(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Cyrano died relatively young, at the age of thirty-six, when a beam fell on his head during a fire. He did not leave a large number of works. He wrote a witty comedy, Le Pédant joué (1654; the pedant made fun of); a tragedy titled La Mort d’Agrippine (1654; the death of Agrippina); and various satirical poems and letters. Although his two plays are not without aesthetic interest, he owes his fame almost exclusively to his posthumously published novel A Voyage to the Moon. Cyrano is now recognized for his important role in explaining to the general public the significance of discoveries by such eminent mathematicians, doctors, and scientists as Copernicus, René Descartes, and Sir William Harvey.

Like many later writers of science fiction, such as Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne, Cyrano was a popularizer of recent scientific discoveries, which he presented in a witty and imaginative manner. Since the discovery of the manuscript versions of his A Voyage to the Moon, it has become clear to scholars that Cyrano was not only an amusing writer but also an erudite freethinker and skeptic who challenged readers to examine the moral foundations of their political and religious beliefs. Like many French freethinkers of the seventeenth century, Cyrano recognized the intolerance of French government officials in matters related to politics and religion. Writers who chose to criticize the government or the Catholic church too...

(The entire section is 584 words.)