FIVE HUNDRED YEARS HENCE (1818) – Written under the pseudonym “D” this work was published the same year as Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. The story is presented as written observations of the world in October and November of the year 2318.
London has fallen so far in prominence that it is by then just a fishing village, barely known outside of England. Liverpool is close to becoming a ghost town, and Oxford is closing its sole remaining institution of higher education. In Edinburgh of all places, disparaging Great Britain is a crime punishable by being hanged upside down.
Next, D turned their attention across the pond to the United States.
Washington DC in 2318 has grown to what the author considers to be the amazing size of 40 square miles. Here in 2023 Washington DC already covers 68 square miles. Philadelphia is a thriving international city with a population of two million, which is roughly 400,000 higher than it is right now.
New York City has become a publishing center, and the author D writes that in 2318 the metropolis publishes “40 books per day” as well as nearly two dozen daily newspapers and over three dozen weekly news magazines.
If you’re wondering what D foresaw regarding scientific advances, he predicted coal exhaustion at Newcastle itself. Mexico saw the discovery of a new metal which makes perpetual motion machines a reality. Canada is engineering a tunnel to the center of the Earth.
Back in the United States, the Commonwealth of Virginia has developed and introduced a universal language. Baltimore has become the space travel center of the world, even launching an expedition to the moon.
The space vessel was like a winged lighter than air balloon. For breathing, the crew wore glass box helmets that contained compressed air.
The journey to the moon took four weeks and the explorers discovered that the satellite was inhabited by the reincarnated souls of insane people from Earth. Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog may remember that there are many, many 19th Century works of science fiction which depict reincarnated souls on the moon and various planets.
D’s editor at the Pocket Magazine of Classic and Polite Literature disagreed with the writer’s presentation of British decline and American ascent, going so far as including a note that predicted the U.S. would soon collapse. A sarcastic answer to D’s piece was published in Great Britain’s periodical The Bee and was titled America in the Year 2318 – a Quiz.
Short and far from the heights that later 1800s science fiction would reach, Five Hundred Years Hence is still an enjoyable read and goes by very quickly.
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/
FOR MORE ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE.
18 responses to “FIVE HUNDRED YEARS HENCE (1818) – ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION”
Sometimes it seems strange that people thought with this form of imagination so long ago. Yet, people do it now, and I suppose some things do not change much. Every time you summarize a book, it sounds interesting. Authors and publishers everywhere should hire you to write enticing segments.
It’s very nice of you to say that, thanks! I agree about how strange it can seem. I am still absolutely floored by Washington Irving’s 1809 work about Earth being invaded by people from the moon. Hell, that’s why I still link to it in every single Ancient Science Fiction post I write.
Yw. I need to rearrange obligations to make more time to read. There’s at least 100 books in our library & we’ve probably donated 100. I promised myself I am not buying another book until I finish the x amount I’ve not completed. So, I can’t read Irving’s book yet. Darn it.
I get in that same bind all the time, too! Bought more than I’ve had time to read.
Inhabited by the souls of mad earthlings eh? Isn’t that the Élysée Palace? 😉
Hilarious! Yes, I think you’re right.
I never heard about this one. Has it ever gone into re-print?
Hello again! We’re talking very short pieces in that magazine, but volumes of the reproduced contents are available at various sites online. Volume Two is where I got this item, but it’s just one of many, many reproduced short works in there. As far as I know, buying entire volumes is the only way to get most of them. I got mine off e-bay long ago but some are available at amazon.com. I buy volumes of several of these old publications or, when available, read them online. I do it in search of obscure items like this one.
Good job and thanks for the heads-up!
Thank you! Take care!
Reblogged this on El Noticiero de Alvarez Galloso.
Thank you, sir!
Good read, your post. Pardon, but I’m not going to chase down the book.
Thanks! Perfectly understandable! It’s mostly oddballs like me that bother doing that.