THE GERM GROWERS (1892) – Robert Potter wrote this work of “ancient” or vintage science fiction dealing with biological warfare and alien abductions.
The two main characters are two Welsh men named Robert Easterley and Jack Wilbraham. In 1892 Easterley witnesses a stranger being abducted by aliens and carried off in their spacecraft. The extraterrestrial vessel is invisible but does cast a shadow on the ground as it flies past Robert Easterley, convincing him of the reality of what he witnessed.
Anticipating UFO conspiracy kooks by several decades Easterley and his friend Wilbraham speculate that old stories about humans being abducted by “little people” and other supernatural figures may really be accounts of abductions by aliens. Not long afterward the area suffers multiple deaths from a mysterious disease.
The abduction and the disease fade into memory as time goes by. Eventually Easterley and Wilbraham graduate from Oxford and move to Australia. They take to ranching and begin raising sheep and cattle.
After more time passes Robert and Jack explore the Outback with their Aborigine employee Gioro as a guide. After Gioro is killed by hostiles the two friends become lost. They wind up in the Kimberleys, where they see the unmistakable shadows of the alien spaceships that Robert glimpsed years earlier.
Following the shadows the pair discover the aliens’ secret base, where by way of experiments on the human guinea pigs they abduct they are able to concoct deadly new diseases. The ultimate goal of the extraterrestrials is to devise a plague that will wipe out most of humanity.
Though the aliens initially shape-shift into human form to convince our heroes that they are just Earthly madmen eventually the truth comes out. The leader of the ET’s uses the name Niccolo Davelli when in human form. Davelli tries to recruit Robert and Jack as human quislings in their plot but – needless to say – the pair refuse.
Niccolo tells them their refusal to cooperate has doomed them to become mind-controlled slaves for labor, even showing our heroes the enthralled victim that Robert saw abducted years earlier in Wales. The aliens’ advanced technology also allows for teleportation as well as the invisibility paint which “cloaks” their flying vessels.
In another unique story element which would eventually become a sci-fi trope Davelli also reveals that he and his race live for centuries and have been interfering with human history while warring with another alien race.
Those “good” aliens – led by a figure named Leafar – eventually save Robert and Jack from Davelli and company. And, of course, since the author was a clergyman the good and evil aliens have obvious parallels to good and evil angels.
The Germ Growers deserves to be much better known but the dry, almost colorless writing will make you understand why the novel is so obscure. ++
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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