TO THE MOON & BACK IN NINETY DAYS (1917) – By John Y Brown. Balladeer’s Blog presents more Ancient Science Fiction (or Vintage Science Fiction if you prefer). This story was first penned in 1917 and later published by the Lunar Publishing Company in 1922.
Brown himself pretended to narrate the adventure, which hewed so closely to what was known about the moon back then that it must have both educated and entertained readers. The story says that in 1914 our narrator met Captain Horace Ewald, a brilliant nautical engineer and scientist in Alton, IL.
Captain Ewald invited Brown along on his planned expedition to the moon in what he dubbed his “Ethereal Vessel” but which we would call a spaceship. The craft was 235 feet tall with the shape of a dome fused to prisms. Ewald and his team constructed the Ethereal Vessel out of aluminum plating and used electric batteries to power the anti-gravity pods.
Brown completed the 15-member crew and witnessed the final preparations. In a prescient bit the food supplies were mostly dehydrated foods in an acknowledgement that “normal” eating would not be possible on the journey.
The ship also stocked liquids, plenty of scientific equipment and even a bi-plane to attempt flight in the moon’s atmosphere. On November 22nd, 1914 the Ethereal Vessel took off for the moon at a speed of 350 mph.
A down side to the tale is the way huuuge amounts of space are devoted to describing every aspect of the faux-science involved. If the story had ever been adapted for a Silent Film or early talkie this could have just been omitted.
Once on the moon the attempt at realism continued as the crew donned space-suits and began exploring. The lunar surface was lifeless but featured interesting soil samples and impressive rock formations.
Eventually some of the crew – including Brown – climb into the bi-plane to do some aerial recon. They encounter thousands of moon people whom they call Selenites like HG Wells. The Selenites are humanoid but with clawed feet like birds and with tentacles instead of arms. SPOILER AHEAD:
The flight was real but the encounter with the moon people was all a fraud staged by a psychiatric-minded member of the crew. The view of the moon people was accomplished through Silent Film projections that Ewald and the psychiatrist secretly produced back on Earth.
The moon, unfortunately, really was lifeless, making this one of the few sci-fi stories back then to face that disappointing reality. Lesson learned by the fooled crew-members, the ship returned to the Earth, landing in South Dakota. ++
FOR TEN MORE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2014/03/03/ten-neglected-examples-of-ancient-science-fiction/
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/
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