“The Men of the Moon,” Washington Irving, 1809

“The Men of the Moon,” Washington Irving, 1809 — The narrator confesses that he’s lain awake many nights wondering “whether it were most probable we should first discover and civilize the moon, or the moon discover and civilize our globe.”  The narrator supposes the “Lunatics” may possess superior technology and, regarding earthmen as barbarians, conquer the earth.  Due to the earthman’s inability to speak the Lunatic language, his lack of a tail, his horrible white skin, and a “variety of other excellent reasons,” the moon men will divorce the people of earth from their religion, their spouses, their property, and their belief in their innate superiority by any means necessary.  The narrator imagines that, once the cities of earth are demolished, the Lunatics will move them to the “torrid deserts of Arabia, or the frozen regions of Lapland, there to enjoy the blessings of civilization and the charms of lunar philosophy, in much the same manner as the reformed and enlightened savages of this country are kindly suffered to inhabit the inhospitable forests of the north, or the impenetrable wilderness of South America.”  The narrator concludes: “Thus, I hope, I have clearly proved, and strikingly illustrated, the right of the early colonists to the possession of this country; and thus is this gigantic question completely vanquished…”

Comments: See H. Bruce Franklin’s commentary in Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century.  Regarding this story, Franklin restates an insight Tom Boardman provided in An ABC of Science Fiction:

“Satirically attacking the argument that Europeans had ‘discovered’ the land that came to be known as ‘America,’ inhabited by subhuman beings they called ‘Indians,’ Irving presents a parallel case, an invasion by ‘the Men from the Moon.’  The Lunatics approach us with a cultural imperialism identical to that of the Europeans in relation to non-white peoples, and they come armed with a technology vastly superior to our own (they even have the super-weapon sought by the major powers of the late twentieth century, directed-energy beams).  Irving thus shows one reason why science fiction was so congenial to America: because it is a nation that originated in conquest by alien beings who voyaged here from another world.” (Franklin)

Author: Wikipedia: “Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century.”


About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1926 and earlier, american culture, invasion, Native Americans, post/colonialism, primitive/civilized, race/civil rights, satire. Bookmark the permalink.

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