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Literature / Micromégas

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One of the first known Science Fiction stories, released in 1752. The only known surviving example that's older is Lucian's True History.

Voltaire's Micromégas tells the story of a philosopher, Micromégas, who is exiled from his home planet and visits first Saturn, then Earth.

Tropes present in this work:

  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: The different races of Aliens have similar sciences and philosophies to each other and to us and like to talk about them with other races.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Micromegas and his Saturnian companion have no problems talking to humans when they first meet them. They first learn to speak French by listening in on them.
  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: While the other planets are not exactly earth-like and the peoples living there are long-lived giants, they all are similar enough that everybody is able to survive on other planets without a space suit and talk to the local people.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: When Micromegas travels from planet to planet by jumping, he doesn't seem to have any problems with breathing.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: The Saturnians have 72 senses, the Siriusians have almost 1000.
  • Ear Trumpet: Micromegas makes one to communicate with what he sees as insects:
    he briskly took out a pair of scissors with which he cut his fingernails, and from the parings of his thumbnail he improvised a kind of speaking-trumpet, like a vast funnel, and put the end up to his ear.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: Micromegas speaks about God and studied at some Jesuit colleges on this planet, but it's never explained how Christianity came to be on Earth and on Sirius without the two planets ever interacting before the story.
  • First Contact: The Ur-Example. Micromegas meets Saturnians for the first time, and he and his Saturnian companion meet humans for the first time.
  • Got the Whole World in My Hand: Apparently, Micromegas had encountered beings big enough to do that literally.
  • Higher-Tech Species: The Siriusians have figured out interstellar space travel without using any technology.
  • Human Aliens: The Saturnians and Siriusians are giants, but otherwise, they seem to resemble humans. At least, they for sure have hands and fingers like us and are at least Humanoid Aliens.
  • Humans Are Flawed: But the other aliens are just as dissatisfied with their own flaws as we are with ours.
  • Humans Are Insects: The Saturnian repeatedly calls the humans "insects" because of their small size.
  • Impossibly Graceful Giant: Despite (or maybe because of their size), the aliens are not spotted when they visit earth, so they seem to cause little distruction.
  • Lilliputians: What the humans are to the Saturnians and Siriusians. Together, the three races speculate there may be even smaller races.
  • Little People: What the Saturnians are to the Siriusians.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: While only Siriusians, Saturnians and humans appear, Micromegas often mentions how many different peoples and races on different planets he has visited.
  • Mistook the Dominant Lifeform: At first, the aliens think whales are not only the dominant, but the only lifeform on earth because everything else is to small for them to see.
  • Named After Their Planet: Saturnians are from Saturn.
  • No Intelligent Life Here: Micromegas and his Saturnian companion debate whether or not Earth could possibly have intelligent life. Before they discover a boat full of philosophers, they consider it doubtful.
  • One-Word Title: Also a Protagonist Title and Portmantitle.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Averted. The Saturnian is repeatedly called a dwarf because he is much smaller than the Siriusian Micromegas, but he is still 6,000 feet tall and fits none of the usual dwarven tropes.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Saturnians are 6,000 feet tall, Siriusians measure 120,000 feet.
  • Portmantitle: Also a Protagonist Title and One-Word Title, as the footnote says:
    From micros, small, and from megas, large. B.
  • Protagonist Title: Also a One-Word Title and Portmantitle.
  • Puny Earthlings: The narrator often mentions in passing how large and long-lived the aliens are.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "Nature is like nature. Why look for comparisons?".
  • Shipless Faster-Than-Light Travel: Without any aid of technology as it seems.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The Siriusians are able to travel through interstellar space by hopping on comets and planets.
  • Superior Species: Played with. The Siriusians are more sophisticated and long-lived than the Saturnians, who in turn are more long-lived and sophisticated than the earthlings, but there is always a race that knows more and lives longer, and none of them are perfectly happy with their lives.
    "I believe it," said Micromegas, "for on our planet we have almost 1,000 senses; and yet we still have a kind of vague feeling, a sort of worry, that warns us that there are even more perfect beings. I have traveled a bit; and I have seen mortals that surpass us, some far superior. But I have not seen any that desire only what they truly need, and who need only what they indulge in. Maybe someday I will happen upon a country that lacks nothing; but so far no one has given me any word of a place like that."
  • Turtle Island: When Micromegas picks up the human ship on his finger, the humans think they ran aground on a rock.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: Saturnians live 500 revolutions around the sun, which, as the author notes, translates to about 15,000 years. Given that Saturn needs 29.457 years for one revolution around the sun, this would make exactly 14728.5 years.