Keywords: Prophecy, Dante, Walter M. Miller, Clifford Simark, Stanley Kubrik.
Imagining the future was, in the past, the concern of divinely inspired prophets and sibyls – Tiresias and Cassandra, Samuel and Isaiah. Three masterpieces of science-fiction invent different futures: Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, Clifford Simak’s City, and Stanley Kubrick’s (and Arthur Clarke’s) 2001: A Space Odyssey. In this essay the author discusses these modern masterpieces in the light of the image Dante uses in Paradiso XVII when he asks his ancestor Cacciaguida whether he should reveal what he has learnt on his journey through the other world. In that passage Dante creates a surprisingly new notion of the future which is confirmed in other episodes of the Comedy (notably Oderisi da Gubbio’s in Purgatorio XI) and is modelled on a conception of history more “humanµ than that presented by twentieth-century science-fiction.