brick moonTHE BRICK MOON (1872) – Written by Edward Everett Hale, best known for The Man without a Country. This novella started out as a serialized story published in 1869 in the October, November and December issues of Atlantic Monthly. A follow-up installment, titled Life in the Brick Moon, was published in the February 1870 issue.

In 1872, the entire four-part piece was published by Roberts Brothers as part of His Level Best and Other Stories, which contained works by multiple authors. The Brick Moon was published again in 1899 as part of Edward Everett Hale’s The Brick Moon and Other Stories.

brick moon titleThe story begins in the 1840s when Frederic Ingham, the tale’s narrator, and his college friends Orcutt and Halliburton plan a dream project which winds up taking decades to fulfill – a manmade artificial satellite, the first recorded in science fiction stories.

The possibility of wireless communication was unknown in that time period, so the three friends don’t plan to use their Brick Moon to transmit and receive communications. They instead plan for it to serve as a heavenly object that ships at sea can use as a marker.

The trio go so far as to draw up detailed plans of their satellite, deciding it will need to be constructed of brick to make it able to survive friction after it is launched. The project is cost-prohibitive, so Ingham, Orcutt and Halliburton move on with their lives after graduation.

Seventeen years later, the friends cross paths again and decide to revive their abandoned Brick Moon project. The estimated cost is set at $250,000, so they try to raise public funds to finance the satellite, since it will be a worldwide aid to shipping and navigation.

Money is raised, and the trio, plus friends and family members, all move to a massive Maine compound and construction site for their project. The Civil War breaks out, however, and the three men go off to serve in the Union Army, delaying the Brick Moon project again.

brick moon modern coverWhen the war at last ends, Halliburton, Orcutt and our narrator Ingham resume their dream enterprise. The “moon” they construct is roughly 200 feet wide and the outer brick surface contains thirteen smaller brick “globes” inside.

Just like when they moved to this vast stretch of land years ago, the three partners, their wives and close friends begin living inside the various smaller spheres inside the Brick Moon as construction nears completion. An accident causes the artificial satellite to be prematurely launched into orbit by flywheels while the families are all still living in the Brick Moon.

Our narrator Ingham was not on hand when it happened, and he despairingly assumes that everyone inside the satellite is dead.

Plausibility now goes out the window for the rest of the story. When Frederic at last locates the Brick Moon with a telescope, he sees that the thirty-seven people stuck inside when it launched are still alive and moving around at will on the satellite’s surface.

Stretching credibility even further, the people of the Brick Moon have been able to use the building materials, food supplies, cattle, etc that were launched into space with them to make artificial soil to plant trees and multiple crops capable of feeding them indefinitely.

brick moon illustrationCommunication is established between Earth and the Brick Moon’s inhabitants by means of a combination of semaphore and morse code and huge characters carved into cloth on patches of soil. It turns out the people living on the satellite are very happy with their little community and have established schooling, churches, marriages and then newborn children.

Evolution of the livestock on the Brick Moon takes place at a rapid pace. Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog may recall from previous reviews of “ancient” science fiction that a fallacious trope of assorted stories in the 1800s was that the smaller a planet/ moon, the quicker evolution would happen.

The Brick Moon makes for a quaint read and should have been adapted in animated form decades ago as a children’s story. The combination of rational, plausible concepts followed up by sheer fantasy was well-handled in my opinion.

The ideas regarding how to proceed with an artificial satellite inspired various scientists, among them astronomer Asaph Hall III, who discovered the moons of Mars in 1877. He wrote to Hale, referencing his Brick Moon story and comparing the smaller moon Deimos to that fictional satellite. 

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




Filed under Ancient Science Fiction


  1. Mid-1800’s. That’s amazing. Good spotlight, Balladeer.

  2. Still not as stupid as that Doctor Who episode where the moon was an egg. 😁

  3. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

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