MEDA: A TALE OF THE FUTURE (1891) – This sci-fi tale of the year 5575 AD was first written in 1888 but read mostly among the social circle of the author. Its first official publication came in 1891.
Artist Kenneth Folingsby is flung forward in time to the year 5575, when he can tell that the pull of gravity has lessened substantially. Following a canal, he comes across the ruins of Edinburgh and sees what people of future Scotland – who call themselves Scotonians – look like. This is another of those 1800s novels which absurdly assume that less than 4,000 years will be enough time to bring on enormous evolutionary changes to the human body.
To be fair, though, Meda: A Tale of the Future does use mutation following a planetary disaster to justify the rapid physiological changes.
The Scotonians have stubby bodies with large heads shaped like hot air balloons and are no taller than four feet. The people themselves are practically lighter than air, with some needing weighted down with lead or stones to prevent them from floating off into the upper atmosphere.
The enormous heads of the 56th Century human race exemplify how far advanced their intellects have become. Humans have evolved away from needing digestive systems and mentally control electricity and magnetism. This allows them to draw sustenance from energies in the air around them.
Most of them are bald with just fringes of hair around their temples. Their skin is nearly transparent and they wear white silk variations of kilts.
Kenneth, our time traveler, cannot understand the language spoken by the Scotonians nor can they understand his 1800s version of English. At length a 56th Century scholar starts to communicate with him in a fusion of old Latin with other languages and becomes Kenneth’s first guide through life in the future.
Our main character accompanies a group of Scotonians into their massive walled city where he is presented to a scholarly official. That official displays the future method of long distance communication – he uses a needle like a phonograph needle to “write” a message to his superiors on a plate like an LP.
Next, he dispatches it via a closed container that apparently teleports the plate to higher authorities who used a needle to inscribe their own message on the plate before returning it. This scholarly official gives the okay to the Scotonians escorting Kenneth to proceed deeper into the city.
A second scholar, referred to as Sage Two by Folingsby, welcomes him in old Latin and dismisses the citizens who escorted him. Sage Two summons a bearded Sage called the Recorder, who speaks “Ancient English” to converse with Kenneth in his native tongue.
The Recorder informs Kenneth Folingsby a great deal about life in the future, including the fact that the human lifespan is now 150-200 years. Folingsby also learns world history from around 1890 to 5575.
Overpopulation was a major threat but was eventually overcome by widespread use of birth control. In 2888 a Civil War tore apart the British Empire but in the year 3334 the United States and Britain united as the Anglo-Saxon Empire.
As technology advanced, nations were able to wage war on each other via large fleets of airborne war vessels powered by antigravity technology.
Around 4200 AD the comet Baria came close enough to the Earth to shift the poles and cause global changes in gravity. Gases from deep in the Earth emerged from newly formed cracks in the surface, and those gases affected the human form, accelerating evolution. The gases also destroyed all iron and steel.
This crisis caused the scattered survivors of the world to unite and avoid war as they worked to rebuild civilization. By 5575 the people of the future were able to control the environment and even use the face of the moon as an enormous “billboard” upon which very expensive advertisements are projected. (In this book the moon is depicted covered in snow.)
Our main character learns that all the planets of our solar system are inhabited but not much is known about those aliens. Earthlings and those beings are still at an early stage of trying to communicate with each other, but have not been successful at translating each others’ languages or alphabets.
Solar panels on rooftops absorb energy enough to power entire buildings for days. Technology that allows for the examination of a body’s internal organs has been invented but of course the Scotonians don’t use the term X-Rays.
Musical instruments have been redesigned to accommodate the changes to the human body.
In the courts of the future each citizen represents themselves in hearings before a trio of judges. Lawyers are a thing of the past and speculative ventures like the stock market have been banned.
Religion is used as a justification for the allegedly “more intelligent” to rule over the allegedly “less intelligent.” The Scotonians call it God’s Will.
The pursuit of any kind of individual celebrity is looked down upon very harshly, as the future Earthlings consider only their Creator to be deserving of exceptional levels of praise and admiration.
Women still have noticeably human faces and take part in science, arts and in the parliament of the future. Eventually, Kenneth finds a kindred spirit in one such 56th Century woman named Meda.
Things go tragically wrong when Folingsby casually mentions a wife back in the 1800s who is no doubt long dead. Pursuing romantic relationships after marriage is forbidden under the strange laws of the future, even if a spouse has passed away.
The Scotonians impose a very draconian, high-tech punishment on Kenneth for his transgression and he finds himself returned to the past, to be reunited with his wife Mary and relate his adventure to the unnamed narrator of the novel.
Meda: A Tale of the Future is far from the best of these “life in the future” novels from long ago. It’s entertaining enough that it’s not tough to get through, but it’s not the kind of work that I find myself rereading.
Others could certainly pass on this one with no harm done, but if you’re like me and want to read as many of these “ancient” science fiction tales as you can find, you won’t be happy until you can tick it off your list, bird watching style.
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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/