IN SEARCH OF THE UNKNOWN (1904) by Robert W Chambers. Previously Balladeer’s Blog examined Chambers’ underrated horror classic The King in Yellow. The work we’re looking at this time around is a collection of short stories about Gilland the Zoologist. Gilland was a forerunner of the real-life Frank “Bring ’em Back Alive” Buck and the fictional Indiana Jones.
Our daring hero worked for the Bronx Zoological Gardens and was frequently dispatched by Professor Farrago to try to bring in dangerous crypto-zoological specimens or disprove their existence if they were hoaxes. The stories in this volume:
I. THE HARBOR MASTER – Gilland is sent north to Hudson Bay where a Harbor Master has reported capturing a pair of Great Auks, flightless birds which went extinct in the mid-1800s. The two-fisted scholar finds the Great Auks are for real but the Harbor Master harbors (see what I did there) a sinister secret.
This story also features the Harbor Master’s beautiful secretary, who naturally catches Gilland’s eye, and a gilled merman (shades of Creature From The Black Lagoon), who wants to mate with the lovely lady himself. Gilland’s not having it, of course, and must do battle with the creature.
II. IN QUEST OF THE DINGUE – The Graham Glacier melts, unleashing a number of animals from species that were long thought extinct. Among the crowd of academics converging on the unexplored area are Gilland and Professor Smawl. The Professor is a sexy, strong-willed female scholar that our hero has been forced to accompany into the region.
The battle of the sexes bickering flies like shrapnel as the pair encounter Woolly Mammoths and other creatures, find a primitive bell called a dingue and run afoul of a gigantic super-powered woman who calls herself the Spirit of the North. Continue reading
THE AURORAPHONE (1890) – Written by Cyrus Cole. This fun piece of vintage or “ancient” science fiction features the character Gaston Lesage, an eccentric genius who moves to the mountains of Colorado to continue his pet experiments. Lesage is obsessed with perfecting transmission and reception of radio signals, especially regarding potential contact with other planets.
The altitude of the Rocky Mountains made Colorado the ideal location for Lesage’s experiments and, together with his assistant – a freed black man named Pete King – he perfects a device he called the Auroraphone.
One day when Gaston and Pete are entertaining a pair of men prospecting for gold the Auroraphone picks up the first of a series of transmissions from intelligent life on the planet Saturn. In the days ahead Lesage learns a great deal about Saturnian history and science courtesy of his fellow “ham radio operator” Rulph Bozar, a denizen of the ringed planet.
The Saturnians are much more advanced than Earth and already have flying machines, electric automobiles and powerful sensors which let them watch and record events on Earth and other planets. They also have been using metal robots crafted to look just like the Saturnians themselves, who resemble Terrans in general physiology. Continue reading
CASANOVA’S ICOSAMERON OR THE STORY OF EDWARD AND ELIZABETH WHO SPENT EIGHTY-ONE YEARS IN THE LAND OF THE MEGA-MICRES, ORIGINAL INHABITANTS OF PROTOCOSMOS IN THE INTERIOR OF OUR GLOBE (1788) – Yes, that IS the actual, complete title of this obscure item and yes, it was written by THE Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, the legendary ladies’ man and adventurer.
This work of vintage science fiction begins with a prologue in which Casanova fuses Biblical mythology with his fictional inner-Earth realm Protocosmos. The author pretended that God – on the 6th Day – created the inner world, which was the paradise that Adam and Eve were supposedly banished from. On the 8th day God created the “lesser” surface world of the Earth in Casanova’s cosmology.
In 1615 England a young couple – Elizabeth and Edward – claim to be the long-lost children of a VERY elderly couple named Wilhelmina and James. The young couple were presumed dead in their teens due to a shipwreck 81 years earlier but reveal that they have spent that time in the land of the Mega-Micres, where the aging process is slowed down considerably.
The pair of twenty-somethings prove their identity through that beloved fictional trope of birthmarks and scars, then proceed to tell their tale. When the ship that Elizabeth and Edward were aboard sank at sea the then-children climbed into an empty, water-tight coffin in the cargo hold.
The air-bubble within said coffin kept the pair alive long enough for the coffin to drift away from the submerged ship and happened to cross a “reverse-gravity stream” on the ocean floor. When Elizabeth and Edward emerged from the coffin they were surrounded by 18-inch tall hairless humanoids with skin colored blue or red or green or some combination of those colors. Continue reading
Too late Edison learned the awful price to be paid for repeatedly asking if his bikini made him look fat.
From 1898 it’s Garrett P Serviss’ work of science fiction.
PART ONE – After the Martian invaders from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and Serviss’ own Fighters From Mars died from exposure to Earth germs, astronomers around the world realized the ordeal wasn’t over yet. All indications were that the Martians were readying another fleet of spaceships to attack the Earth. CLICK HERE
PART TWO – Thomas Alva Edison reverse-engineered the Martian space craft. The nations of the Earth then banded together to build an entire fleet of similar vessels and take the war to the Red Planet. President McKinley, Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm and other heads of state from around the world attend the global summit. CLICK HERE
PART THREE – After a monumental effort the Earth has a space-fleet of its own, equipped with Edison’s Disintegrator Rays as weaponry. With Edison commanding the flagship and with military men and scientific geniuses from around the world as an officer corps the Earth Fleet departs the Earth. CLICK HERE Continue reading
THE ADVENTURES OF A MICRO-MAN (1902) – This work of vintage or “ancient” science fiction was authored by Lancelot Bayly under the pen name Edwin Pallender. The central character of the story was Doctor Geoffrey Hassler, a wealthy eccentric scientist who has discovered “microgen” a gas which shrinks objects down to a very small size.
Dr Hassler’s demonstrations of the procedure in a diving-bell shaped chamber convinces even the skeptics and he rakes in even more money plus scientific recognition. One day when he, his daughter Muriel, her fiancee Gerald and a family friend named Reverend Eden are all inside the chamber a fluke accident causes them all to be shrunk down to a fraction of an inch.
Nobody was around to witness the accident so the quartet are trapped at tiny size for approximately 10 days, when the microgen treatment will wear off and they will return to normal. In their struggle to survive they manage to escape the chamber and make their way to Dr Hassler’s garden which – at their current size – is like a vast, dangerous jungle to them. Knowing they need food and water the group has no alternative but to venture forth. Continue reading
THE GERM GROWERS (1892) – Robert Potter wrote this work of “ancient” or vintage science fiction dealing with biological warfare and alien abductions.
The two main characters are two Welsh men named Robert Easterley and Jack Wilbraham. In 1892 Easterley witnesses a stranger being abducted by aliens and carried off in their spacecraft. The extraterrestrial vessel is invisible but does cast a shadow on the ground as it flies past Robert Easterley, convincing him of the reality of what he witnessed.
Anticipating UFO conspiracy kooks by several decades Easterley and his friend Wilbraham speculate that old stories about humans being abducted by “little people” and other supernatural figures may really be accounts of abductions by aliens. Not long afterward the area suffers multiple deaths from a mysterious disease. Continue reading
One of the most popular posts here at Balladeer’s Blog was my 2014 list about “ancient” science fiction from 1634-1909. Here is a followup list of sci fi tales that were way ahead of their time. FOR THE ORIGINAL LIST CLICK HERE
THE SPEEDY JOURNEY (1744) – Written by Eberhard Christian Kindermann. A five-man crew from Earth pilot a spacecraft to a moon of Mars, where they encounter alien life-forms of all kinds as well as secrets tying the inhabitants to Earth people by way of odd religious parallels. The space travelers also encounter a world-destroying meteor and a “space whirlpool.” CLICK HERE Continue reading