THE WARSTOCK: A TALE OF TOMORROW (1898) – Written by the British William Oliver Greener under the pen name Wirt Gerrare. Despite this book’s Great Britain origins, the two lead characters are American inventors from Plainfield, New Jersey – Robert Sterry and Willie Redhead.
In the near future (from 1898), the pair have discovered a new energy source and use it to power their wireless telegraphy system called the Sterrygraph. Sterry and Redhead seek investors in England and on the Continent without success.
While hitting the social circuit in London, our heroes meet Madeline Winship, who connects them with backers who are part of an exclusive Royal Society-inspired group of scientific minds. The group are called the Isocrats, and they devote themselves to science and similar intellectual pursuits, like elevating dancing to what we might call performance art.
Sterry and Redhead get their inventions funded and become very wealthy. Inspired by their new Isocrat friends, they want to establish a virtual Utopia for scientists. Among their fellow founders of this technocracy are Peter Robinson, creator of a futuristic motor, and Iltyd Jones (Iltyd?), who has crafted super-strong ceramics.
Robert Sterry buys land in Morocco from the nation’s ruler for the site of this settlement called Cristalia. Sterry, Redhead, Robinson and Jones draw from their fellow Isocrats for the initial population, then, as the place’s reputation grows, top minds from around Europe and America flock to the place.
The advances to science in Cristalia are many, and the town imposes tight security to prevent technology leaking to the greater world beyond. The external system of Cristalia is based on capitalism, as the city-state sells its inventions and improvements to other nations.
The internal system of Cristalia, however, is built on state ownership of all the inventions. Inventors and productive scientists are in a class of their own, with workers paid lesser salaries by the government.
The ruling Council consists of Robert Sterry, Madeline Winship, Willie Redhead and Iltyd Jones. Over time, the European powers come to resent Cristalia’s growing monopoly on scientific innovation.
Those powers find fertile ground among Cristalia’s workers, who object to their second-class citizen status. European nations bribe laborers to pass along technical secrets and even provide covert funds for the periodic labor uprisings in Cristalia.
The United States is the first country to officially recognize Cristalia, but France, Great Britain, Belgium and Germany refuse to do so. Germany goes even further by launching its own, similar scientific settlement in Morocco to compete with Cristalia.
Using that settlement as a base, the Germans eventually invade Cristalia. The invaders are able to overcome the futuristic wonder-weapons of the Cristalians due to the efforts of spies among the laborers.
Germany occupies Cristalia and many of the founders flee to England. Willie Redhead stays behind to complete a mysterious new weapons system and sends out its details to the Cristalian refugees in other nations by way of Sterrygraph. After accomplishing this, he is killed by the Germans when they penetrate to his personal laboratory.
The details of Redhead’s final invention enable the expatriate Cristalians to launch a counter-attack. Redhead’s device allows for the remote detonation of ammunition dumps, and the government in exile wreaks havoc throughout Germany by having ammo dumps and munitions factories explode.
With Germany in disarray, Robert Sterry leads a campaign to retake Cristalia from the Germans. This campaign succeeds, but with Madeline Winship getting killed in the process.
Sterry imposes large reparations on Germany, and Cristalia’s remote detonation technology makes them a leading world power. The novel’s slant is that this is a good thing, given the supposedly noble pursuit of knowledge which is Cristalia’s reason for being.
The Warstock: A Tale of Tomorrow is a fun read, especially if you’re into the Future War subgenre with Utopian undertones. The annoying snobbery of Cristalia’s ruling class is pretty tiresome, however.
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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