Small Beer Press is Kickstarting a Four-Century-Old Science Fiction Novel

Illustration for article titled Small Beer Press is Kickstarting a Four-Century-Old Science Fiction Novel

Many people point to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein as the first science fiction novel, but Small Beer Press thinks that they’ve got one better: The Chemical Wedding by Christian Rosencreutz: A Romance in Eight Days by Johann Valentin Andreae in a New Version by John Crowley, written in 1616.

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This year marks the 400th anniversary of the novel’s original publication, and the publisher is kickstarting a new version.

Johann Valentin Andreae was a German theologian who was a prominent member of the Protestant utopian movement. In 1616, he is believed to have anonymously written Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz anno 1459, which was published in Strasbourg as the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz in 1616. The story is an allegoric romance that follows Christian Rosenkreutz after he is invited to a wondrous castle for a wedding.

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Crowley makes the case that this could be considered the first ever science fiction novel:

“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 them in a story as though they are actual happenings,” Crowley said. “Science fiction works the same way – [to] take the farthest-out science possibilities and embody them in stories.

The Kickstarter for this project has already met its goal, and closes later this week. While they will be publishing a trade paperback edition of the novel this fall, backers can essentially order a limited hardcover edition through the project.

Andrew Liptak is the former Weekend editor of io9/Gizmodo. He is the co-editor of War Stories: New Military Science Fiction and hails from Vermont.

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Many people point to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein as the first science fiction novel, but Small Beer Press thinks that they’ve got one better: The Chemical Wedding by Christian Rosencreutz: A Romance in Eight Days by Johann Valentin Andreae in a New Version by John Crowley, written in 1616.

And both of those are predated by Lucian of Samosata’s 2'nd century novel “True History” which is the first western fiction to use space travel and alien civilizations as its primary plot device.

And it too is arguably predated by some of the poetry in the Rigveda that describe flying machines, which appear again in the later Hindu text Ramayana, only this time with death rays and the explicit ability to fly in space.