Science Fiction with Egyptian Themes

Written by
Categories: Uncategorized

For Dr. Leire Olabarria and Dr. Eleanor Dobson’s conference “Do Ancient Egyptians Dream of Electric Sheep?” I have been trying to think of science fiction that engages with ancient Egypt. This was much harder than I expected, and the difficulty became the basis for my proposal. My understanding of science fiction is centered around people who published short stories and novels between the 1930s and the 1970s, but this is the list I came up with after talking to people in different places online:

The number sign # after an entry indicates that I have not seen or read it.

Of course this short list could just reflect my own taste and what was available in the libraries and used book stores of my home town in the 1990s. But writers who loved the ancient world like L. Sprague de Camp, Poul Anderson, and Harry Turtledove are absent, and the things in this list begin in 1975 rather than trailing off after 1975. And most of these films, shows, cartoons and games involve ancient astronauts or archaeologists digging too deep and awaking ancient horrors like in the film The Mummy (the famous ones begin with Universal Pictures, 1932). If you think I have left anything out let me know! And if you want to know what other people have come up with, check out the conference on 9 July 2021. Some talks will be streamed online.

In lieu of a thousand of bread, a thousand of beer, a thousand of all good things in my mortuary temple, I happily accept donations on Patreon or paypal.me or even liberapay

PS. People suggested the following things which I am not sure are science fiction or I am not sure have a strong enough Egyptian theme to count.

(scheduled 17 March 2021)

7 thoughts on “Science Fiction with Egyptian Themes

  1. Eleanor Konik says:

    This is newer, but what about The Great Library series by Rachel Caine? I believe Alexandria plays a major role. Goodreads considers it Science Fiction. Gail Carriger does a lot with Ancient Egypt from the perspective of the Victorian era in her steampunk “Parasol Protectorate” series — I think it mostly comes up in the later books, but I know “Reticence” has a lot of stuff with Ancient Egypt and Ancient Egypt plays a major role in the plot. I wouldn’t say it’s the FOCUS — the protagonists are definitely Englishwomen — but some of the books take place in Egypt.

    1. Sean Manning says:

      I don’t know that series! It looks like Rachel Caine has a website?

      I am sure I have read SF set in future Egypt (whether cyberpunky or worrying about overpopulation), and lots of people write both SF and historical novels or alternate history set in ancient Egypt, but for some reason ancient Egypt seems to have been less popular until the ancient astronauts craze.

      Edit: I think Fred Pohl’s “All the Lives He Led” (2011) has some scenes set in future Egypt

  2. Pavel Vaverka says:

    I still remember strongly French movie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immortal_(2004_film) which is based on comics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Foire_aux_immortels Very impressive movie after all these years (I saw it several times). It’s no a pure science fiction, but Egypt plays there a big role, shojo manga https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_River_(manga) I’ve read it many years ago. I think around 2009 when I have discovered, that many people (including Czechs, Slovaks) are blogging, reviewing, translating anime, manga titles, but feature cinematography of Asian countries is missing. I was tired back then by certain anime, manga tropes, so I quit in this sector (honour to the exceptions). I have decided to explore more Japanese, Korean, Chinese( and from 2011 India, ASEAN countries) cinematography, films, TV series. But I’m still in contact with anime, manga community, I can ask around about sci-fi titles featuring Egypt.

    1. Sean Manning says:

      I did not know that French film! There are lots of cool South Korean movies right now.

      I think there is some anime which has Achaemenid themes. And wow, another with Hittite themes? One of my points is that its easier to think of a classical American science fiction story with Hittite themes than Ancient Egyptian themes, which would make a Hittite weather god on birdsite happy but is not how pop culture usually works!

  3. russell1200 says:

    If you go to the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, and search for Egypt, you get many many results. They do distinguish pretty much between Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but it seems some of the entries were from early 20th Century when Sci-Fi might seem sort of fantastical now – lost worlds and that type of thing.

    http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/

  4. russell1200 says:

    OK – I’ll give one of my favorites from the search. I added the paragraph break:

    Douglass, Ellsworth

    Pseudonym of US real-estate speculator, insurance broker and author Elmer Dwiggins (1863-1933), whose enterprises (for which he was jailed in 1919-1920) took him to various countries around the turn of the century; his fiction, including his one sf novel, was written during these travels. His first story, “The Wheels of Dr Ginochio Gyves” (September 1899 Cassell’s Magazine) with Edwin Pallander, describes a gyroscopically controlled Spaceship; “A Town in the Tree-Tops” (February 1899 Strand) was written solo.

    His sf novel, Pharaoh’s Broker: Being the Very Remarkable Experiences in Another World of Isidor Werner (Written by Himself) (1899), is a Planetary Romance set on Mars, where parallel Evolution has resulted in a society almost identical to that of Egypt in the time of Joseph. In the end the hero, having been a grain-broker in Chicago, is able to take on Joseph’s role.

    1. Sean Manning says:

      I am looking through the search results now! There are also some examples of science fiction by Egyptians. (I also don’t really talk about Soviet and post-Soviet SF). It looks like that novel is on the Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/pharaohsbrokerbe00doug

Leave a Reply to russell1200 Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.