Science Fiction, Alchemy, or a Little Bit of Both?


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The Chemical Wedding John Crowley translation oldest science fiction story John Crowley, the author of classic Little, Big, believes he’s found the strongest contender for “oldest SF story,” and he loves the story so much, he’s working on a new translation of it for Small Beer Press. The story, The Chemical Wedding, appeared in Germany in 1616 and purported to be the work of Christian Rosencreutz, the legendary founder of Rosicrucianism. A theologian and utopian named Johann Valentin Andreae admitted to authorship years later, and called the book a “ludibrium”—which can mean hoax or joke—but by then it had already become one of the foundational texts of the Rosicrucian movement. And Crowley thinks the book is much more than that. As he explained to The Guardian,

It’s not a tract, and I actually don’t think it’s an allegory. I think it’s a ‘Thrilling Wonder Tale’, taking the most extreme possibilities of the alchemy of the day and deploying ...