People who know very little about ancient Egypt are most likely, if they know anything at all, to have at least a vague idea about the Pharaoh Akhenaten and be able to recognize the face of his beautiful wife, Nefertiti.
I watched the first moon landing at a bar in Paducah, Kentucky, a fact worth mentioning only because I still remember how suddenly silence descended on this raucous place when Neil Armstrong started coming down that ladder.
Akhenaten's allegedly monotheistic worship of Aten and the more naturalistic art produced during his reign, a revolutionary break from the more formal art of earlier periods, have made him a sympathetic figure to many.
Ancient Egyptians went to great lengths to avoid change; they couldn't entirely do so, of course, but did preserve a cultural continuity for almost four thousand years.
'Floating Worlds,' published in 1975 and the lone science fiction novel by acclaimed historical novelist Cecelia Holland, was unique in being completely devoid of the usual pulp influences present in much space opera up to that time.
'Floating Worlds,' which received a fair amount of attention when it was first published, deserves rediscovery.
What 'Floating Worlds' does draw on is Holland's artistry in bringing the past to life in her historical fiction and depicting the people who inhabited that past.
Some people become passionate readers and fans of science fiction during childhood or adolescence. I picked up on SF somewhat later than that; my escape reading of choice during my youth was historical novels, and one of my favorite writers was Mary Renault.
Historical fiction is actually good preparation for reading SF. Both the historical novelist and the science fiction writer are writing about worlds unlike our own.
The historical novelist has to consider what has actually happened, while the SF writer is dealing in possibilities, but they are both in the business of imagining a world unlike our own and yet connected to it.
A feeling for history is almost an essential for writing and appreciating good science fiction, for sensing the connections between the past and future that run through our present.
My grandfather allowed as how I might even live long enough to see a Mars landing. I haven't, of course, except in fiction, including my own, and strongly doubt that I ever will.