring to mind). Either way these have been a favourite of mine for some years and are well worth looking at.

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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Wed May 12, 2004 9:19 pm

There is a Roman soldier well portrayed in Robert A. Heinlein's juvenile novel "Have Spacesuit Will Travel". He even speaks in late Latin!

I recall another novel, "Janissaries", about two modern men who are transported to a world where periodic transportations of peoples have taken place in the past. I think they end up with some Celtic types and end up training them to take on the Romans, who are the masters of that world. Not a bad yarn. I can't remember the authors because I gafiated ("gafiate" = "getting away from it all" = abandoning SF fandom) about 18 years ago.

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Postby Aulus Flavius on Thu Sep 15, 2005 2:07 pm

I'll tip my hat to Sohpia McDougall's 'Romanitas'. Not entirely Sci Fi (then again I wouldn't really know. I never got into the Sci Fi genre. Fantasy though...), she's just released the first of a planned trilogy in which the Roman Empire has survived through to the modern day. Don't worry, they've updated too :) No horses and gladius' in this. It's all magnate trains and guns :) She's got an abridged timeline in the back of the book that fills in all the gaps in her history.

Rome is the worlds premier superpower with control over Europe, the Middle East including India, and most of the American and African continent too. In a nice little twist, the only other power competing with them are the Nionians who appear to be Japanese which sounds good for any Asian history buffs out there :)

Granted I've only started reading this, but trust me when I say it's worth the money. Fleeing members of the imperial family, curses and psychic slaves! It's got everything :)

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Clarification

Postby Aldus Marius on Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:07 am

Salve, Aule Flavi...

Sounds a great deal like Kirk Mitchell's series, Procurator; The New Barbarians; and Cry Republic. In these, Pilate pardons Jesus--and so the Roman Empire never falls. They develop some tech over the centuries, consistent with an overall cultural conservatism; Cavalry scouts fly gliders; firearms are called pila. Their big conflict in the second book is with the Aztecs; in the third, with the Nipponese.

All that being the case (and as one of the few Andeans present in our Forum), I must ask: Which "American continent" do McDougall's Romans rule? We've got a couple of them to choose from...some easier pickings than others. >({|;-)

In amicitia,

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Postby Aulus Flavius on Sun Sep 18, 2005 3:29 am

Salve amice,

As far as I can tell with the tech it's pretty much on par with us today. Telephones are longdictors, TV is longvision. The magnet-trains are my personal favourites, although there's no sign of lasers or flying cars yet.

I meant the entire American continent except for some part of the north west. The Nionians invaded through Alaksa and Canada but after a war Rome forced a peace. In typical Roman fashion a huge wall was built basically in a diagonal line from roughly Seattle up to the corner of Hudson Bay. The Romans essentially rule eveything from NE Canada right down to Tierra del Fuego.

It's a great novel, to say the least.

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Postby Victoria Aurelia Ovensa on Fri Sep 08, 2006 12:23 am

Though not really sci-fi, but "Household Gods" by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove is about a woman who is transported by Roman gods back in time to ancient Rome and must learn to cope with life as it was (she is almost unbelievably ignorant about the most common knowledge of ancient times and is annoyingly whiney to boot, but the story and setting are interesting enough for me to overlook her character flaws).
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Household accidents

Postby Aldus Marius on Sat Sep 09, 2006 4:59 am

Salvete omnes!

Aurelia, it must seem that I disagree with you on Everything. I don't mean to be contrary--really! As we talk about more topics, you're sure to bump into one where I'll be right behind you. >({|:-)

But Household Gods isn't it. Bene, that may say more about Marius than about the book; the main character's ignorance drove me nuts(er), so it may be I'm not so tolerant as you. I just couldn't fathom anyone clueful-enough to have a Roman votive plaque on her nightstand, and know what it is, to be so clueless about Rome in all other respects. And for a lawyer to be unfamiliar with, let alone wholly ignorant of, Roman Law is just...unexcusable in my book.

I know and have enjoyed the solo works of both authors, so like many I expected a lot better than I got from this collaboration. Yes, the woman whines. And whines! On and on, about how dirty we were...how primitive we were...how politically-incorrect we were. She grows to grudgingly admire one or two Romans in her immediate acquaintance. She thinks she may be in love with one of them. But all the rest is her being utterly taken aback by things you and I had figured out by the second time we'd seen Spartacus.

Actually, I've never seen Spartacus. See what I mean...?

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Postby Victoria Aurelia Ovensa on Sat Sep 09, 2006 8:33 pm

Salve Mari,

:lol:

I had to laugh as I read your reply, because you're right, the character is most aggravating! And I'm embarrassed to say, I never did consider the fact of her possessing the Liber/Libera plaque in the first place, in light of her complete ignorance. Perhaps she is meant to be a satirical figure?... a caricature of your typical extreme leftist? I don't know, but I do agree with you on all points.

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