Back in the early seventeenth century, when the novel was still a novel idea, a Frenchman wrote “Voyage to the Moon”, one of the earliest written works of sci-fi. That work of far-from-primitive art, inspired the science fiction and fantasy of Voltaire, Swift and Poe, among others. Who the hell was this guy?
Would you believe Cyrano De Bergerac?
Was he even a person? Cyrano’s like Hamlet or Huck Finn. The stuff of fiction.
Not quite. Not at all, actually. The life of Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (6 March 1619 – 28 July 1655) was only mildly fictionalized by Edmund Rostand in his 1897 play. If you read only one play in high school, that was probably it. But who knew that the guy who dueled 100 men in one night over his nose and wrote dramas, sonnets and satires, buddied up with astronomers and theoreticians.
University of Houston’s Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering John H. Lienhard, cites that Cyrano was a friend of Galileo's intellectual inheritor Pierre Gassendi, one of the atomic theorists who helped end the old Aristotelian science. Cyrano was already a grown man when Galileo discovered with his telescope the mountains and valleys of the Moon. Enthused by the postulates and findings of his day, De Bergerac hypothesized extraterrestrial life and space travel. He really put himself into it when he wrote Le Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (The Other World: The States and Empires of the Moon) (published posthumously, 1657). He put himself right into it. Right into space. He is the main character.
Sure, the science fictional Cyrano travels to the moon using rockets powered by firecrackers and the moon-men have four legs, but that was back in the day when people were still getting used to the idea that the earth was round and the entire universe did not revolve around them. Creative and witty, he gave his lunar pals musical voices, and guns that not only killed game but cooked it too. Now watch, someone’s gonna go invent that one right after reading this. Be sure to be poetic about your patented application of that appliance Monsieur. Some clever swordsman just might duel with you over your dual tool, while writing a lunar sonnet.