william james roeBELLONA’S HUSBAND (1887) – This book was written by West Point graduate (Class of 1867) William James Roe under the pen name Hudor Genone.

The novel’s main character, named Archibald Holt, invests in Professor Ratzinez Garrett’s project which centers on hydrogenium, the professor’s metallic form of hydrogen. This substance may be lighter than air but it is also very, very resilient.

mars pictureGarrett constructs a disc-shaped spaceship that uses hydrogenium as its anti-gravity agent. Holt and Professor Garrett are joined by Trip, a shady friend of Garrett’s, who travels with them on a flight to the planet Mars.

As they approach the Red Planet, the trio discover that what Earthlings have named Phobos and Deimos are not really moons but are instead enormous abandoned spaceships which once transported large aliens from Jupiter and Saturn.

Holt, Professor Garrett and Trip eventually learn that the Jovian and Saturnian space vessels burn up on entry to the atmosphere of planets like Mars and Earth. In fact, ships from Jupiter and Saturn have tried visiting Earth but none survived.

Our three adventurers proceed to land on Mars, where they encounter completely humanoid Martians who speak English. This is attributed to the concept of parallel development of life-forms – one of the dumbest recurring ideas from 19th Century science fiction.

Though the Martians speak English, their culture and laws are inscrutable, more through apparent poor storytelling by the author than through any overarching theme. The three interplanetary travelers repeatedly find themselves in legal trouble but many difficulties are overcome when they realize that hydrogenium is what Martians use as currency.

Paying fines and buying themselves into Martian society leave Holt, Professor Garrett and Trip with too little hydrogenium to get their spaceship back to Earth. Our heroes resign themselves to spending the rest of their lives on Mars and Holt, believing he will never see his wife again and that he will be declared dead back on Earth, marries a Martian woman named Bellona Harbinger.

Holt believes his bride to be in her early twenties, but it turns out that she is really a very old woman who has married multiple times. Absurdly, it is revealed that Martian aging works backwards. They begin life old and infirm but grow younger as time passes. (Hey, it’s 1887. Just go with it.)

Bellona will soon be a teenager, then a child and will die in embryonic form. Holt is not enthusiastic about having a child as a wife.

A character referred to as Bellona’s uncle arrives on the scene and Professor Garrett is shocked to see that this uncle is a fellow Earth scientist – Palma Zanchese.

Zanchese harnessed hydrogenium long before Garrett did and flew to Mars in a similar space vessel. Palma encountered the same legal difficulties that our main trio did and was likewise forced to part with much of his ship’s hydrogenium to pay fines and other expenses. 

If the hydrogenium that Zanchese has left is combined with what Professor Garrett and his party have remaining, it will be just enough to provide antigravity for one vessel to fly back to Earth. Garrett and his grifting friend Trip decide they prefer life on Mars, so Archibald Holt and Palma Zanchese use the remaining hydrogenium to return to Earth.

The flight home is successful, and the two returnees go their separate ways. Holt explains his long absence to his wife by telling her everything about the voyage to Mars EXCEPT that he took a Martian bride. And that he abandoned her to avoid dealing with her reverse-aging.

Bellona’s Husband is not a trial to get through, but the anticlimactic finale makes you wonder why you bothered. This is far from the best of the works of ancient science fiction that I’ve examined. It offers nothing that isn’t duplicated in other works of the era, so if the storyline doesn’t appeal to you feel free to skip it. 



FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here:



Filed under Ancient Science Fiction


  1. Sounds bizzare, I like it. I’ve been busy in work for a couple of weeks so got a bit of catching up to do. I like these classic science-fiction posts.

  2. Very interesting. We may never know all the ‘intuitions’ that may dance around the heads of fiction writers as stories unfold. An example are the gadgets seen on “Star Trek” that we are seeing materialize.

  3. Pingback: BELLONA’S HUSBAND (1887) ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION BALLADEERS BLOG – El Noticiero de Alvarez Galloso

  4. What a weird yet wonderful tale; sounds like great B-movie fodder! 😉 However, the author’s pen name is a real gem!! 😉

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