“Mellonta Tauta,” Edgar Allan Poe, 1848 – The narrator (Pundita) is in a balloon (the “Skylark”), traveling at dizzying speed while waxing philosophically—yet incorrectly–about the past. An artifact from the now defunct “Amrrican” civilization is located.
Comments: A story about the mutability of language, custom, and belief, and the “logical” conclusions we draw as a result of artifacts and the material conditions of the present. Possibly an example of “present as future past.” Available in Great Tales of Science Fiction (Silverberg and Greenberg).
See H. Bruce Franklin’s commentary in Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century. An excerpt: “According to the narrator of ‘Mellonta Tauta’…the scientists of 2848 have scorn for what they call the only two paths of thought open to ‘ancient’ times: the deductive (from Aries Tottle) and the inductive (or Baconian, from Hog). These modern theorists operate by the only way to great advances in knowledge–intuitive leaps; the great leap of imagination takes place, and the product of this leap is then made as self-consistent as possible. This process–which the narrator offers as the one fruitful path of scientific speculation–perfectly describes an ideal form of science fiction as physical speculation. It also defines science as a kind of fiction.”