Category Archives: Ancient Science Fiction


Travels in the InteriorTRAVELS IN THE INTERIOR (1887) – Nearly eighty years before the movie Fantastic Voyage, this work of “ancient” science fiction detailed a party of shrunken heroes on an odyssey through a human being’s body. This cleverly-titled tale was written by Alfred Taylor Schofield under the name Luke T Courteney.

London medical student Luke Theophilus Courteney passes his examinations to be admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons. His uncle, Captain Goodchild, helps the young man celebrate by taking Luke (nicknamed Pill from his middle name) and his younger sister Belinda to Trebizond, Turkey for a brief holiday.

Goodchild kindly takes along Pill’s friend Sutton, who failed the examinations and needs some moral support. Pill’s mastery of anatomy will enable him, Belinda and Sutton to survive their upcoming microscopic adventure.
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Blue Book May 1912TALES OF TWENTY HUNDRED (1911-1912) – Written by William Wallace Cook, originally serialized in the monthly publication Blue Book Magazine from December of 1911 to May of 1912. This is Balladeer’s Blog’s third look at a work by THE William Wallace Cook and in this case it’s a six-part serial consisting of a half-dozen interconnected short(ish) stories.

PART ONE: THE BILLION DOLLAR CARGO (December 1911) – The year is 2050 A.D. Airships run by solar energy fill the skies while land vehicles are powered by radium engines. At hospitals “germicide treatments” can heal people of virtually any illness. Mind-reading machines called psychographs are used to read the thoughts of people who are on trial.

The United States, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Austria and the nations of Scandinavia comprise a huge geopolitical entity called the Quadruple Alliance. That alliance’s greatest global rival is the Federated States of South America, made up of the nations of Central and South America. 

masc chair and bottleGeo-engineering on a massive scale has become possible. Wealthy industrialist Vincent Blake has already completed a project involving the elimination of the Aleutian Islands to allow the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean to turn the Arctic region into a place with more moderate temperatures. Hilariously, this is depicted as having no adverse effects on the planet. (Hey, it’s a 1911 story.) 

Next on the schedule for Blake is an even more ambitious project – he plans to straighten the Earth’s axis and provide mild summer conditions year-round all over the world. This type of absurd notion was also featured in the 1894 book A Journey in Other Worlds, previously reviewed here at Balladeer’s Blog.

In that earlier story the establishment of year-round moderate weather was presented as a fait accompli and had had no negative side-effects. In this tale the Federated States of South America are convinced that Vincent Blake’s project will negatively impact them and launch violent plans to stop him. Continue reading

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Adrift in the UnknownADRIFT IN THE UNKNOWN (1904) – Written by William Wallace Cook (like our previous story), this tale was originally serialized in Argosy magazine from December of 1904 to April of 1905. Our previous Cook story dealt with time travel, while this one deals with space exploration.

Burglar Peter Munn stumbles onto a meeting between scientist Professor Quinn and the four Robber Barons he has invited to his home. Those guests are Meigs the Wall Street Baron, Gilhooley the Railroad Baron, Popham the Coal Baron and Markham, who has cornered the market in food supply profiteering.

The uninvited Munn winds up taken along for the ride when the civic-minded Quinn reveals that his home is really a spaceship coated with antigravity paint and flies off with the reluctant tycoons in tow. Eventually the space travelers land on the planet Mercury.  Continue reading

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A Round Trip to the Year 2000A ROUND TRIP TO THE YEAR 2000 aka A FLIGHT THROUGH TIME (1903) – Written by THE William Wallace Cook, this story was originally serialized in Argosy magazine from July through November of 1903. 

A Round Trip to the Year 2000 has the same light-hearted, jocular approach that we associate with the Back to the Future movies. The fact that the time travel device is a reconfigured automobile adds another similarity.

In the year 1900, New York author Emerson Lumley has written a book about the possible uses of the subconscious mind. A criminal took advantage of Lumley’s methods in the book to hypnotize the author into robbing a bank and Emerson is now on the run from the law, with his most dogged pursuer being police detective Jasper Klinch.

Lumley is contemplating suicide when he receives help from the midget scientist named Dr Alonso Kelpie. The good doctor takes Emerson to the laboratory on his estate. He offers Lumley the chance to drive Kelpie’s newly-invented time-coupe into the future, specifically the year 2000. In return Alonso wants his chrononaut to bring back assorted information when the coast is clear.

1903 FordSince Lumley was already on the verge of ending his life anyway, he agrees to be the human guinea pig for Dr Kelpie’s time-car. Just as he’s driving off to the future, however, the relentless Detective Klinch shows up and leaps into the vehicle beside our hero.

The pair grapple as the car drives through the time-stream and Lumley knocks Klinch off the car and into the year 1950 while he continues the trip to the year 2000. Continue reading

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Struggle for EmpireTHE STRUGGLE FOR EMPIRE: A STORY OF THE YEAR 2236 (1900) – Written by Robert W Cole. I left out the first half of the title for the headline, since The Struggle For Empire sounds like a mundane history book. In reality this novel was a very, very early example of the Space Opera sub-genre.  

In 2236 A.D. Earth’s dominant geopolitical entity is the Anglo-Saxon Federal Union, consisting of Great Britain, the United States and Germany. This union of nations came about during a World War that was fought during the early Twentieth Century. That conflict pitted the Americans, British and Germans against the French and the Russians.

The Anglo-Saxon Federal Union emerged triumphant, with France carved up and lost to the mists of history. (The author was British.) London, now a megalopolis spreading out for hundreds of miles, is the Earth’s capital city. It also serves as the capital for the star-spanning empire which Earthlings have established.

Mascot sword and pistolInitially the Earth colonized and inhabited the planets and certain moons of our own solar system all the way out to Neptune. (Pluto was not discovered until 1930.) In a quaint quasi-Steam-Punk way, all of those planets and moons have Earth-like atmospheres and conditions.

The perfection of anti-gravity and other technology led to the construction of space ships that could fly at the speed of ten million miles per hour. Robert W Cole takes H.G. Wells’ colonialism analogy from War of the Worlds into space, as humanity is depicted settling and colonizing planets in multiple star systems.

Earthlings also stripped uninhabitable planets of all their minerals, precious metals and other natural resources. Power and greed rule the zeitgeist. Complications arise when humanity at last encounters another intelligent race in the 23rd Century.     Continue reading


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To Mars With TeslaTO MARS WITH TESLA (1901) – Written by Weldon J Cobb, To Mars With Tesla (not to be confused with To Hell With Alexander Graham Bell) momentarily turned the”Edisonade” sub-genre of science fiction into a “Tesla-ade.”

Years ago Balladeer’s Blog reviewed Edison’s Conquest of Mars, an 1898 novel depicting the inventor Thomas Edison and several other real-life figures saving Earth from Martian aggression. This 1901 work presents Edison’s rival inventor Nikola Tesla in a tale involving the Red Planet.

NOTE: Do not confuse this novel with the 21st Century adaptation of it by another author.

To Mars With Tesla aka A Trip To Mars was originally serialized in the magazine New Golden Hours from March 30th, 1901 to May 18th, 1901. Nikola Tesla is attempting wireless communication with Mars to see if it bears intelligent life. Assisting him in this endeavor are Professors Weir and Combe as well as a youthful intern called “Young Edison.”

masc graveyard newThat intern sees most of the action and is supposedly a distant relative of Thomas Edison. Young Edison relays messages between his scientist bosses and this makes him a frequent target of the nefarious schemes of the villainous Heinrickson, a mad tycoon who has evil designs on the planet Mars.      

Secondary antagonists include the mad scientist Herschel de Vega, who is constructing a spaceship, and a pair of crooks named Zadir and Hazif, who impersonate Martians as part of their criminal scheme.    Continue reading


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InvisiblesTHE INVISIBLES (1903) – Written by Edgar Earl Christopher, this novel nicely anticipates cinematic serials and integrates science fiction and slight occult touches into its storyline.

Jean Valdemere, an extraordinary Frenchman, saves the life of Castleman, an Englishman, in India. After rescuing the Brit from an attacking tiger Valdemere uses his half-scientific and half-supernatural powers of precognition to tell Castleman his future.

When the pair meet again 10 years later in Chattanooga, TN, the Englishman tells Valdemere how uncannily accurate his predictions were. The Frenchman informs Castleman that he, too, can acquire such abilities if he joins Jean’s secret organization, called the Invisible Hand.

Mascot new lookThe organization can also help the British youth get revenge on Czarist Russia for the torture of his Russian mother years earlier. It turns out that the Invisible Hand is a secret society determined to overthrow the Czars and install a new Russian government.

The Invisible Hand numbers over 2,000 members with a leadership council of 100. The organization boasts some of the greatest scientific minds in the world and possesses stockpiles of futuristic weaponry. Continue reading


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