THE MAN FROM SATURN (1890) – By an unknown author. This work also appeared under the title Willmoth the Wanderer, a cutesy reference to the classic Melmoth the Wanderer. A young, unnamed American encounters Willmoth, a male humanoid who states he is from the planet Saturn and is hundreds of thousands of years old.
Willmoth begins the tale of how he came to be stranded on Earth long ago. He was born and raised in the Saturnian city called Eathman, which he describes as a happy socialist state which survives due to the absolute honesty of its citizens. Eathman is an isolated city-state and its perfection has meant that the inhabitants have never undertaken expeditions to see what the rest of Saturn is like, despite their futuristic technology. (Odd.)
The women outnumber the men 20 to 1 in Eathman so all of the men have multiple mates, which I’m guessing explains the lack of interest in exploration, though the author never goes there. Willmoth’s tutor back then was a famous astronomer named Elwer. One day Elwer shows Willmoth a flying machine he has invented, a device which uses hot-air to rise and propellers for directional flight.
Using the flying machine Elwer and Willmoth set out to address their civilization’s deficiency of knowledge about the rest of Saturn. The pair encounter and catalogue many and varied life-forms, ending with their extended stay with the Ground-Dwellers, humanoids who live in networks of underground caverns. Willmoth falls in love with Zea, a beautiful female Ground-Dweller who befriends the explorers.
The Ground-Dwellers are far less technologically advanced than the people of Eathman and are still very superstitious. Nearly all births in the Ground-Dwellers’ civilization are twin births, so when a rare single birth occurs – like in the case of Zea – that single baby is considered sacred. Willmoth is told by the Ground-Dwellers’ priests that this sacred status means he is not permitted to marry Zea, with whom he has fallen in love.
Amid further explorations the priests notice the romantic sparks continuing to fly between Willmoth and Zea and begin to plot his demise. They maneuver the explorers into investigating the deepest caverns in their realm, caverns which lead to the very center of Saturn.
At Saturn’s core Willmoth, Elwer, Zea and the accompanying priests encounter a hot and fiery sea in which live tusked humanoids that Willmoth names Fire-Dwellers. Willmoth and Elwer learn how to communicate with the Fire-Dwellers, who relate to the explorers that they have dwelled in their fiery sea ever since Saturn was part of the sun, before it broke off and became a planet. (sic)
All the while the sinister priests have been plotting to sacrifice Willmoth in the depths of the fiery sea, but he turns the tables on them. After that he, Elwer and Zea fly back to Eathman to share their newfound knowledge.
After a time a second exploratory flight across Saturn is made. Many more life-forms are discovered and catalogued, always with a detailed description of their reproductive activities. Nothing titillating, mind you, just the kind of clinical details that a documentary on insects or sea-life might cover. Think of the wealth of information that fan-sites of today make up regarding alien life-forms in their favorite sci-fi stories.
You want toad-like beings? Saturn’s got them! You want plant-men who are able to live on rose-essence? Saturn’s got them! You want 7 yard tall giants who ride around on giant lizards? Saturn’s got them, too! The plant-men are even scientifically advanced enough to have photography!
After the successful end to this second expedition Elwer comes up with a craft designed for interplanetary flight. He, Willmoth and Zea coat the ark-like vessel with Elwer’s antigravity substance and fly to Venus.
Venus is a virtual paradise inhabited by humanoids. The trio of explorers spend years there, learning about the life-forms and conveying the information back to Saturn via coded messages writ large in Venus’ upper atmosphere. Saturn’s astronomers look for those interplanetary “smoke signals cum skywriting” and transcribe the information.
Eventually Elwer, Willmoth and Zea leave Venus bound for Earth. On the voyage Zea’s lesser lifespan at last catches up with her and she passes away. A devastated Willmoth and his friend Elwer bury her on an asteroid and then continue their journey.
The pair of Saturnians arrive on Earth during the time of the woolly mammoths. Tusked cavemen called Tarths are the dominant species in this story. In the best scientific tradition Willmoth and Elwer take advantage of their much-longer life-spans to breed the Tarths with an eye to intelligence.
The cavemen eventually evolve away from sporting tusks, and the two Saturnians continue observing as the Earthlings grow more and more intelligent over time. Elwer has continued tinkering with his anti-gravity substance as well, and a tragic accident one day propels him into space. He dies and his corpse continues orbiting the Earth for years.
Willmoth, meanwhile, is now stranded on Earth because operating the spacecraft would require two brilliant Saturnian minds working together and not even the most intelligent humans measure up. The man from Saturn makes the best of his situation, like an interplanetary Robinson Crusoe. Willmoth shepherds human civilization along, from the time of Atlantis on up through the rest of human history.
Sensing that his long, long life is at last coming to an end Willmoth relayed all this to the unnamed American, providing him with just enough of the antigravity substance to fulfill his last wish. Willmoth dies, and his anonymous friend coats his corpse with the antigravity substance, letting the Saturnian’s body float off into space as he had requested. +++
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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