Desde Júpiter: Chile's Earliest Science-Fiction Novel
Critical attention has only occasionally focused on Spanish-language science fiction, and much of what has been written has been directed at Spain.1 Latin America, however, has maintained a limited tradition of science fiction since the late nineteenth-century, although technological leadership is not historically associated with the region. As the twentieth-century draws to a close, the genre continues to thrive among small but creative and enthusiastic communities of Latin American writers and fans.
In 1984 Remi-Maure published one of the few essays on Chilean sf, which he opens by stating that “Chile, unlike Argentina, does not seem to have had a `Prehistory' in its development of sf” (181). He considers 1959, the year that Hugo Correa published his classic novel, Los Altísimos, as marking the beginning of Chile's sole period of sustained science fiction production to date, a golden age which lasted only into the mid-1970s. Remi-Maure is justified in highlighting periods in which science fiction enjoyed some degree of continuity and recognition in Chile. Nonetheless, there are isolated instances when Chilean authors did recognize the exciting potential of speculative scientific fiction much earlier than the sustained period Remi-Maure describes. Francisco Miralles, a contemporary of Jules Verne, helped introduce the nascent genre to Latin American readers in his 1878 novel, Desde Júpiter: Curioso viaje de un santiaguino magnetizado [From Jupiter: The Curious Voyage of a Magnetized Man from Santiago].2 On the one hand, this earliest known work of Chilean science fiction fits squarely in the late-Romantic literary tradition in vogue at the time; on the other hand, it seizes on the fantastic situations and quasi-scientific devices being popularized by writers like Verne and uses them to provide a critical distance from which to analyze contemporary Chilean society.
One of the most alluring qualities of science fiction is the unique freedom it gives us to reinvent reality. It also affords a safer distance from which to critique one's society. This can be especially attractive to historically marginalized voices. Desde Júpiter is an early example of the appropriation of these powers by a citizen of a nation whose sovereignty and right of self-determination have usually been heavily compromised by external forces. The novel is a worthy object of study for its significance in literary history, and by analyzing the critical stance, the attitude toward technology, and the philosophical orientation in Desde Júpiter, I hope to contribute information valuable to those charting the development of science fiction in Latin America in general and in Chile in particular.
On the surface, Desde Júpiter is an adventure story driven by the ersatz hero's pursuit of romantic love. Carlos, the first-person narrator, is a young man from Santiago who tells of his experiences on Jupiter, where he arrives as a result of being magnetized one afternoon by his friend, Federico. Carlos's positivist mission is to learn and remember all that he can of Jovian society by means of direct observation and experience. He is aided in his studies by Eva, Abel, Nemrod, and other wise and benevolent inhabitants of the city of Babilonia (an ironic name, given the city's monolingual, culturally homogeneous population). Unfortunately, Carlos immediately becomes infatuated with Eva, and the rather feeble plot of the novel revolves around his inauspicious attempts to woo her. In an imperfect blending of storytelling and didactic social commentary, the love story is relegated to the background in favor of Carlos's discoveries about Jovian society. His observations and the dogmatic pronouncements by Jovian scholars form the basis of Desde Júpiter's philosophical and critical intent.
Various literary models helped shape Miralles's work. Many writers of the time were responding to the public's fascination with exotic travel books, spawned by the era's dramatic and occasionally ill-fated voyages of exploration. Antonio Pagés Larraya has shown that in the Southern Cone a reader interested in scientific adventure fiction had access to the works of Capt Mayne Reid and Camille Flammarion (45-7); Desde Júpiter's preoccupation with cosmology, spiritualism and life on alien worlds may in fact have been inspired by Flammarion. Other aspects of Desde Júpiter may have been influenced by the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, whose impact on Latin American writers has long been recognized. For example, Miralles grounded the Jovians' idyllic future society in a curious philosophical doctrine uniting science and mysticism, which is arguably evocative of Poe. And by the time Miralles published his novel of scientific adventure, translations of Verne's best works were becoming available in South America; as will be shown, Miralles's work shares many structural and thematic elements with that of the French writer. There were also a few Spanish-language inspirations. An engaging novel about space travel called Una temporada en el más bello de los planetas [A Season on the Most Beautiful of Planets] appeared in serialized form in Spain in 1870.3 Furthermore, the Argentine author Eduardo Ladislao Holmberg had just completed what may be Latin America's very first novel of science fiction, El maravilloso viaje del señor Nic Nac [The Marvelous Voyage of Mr Nic Nac]. Published just three years before Desde Júpiter, the striking similarities between the two would argue that Miralles was familiar with Holmberg's work and with the possibilities of the fledgling genre.
1. Criticism in Desde Júpiter. Desde Júpiter's entertainment value is both enhanced and compromised by frequent digressions into scathing social criticism, which at times can be humorous, and at other times can seem awkward and disruptive of the narrative's progression. The critical content of the novel generally reflects values, attitudes, and assumptions predominant among Chile's urban intelligentsia in the mid- to late-nineteenth-century.
Commentary is effected by means of a standard artifice in science fiction, that is, the creation of an alien culture which is used as a model against which to compare and contrast conditions on Earth. Unlike Holmberg's Nic Nac, which criticizes Argentina through subtlety and disguise, in Desde Júpiter no attempt is made to hide the fact that Chile is the country under scrutiny. The Jovians are avid students of terrestrial culture. Engaged in a systematic analysis of Earth, their data-gathering devices are now trained, conveniently enough, on Santiago. Their primary interest is in ascertaining the period in evolutionary history which Chile—and by extension, humankind—has thus far attained. This is done by means of a complex series of calculations which assigns values to technological, moral and aesthetic developments—perceived as functions of the intellect—and plots them along a deterministic “Progress Curve.” The Progress Curve brings precision and quantification to the humanities in a manner reminiscent of the “Calculus of Probabilities” of Poe's Dupin stories.
The working hypothesis is that terrestrial civilization is some 147,500 years behind the Jovians. However, the human condition greatly perplexes them: it seems full of grave contradictions, for although our experiments with hot air balloons point to a relatively high level of intellectual development, the lack of a universal language on Earth, the use of animals for brute labor, the practice of smoking tobacco, and the ideals of democracy are all interpreted as signs of shocking primitiveness.
This irresolution in the critical stance in Desde Júpiter may best be understood in the context of Chile's social and political history. The first half-century of Chilean independence saw dramatic changes in the country's political organization, economic conditions, infrastructure, and attitudes. Enthusiasm about progress and change was tempered by insecurity over the demise of traditional values and institutions. Although Chile's economy grew steadily stronger through most of the nineteenth-century, this was due in large part to its lucrative copper and wheat industries, which in the 1870s suffered a severe blow from the emergence onto the world market of more efficient methods of producing these commodities. European models of culture and civilization could not easily be reconciled with Chile's primarily rural, semi-educated population, and while the standard of living improved for many over the course of the century, the national conscience was being pricked by increasing evidence of social and economic injustice. Hence the ambivalence in Desde Júpiter: Francisco Miralles embraces the spirited optimism which the urban elite felt about the promise that science and technology held for Chile's future; yet he appropriates the futuristic perspective of the Jovians to look “back” at his country with mingled pride and despair, nostalgia and scorn.
Carlos the narrator represents Everyman in the novel, and as such understandably bristles at the Jovians' harsh and sometimes simplistic criticism of his homeland. His initial condition of invisible and inaudible on Jupiter is symbolic of the impotence felt by the common person in the face of the twin monoliths of tradition and authority, and it is only through knowledge and experience that Carlos achieves some degree of empowerment. He is also a comedic reminder of why the Jovian model of society may be slow in coming on Earth, and of why social utopias succeed more often in theory than in practice. For Carlos overflows with human imperfections, chief among them selfishness, pride, pettiness, and impatience. He proudly acknowledges his natural disdain for authority, his fierce sense of individual liberty, and the rebelliousness of the human spirit—traits which get him into many a tight spot on Jupiter, but which also save him from time to time. A political reading of the novel might liken Carlos to the disadvantaged minor player who, armed with little more than an irrepressible sense of self, doggedly resists the manipulative tactics of the patronizingly generous superpowers.
The Martians in Eduardo Holmberg's El maravilloso viaje del señor Nic Nac represent Earthlings, possessing all our vices and standing in for us as objects of criticism. Not so in Desde Júpiter, where the enlightened Jovians represent not what we are but what we can evolve into. Theirs is a world unconstrained by authoritarian dictates; rather, it is guided by a radiant spirit of cooperation. Miralles does not set up the Jovians as a fully utopian model, however. Depicted as superior to terrestrials in many ways (it is not clear that they belong to a different species) they are nonetheless flawed, in the narrator's eyes, by their very perfection. “I felt lousy in that damned world, where there's so much perfection that not even a slight distraction is forgiven...” (57:263) he complains. Nor do his hosts on Jupiter consider themselves the evolutionary zenith: “You who judge us as superior beings because we have something which you lack for the moment, suffer a grave mistake; for we find ourselves very far behind others who inhabit better worlds” (24:109).
The two most controversial targets of criticism in Desde Júpiter are, not surprisingly, religion and politics. Both contribute to the confusion surrounding the dating of terrestrial society. During one discussion on Jupiter someone remarks,
“popular elections signify foolishness enthroned by ignorance, while [papal] infallibility signifies ..." “Exactly the same thing....” (38:162)
Miralles does well to distance himself from these and other harsh comments by putting them in the mouths of aliens. Political and clerical reform were deeply divisive issues in the decades following Chilean independence. Anticlerical legislation was adopted in an attempt to curtail the power of the Catholic Church in determining political and social policy. This explains the frequency with which religious criticism in the novel is directed at the Pope:
“Just think,” he said, “on Earth there's a man who governs the beliefs of everyone else, or at least of a large group . . .”
“But that's impossible,” said Ada, “because ordering someone to believe is like ordering someone to understand.” (9:58)
Other sardonic comments condemn religious credulity, which the Jovians perceive as a distortion of their particular understanding of faith. To them faith is an essential part of furthering one's spiritual maturity and concomitant advancement along the Progress Curve. Yet faith as exemplified by Catholicism is mere fatuousness and is, they feel, perplexing, aberrant, and regressive:
“we have found that the inhabitants of [Earth] love life to such an extent that they concern themselves little or nothing with what comes afterwards. For example, they have someone who assures them that eternal suffering exists and that the punishments of the Universal Father are cruel and without end. And yet they prefer to believe this, or not believe anything, rather than try to investigate what is real and true.” (10:62-3)
Catholic doctrine is perceived as a serious obstacle to Chile's bid for modernization and progress in Desde Júpiter. Faith, say the Jovians, should be subordinate to the rational humanist quest for truth; it should not replace it.
Terrestrial political systems also perplex the citizens of Jupiter. Both democracy and hereditary rule come under heavy fire in the novel, for with the former the unfit can be elected to power by the ignorant, and with the latter one can become a ruler “no matter how much of an idiot one may be” (32). To the surprise and scorn of the Jovians, people on Earth have not learned that, although structurally they may be more or less equal, qualitatively they are very unequal. This fact is one of Jupiter's most important social truths, and belief to the contrary is seen as the leading cause of class conflicts on Earth.
As a result of their study of Santiago, Jovian scholars are exceedingly harsh in their criticism of Chileans. The catalog of their defects, outlined in an article written by the character Abel, includes their indiscriminate adoration of all ideas coming from Europe and corresponding disdain for local talent; their distrust in business dealings; their intellectual laziness and haphazard way of learning; their pride (which Jovians recognize as the dominant passion in all primitive worlds); and their flawed electoral system and sensitivity to public opinion, which hold them hostage to the masses. Even their virtues are handicaps, especially patience, which the Jovians believe leads to the passive acceptance of atrocities. In summary, Abel writes,
Chile is the terrestrial country which presents the greatest number of contradictions in its march toward development.
There, people smoke tobacco, drink alcohol,...believe in the infallibility of one man, use gunpowder to kill one another, practice black and white photography, and decide the truth by numerical majority, while rats, spiders, flies and other pests freely inhabit the country. (44:203-4)
Implicit in the novel is a sense that Chileans are responsible for their own sufferings, which are metaphors for the country's archaic beliefs, attitudes and institutions.
2. Futuristic Elements in Desde Júpiter. According to Jean Chesneaux, Jules Verne's classics extol “the Saint-Simonian vision of a world `administered by scientists,'” where scientific advances improve the quality of life in a world beset by natural and physical challenges to humankind (70). This belief in technology as savior, and in scientists as unimpeachable moral and intellectual leaders who use knowledge and creativity for the betterment of society is evident in Desde Júpiter as well.
The nineteenth-century was an era of breathtaking transformation. The optimistic faith that men and women such as Miralles had in the potential of scientific progress was an indispensable part of the social climate which engendered the Industrial Revolution. In Latin America a vigorous spirit of modernization translated into the construction of ships, railroads, bridges, communications systems, buildings, streetlights and parks at an unprecedented rate. “Science and technology, and the people who could best manipulate them, ushered in the new millennium.”4 Scientific literature was consumed avidly by intellectuals of the age, for it was a time of passionate interest in science and geography.5 Jules Verne's earliest works played to the reading public's appetite for adventure stories set in fantastic locales, and Romanticism exalted the application of scientific inquiry to lofty patriotic ideals. “Reason,” proclaims Nemrod in Desde Júpiter, “is the divine light that illuminates all mankind, and progress...is the consequence of the application of reason” (9: 59). Inasmuch as Miralles extols the virtues of science for the betterment of Chile, then, Desde Júpiter, even with its futuristic feel, fits comfortably within the prevailing literary aesthetic.
Even if Miralles' main intent is the critique of his society by means of the distancing afforded by sf, not all aspects of the alien society he creates are devoted exclusively to this goal. He is occasionally lured by the thrill of the technology itself. While the futuristic elements in Desde Júpiter are usually not imperative to the plot, they aid in the critical intent of the novel and bespeak the author's firm belief in the glorious promise of technology.6
Miralles is unwilling or unable to maintain Verne's high standards for scientific precision; nor do most of his inventions fall within the realm of the technologically feasible. Mechanical innovations abound on Jupiter, but Carlos's descriptions of them are notoriously imprecise. The main instrument used for terrestrial study is the “indefinite microscope,” of such power that it enables Jovians to read newsprint on Earth.7 The great hall in which alien behavior and artifacts are studied is equipped with amazing telescopes, cameras, projectors and elevators. Architects on Jupiter construct “infinite monoliths,” and design cities so that their aesthetic charms can be appreciated from all perspectives, including an aerial one, for Jovians can fly—and what is more, they can do so without any apparent need for aircraft.8 The integrity of the plot could withstand the absence of several of these futuristic devices; their inclusion in the novel, however, underscores Miralles' delight in scientific innovation. While the mechanical instruments in the study halls function to facilitate criticism of Earth, for example, scientific interest is the primary reason for including human flight, the physics lessons in chapter 33, and the discussions about theories of evolution and the creation of the universe.
Carlos also discovers many extraordinary non-technological qualities about life on Jupiter. Besides their aeronautical talents, for example, Jovian citizens can vanish at will, read minds, pass through solid objects, and inhabit the bodies of others through a mysterious process of displacement called “coming alive in Time.”9 These wondrous metaphysical abilities suggest the influence of Poe and reflect the late nineteenth-century fascination with phrenology, parapsychology, spiritualism, and other paranormal phenomena.
Other futuristic cultural differences on Jupiter are more suggestive of utopian fiction. Jovians work at that for which they are best suited and set their own work hours. There are no locks on anything, and buildings and sidewalks are in perfect condition. Teaching and learning are highly valued, for women as well as for men (unlike in Verne, the women in Desde Júpiter are the moral and intellectual equals of men). Ancestors are revered, personal worth is measured by one's talents and virtues rather than possessions, and selfless love is the ideal. And although presumably humanoid, Jovians have evolved to such a point that certain digestive organs are superfluous; indeed, they are considered the mark of a primitive species. The application of science has enabled Jovians to devise such perfect food (ingested in pill form) that the body produces no waste:
On Earth...humans, not knowing how to extract what is useful, eat huge quantities, like animals. Nature is thus obliged to provide them with an intestinal tube destined to excrete excess foolishly introduced within. In a world in which humans are fundamentally manure machines, one easily understands that the rest of their functions must be subordinate to that servile necessity. That world is thus indisputably a world of correspondingly vile and lowly spirits, and is many centuries behind us. (53:243)
In sum, Jovian society is peaceful, ordered and unhurried, with no mention of any social problems at all. As in the Voyages extraordinaires, however, only a narrow representation of the population on Jupiter is evident; that society is orderly and content is the assurance of only a few spokespersons who obviously do not want for food, material comfort, education or personal liberty.
3. Attitudes and Philosophies on Jupiter. Jovian scholars decry the linguistic cacophony on Earth, which has not yet advanced sufficiently to discover the Universal Language. Representing perfection in communication, this Universal Language is “composed of the useful elements of all other languages in a rational and scientific fusion” (3:23). In the great Verneian tradition, the esteem of reason and science, and the insistence on experiential knowledge of the world, are the principal underpinnings of Jovian positivist philosophy, and all else, even love, is subordinate to it.
Reason and science contribute greatly to the serene equilibrium that reigns on the planet. Jovians' harmonious coexistence with nature, for example, is the result of planning and complete control. “There was nothing there that was... the result of chance. Nature contributed its strength, and people the ideas” (18:87). Technology serves both practical and aesthetic needs. Gender is unimportant and quite incidental; it would be wholly irrational to privilege one gender over another, and thus on Jupiter it is not done—much to the discomfort of the narrator, who has always harbored a “superstitious horror” of educated women (4:33).10
Spiritual maturity, too, is essential for development into superior beings: Jovians speak of something called the “visibility scale,” which basically indicates the degree of spiritual development one has attained. Abel and Eva, for example, who are spiritual equals, can make themselves invisible to Carlos, their inferior, but not to each other. Invisibility, then, symbolizes the attainment of a relative degree of purity and spiritual enlightenment. As a way of encouraging Carlos's progress and understanding, Abel frequently exhorts him to think about what point he has reached on the visibility scale.
As explained earlier in this essay, the Earth's stage of development is derived through a series of mathematical calculations which are plotted along a Progress Curve. This Jovian concept of social evolution accords with Laplace's thesis of historical extrapolation (as summarized by Ormson), wherein “given a knowledge of the state of the universe at some date, it is in principle possible to predict all the subsequent history of the universe” (97). The wise Nemrod claims that the coupling of reason and progress is a crucial turning point which leads inexorably to “a domination plan destined to end all resistance, and which, once understood, initiates the union of the oppressed, and after that, war. Immediately following comes death and then the aurora of religious unity. This is the path followed by us and all other superior planets” (9:59, italics mine). Evolution toward utopia is assured, once knowledge is attained and applied by enlightened men and women of science.
Religious attitudes on Jupiter are also fundamentally rationalist. Throughout Desde Júpiter the citizenry acknowledges an Absolute Being (also referred to as Universal Father, Creator of Nature, and other honorifics). Faith is not disparaged, just blind faith, an attitude exemplified by the Jovian aphorism, “To desire successfully, one must desire that which is possible” (59:273). Faith untempered by knowledge and reason gives rise to erroneous beliefs which hinder progress. For example, great confusion ensued when a being from an advanced world visited a comparatively primitive one about two thousand years ago: “some superior spirits became incarnate on Earth with the objective of establishing among the inhabitants the universal laws of Absolute Morality. Such was the effect that there are many who still believe that they were really gods” (64:315-16). Vast ignorance, the speaker goes on to say, is what repeatedly leads terrestrials to deify prophets.
The Jovian concept of love is one of the hardest for Carlos to accept. His declaration of love to Eva is at first happily misunderstood by her to be platonic, which is precisely the nature of the love both she and Abel feel for Carlos. This sublime, all-encompassing spiritual love, which only comes with understanding the laws of progress, is for them the greatest love to which one can aspire. It does not privilege the young, for one must have “lived truth” (i.e., progressed) before one can understand it, and Carlos, in Eva's estimation, is experientially too young to know love. What he feels, she cautions him, is merely individual attraction, based on little more than physical appearance. Eva is incapable of accepting the validity and worth of the love Carlos feels for her. Nor is he ever able to embrace the ideal love which all Jovians value. At the end of the novel, after a series of tragicomic adventures in courtship which all too well showcase his fallible human nature, Carlos returns to Earth with these last words from the benevolent Abel ringing in his ears:
You are going to awaken. I forgive you and go with you. We will see each other again. Remember me as a friend, and Eva as a sister. I will not forget you because I have pitied and understood you. (68:332)
Abel's love is the kind of which Carlos thought only God capable, but instead of rejoicing in it and feeling renewed, it leaves him feeling “guilty, criminal and humiliated” (68:332). Thus, in spite of the novel's structural similarity to the bildungsroman, Carlos's resistance to betterment makes Desde Júpiter more a parody of that genre than an example of it.
4. Desde Júpiter and Subsequent Chilean Science Fiction. It is difficult to find other examples of nineteenth-century Chilean science fiction.11 However, a number of works were published in the first half of the twentieth-century, prior to the “golden age” initiated by Correa's Los altísimos [The Superiors] in 1959. These include Tierra firme: Novela futurista [1927, Terra Firma: Futuristic Novel] by R. O. Land; Ovalle: El 21 de abril del año 2031 [1933, Ovalle: April 21, 2031], by David Perry; the short stories of Alberto Edwards (published between 1913 and 1921); La caverna de los murciélagos [1924,The Cavern of the Bats] by Pedro Sienna; the stories of Ernesto Silva Román, collected under the titles El dueño de los astros [1929, The Master of the Stars] and El holandés volador [1949 The Flying Dutchman], as well as his novel Jristos [1957, Jristos]; Luis Thayer Ojeda's lengthy novels La Atlántida pervertida [1934, Atlantis Corrupted] and En el mundo en ruinas [1935, In the Ruined World]; El caracol y la diosa [1950, The Snail and the Goddess] by Enrique Araya; Visión de un sueño milenario [1950, Vision of a Millennium Dream] by Michel Doezis; and Diego Barros Ortiz's novel Kronios: La rebelión de los Atlantes [1954, Kronios: The Rebellion of the Atlanteans].12
Since science fiction did not seem to attract Chilean writers again until the 1920s, one must conclude that Francisco Miralles did not touch off a serious exploration of the genre by his contemporaries. His novel received little critical attention at the time and was probably regarded chiefly as a literary curiosity. However, it represents a significant moment in the history of Chilean science fiction, for it is that country's earliest example of the genre, complete with interplanetary travel and a fully developed extraterrestrial society. It helps chart the spreading influence of Verne's scientific romances, and like them often includes wonders of technology for their intrinsic interest, rather than merely as convenient vehicles for plot advancement and social commentary.
Desde Júpiter captures the heady spirit of the late nineteenth-century, when members of Chile's intellectual, political and economic elite were enamored of the liberal ideas coming from Europe, when expansion, exploration, and individualism were the order of the day, and when the almost magical potential of technology and science encouraged people to face the future with eager confidence. Miralles used an exotic literary mode to critique what to him were exotic times. He took advantage of the distancing sf affords to express potentially unpopular, even incendiary views. Along with Holmberg, his counterpart in Argentina, Miralles began adapting the new genre to the peculiarities of Latin American reality. It remains to be seen, through the study of the pre-Correa works listed above, to what extent his stylistic and thematic legacy found continuance in the next generations of Chilean sf writers.
1. A recent search of the literature turned up fully twice as many citations about sf in Spain than in Latin America, in spite of the outstanding work in the genre currently coming out of Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.
2. The citations in this paper are taken from the second edition of the novel, published in 1886. All translations are my own.
3. Brian J. Dendle, “Spain's First Novel of Science Fiction: A Nineteenth-Century Voyage to Saturn,” Monographic Review/ Revista Monográfica 3 (1987): 43-48.
4. Judith Ewell and William H. Beezley, eds., The Human Tradition in Latin America: The Nineteenth Century (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1989) 187.
5. Angela Dellepiane, writing about Argentina, notes that that country's Generation of 1880 produced writers who were pioneers of literature “...in which the fantastic, introduced into everyday reality, was a result of...the scientific advancements toward which the intelligentsia of this time was strongly attracted” (21).
6. This optimistic belief in technology has changed over the years in Hispanic sf; in many recent works the attitude toward progress reflects anger at Latin America's subordinate position in the world economy and a growing concern about the social costs of new technologies.
7. Besides using their fabulous microscope, Jovian scholars also possess terrestrial books and newspapers, but it is unclear whether these were reproduced via long-distance photography or if they had perfected a means of interstellar matter transference. Another possibility is that Carlos and Federico brought them during earlier visits to Jupiter.
8. Miralles' interest in the possibility of human flight was an abiding one: in 1889 he published a monograph, Locomoción aérea (Santiago: Imprenta Cervantes), in which he explores the feasibility of applying the principles of avian flight to humans.
9. Many thanks to my colleague David Sunderland for his help in translating the unusual Spanish phrase, “viviendo el tiempo.” In the novel, “coming alive in Time” is equated with the terrestrial concept of “being awake” (59:276), not in the literal sense, but rather awake to a truer understanding of life. To achieve this higher level of consciousness (by means, of course, of direct experience), Jovians periodically inhabit the bodies of others, “so that by coming alive in Time, your being discovers many ways of establishing direct contact with the sphere of action of those who surround you...” (25:112). Interestingly, one's gender does not change during the experience. In one scene the male character Abel is occupying the body of Eva. In response to a remark from the unsuspecting narrator she says that she is satisfied—using the masculine form of the adjective. That linguistic marker is what tips Carlos off that his beloved Eva is not who he thinks she is, at least not at that moment.
10. Through the character of Carlos we can sense the personal threat that many nineteenth-century Chilean men were feeling as women began exploring opportunities to increase their spheres of influence, challenge their dependent status, and broaden their experience of the world.
11. I have heard vague and conflicting references to a book published in 1876 called El espejo del futuro; however, I have thus far been unable to verify its existence or learn more precisely what it is about.
12. I am indebted to Moisés Hassón for his assistance with this section. A Chilean, Hassón is currently the most active chronicler of his country's science fiction and horror literature. These data on early Chilean sf come from his article, “Introducción a la literatura de ciencia-ficción en Chile” and from his unpublished “Bibliografía de la ciencia-ficción chilena.”
Chesneaux, Jean. The Political and Social Ideas of Jules Verne. Trans. Thomas Wikeley. London: Thames and Hudson, 1972.
Dellepiane, Angela B. “Critical Notes on Argentinian Science-Fiction Narrative.” Monographic Review/Revista Monográfica 3:19-32, 1987.
Dendle, Brian J. “Spain's First Novel of Science Fiction: A Nineteenth-Century Voyage to Saturn.” Monographic Review/Revista Monográfica 3:43-49, 1987.
Ewell, Judith, and William H. Beezley, eds. The Human Tradition in Latin America: The Nineteenth Century. Wilmington (DE): Scholarly Resources Inc., 1989.
Hassón, Moisés. “Introducción a la literatura de ciencia-ficción en Chile.” Cinco conferencias de literatura de fantasía y ciencia ficción. Santiago: Departamento de Cultura de la Secretaría Ministerial de Educación, 1989. 13-22.
─────. “Bibliografía de la ciencia-ficción chilena.” Unpublished bibliography.
Miralles, Francisco. Desde Júpiter: Curioso viaje de un santiaguino magnetizado. 2nd ed. Santiago: Imprenta Cervantes, 1886.
─────. Locomoción aérea. Santiago: Imprenta Cervantes, 1889.
Ormson, J. O., ed. The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy and Philosophers. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1965. 97.
Pagés Larraya, Antonio. Preliminary study. Cuentos fantásticos. By E. L. Holmberg. Buenos Aires: Librería Hachette, S.A., 1957. 7-98.
Remi-Maure. “Science Fiction in Chile.” Trans. Lynette Stokes, Laird Stevens, and Robert M. Philmus. Science Fiction Studies 11:188-89, #33, July 1984.
Desde Júpiter (1878), by the Chilean author Francisco Miralles, is among the earliest known works of Latin American science fiction. Miralles adapted the emerging European genre to the peculiarities of South America: his novel, while structurally and thematically evocative of Verne, reflects many of the attitudes and concerns of Chile's urban elite at the time.
Desde Júpiter is part scientific adventure story, part social criticism. Its premise (Jovian scholars who are studying Earth) provides a basis for the critical examination of Chilean society. The distancing which sf affords frees Miralles to pass harsh judgment on his country's political, social, technological, and philosophical failings. The future, he argues, must be guided by reason and science. Enlightened thinking will produce inspired technology, all to the greater glory of Chile.
Miralles' novel fits comfortably within the Romantic aesthetic of the 19th century. With its endorsement of scientific invention, however, and its autochthonous focus, Desde Júpiter signals the commencement of Chile's science fiction tradition.