THE STRANGE MANUSCRIPT BY _________ M.D. (1881) -Written by Alexander Pitts Bettersworth. The mock author, an M.D. who remains anonymous, upon learning that a comet will strike the Earth in 1883, stores supplies in Mammoth Cave with the help of his black servant Josh. With most of humanity dismissing the threat as a hoax or a mistake, the only other people who join them in the cave are a young woman named Ida and her black servant Chloe.
The foursome survive the collision with the comet as well as the intense heat which causes some of the rock interior of the cave to melt. When the entrance to the cave indicates that the air temperature has cooled sufficiently the two couples – now romantically involved – venture forth to see what is left of our planet.
Nearly all of the human race was killed and the axis of the Earth shifted from the impact. The polar caps have melted while Kentucky and vicinity are now one of the poles and are freezing over.
A journey away from the region leads first to Detroit and then James Bay in Canada, where our survivors at last find the weather warm enough to settle down.
Four other people show up during the story, having survived the cataclysm in a wine cellar, a brewery vault and an underwater diving suit.
The eight Adams and Eves are getting set to repopulate the world when the M.D. awakens in Mammoth Cave with the manuscript beside him. He wrote the entire piece via automatic writing as a premonition.
This premonition is how he and his black servant Josh knew to barricade themselves in Mammoth Cave in the first place. The comet has not yet struck but there is a feel of “here we go again” as the author hopes it will all come true when the comet hits, especially his romance with Ida.
This story is okay as these things go. On the plus side they include two black couples as survivors but on the negative side they are depicted in the stereotypes common to the period.
6 responses to “THE STRANGE MANUSCRIPT (1881): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION”
Just wondering if you checked out the questions I left on the top pantheons covered on Balladeers blog page (posted on August 15th).
I have and I will be posting answers to them soon.
Interesting vintage sci fi.
So Kentucky became the new north pole?
Ha! Pretty much, yeah.