Somnium (1634), the First Science Fiction Novel

Somnium (The Dream) by Johannes Kepler, a novel written in Latin in 1608 and published posthumously in 1634, is considered the first work of science fiction in history

The Plot

The plot mixes science fiction, magic and witchcraft.
When a young man and his mother, using magical spells, embark on a dream trip to the Moon, during a solar eclipse.
In the novel, the narrator is Kepler himself who, according to the book, when he fell asleep while reading the story about a magician named Libussa, had a strange dream about Duracotus, a 14-year-old Icelandic boy, whom his mother Fiolxhilde sold to a merchant. of herbs and fabrics, the dealer “gifts” it to a friend, Tycho Brahe in Hven (now Ven, Sweden), who supports him in learning astronomy and the arts of the sky.
Upon his return to Iceland, Duracotus is reunited with his mother, who reveals that she knows the secrets of the heavens, because through magical spells she can summon demons to transport them to any place in the universe in an instant.
The summoned demon proposes a trip to the moon, in just four hours, although the trip has two drawbacks, the lack of air and the extreme cold, for the first problem, wet sponges must be placed in the nostrils to breathe and, for the second, the devil will provide the necessary heat.
The problem is that demons can’t stand sunlight, that’s why they live in the shadows, but during a solar eclipse they will be protected.
The demon describes to them different forms of the moon, (lunar phases), each one with their names,
even some details of the description are scientific in nature, for example, what eclipses would look like from the moon, the size of the planets, which vary due to the distance of the moon from Earth, or the size of the moon relative to the earth, other descriptions of the devil enter science fiction, for example, the descriptions of the creatures that inhabit the moon or the growth of plants on the light side and the dark side.
Waking up, Kepler finds himself wrapped in blankets just like the characters in his dream.

Kepler and Copernicus

Let us remember that the idea of ​​traveling to the moon arose from Copernicus and his model of “Heliocentrism” (helium=sun), in 1514, but that he completed his work only in 1532, that he only decided to publish it in 1543, when he suffered a stroke. would lead to death.
Kepler began with the idea of ​​“Somnium” in a student dissertation in 1600, when he defended the Copernican doctrine, explaining that an observer on the moon would find the movements of the earth just as visible as an observer on the earth.
In 1608 Kepler added the framework of the dream, and in 1620 he wrote a series of explanatory notes reflecting on his turbulent career and the stages of his intellectual development.
The book was edited in 1634 and published by Ludwig Kepler and Jacob Bartsch, after Kepler’s death in 1630, aged 58.

Kepler and the church

Actually “Somnium” hides the biography of Kepler, that 14-year-old boy, in 1585, who wanted to travel to the moon and, who is protected by a rich merchant, who sends him to study and become an imperial mathematician.
For this reason, the church, unable to imprison Kepler, since he had died four years before the publication of “Somnium”, arrested his mother Katherine, accused of witchcraft, freeing her in 1636.


  • Cesar Leo Marcus was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Doctor (PhD) in International Logistics and Foreign Trade, and Master (MBA) in Economic Sociology, he was professor of both chairs at the Universities of Madrid (Spain) and Cordoba (Argentina). A journalist, he publishes in newspapers in California, Miami, and New York. He is a writer, he published twelve books, and a literary editor, director of Windmills Editions. He currently resides in California.

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