One of the most popular posts here at Balladeer’s Blog was my 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
THE VOYAGE OF LORD CETON TO THE SEVEN PLANETS (1765) – Written by female author Marie-Anne de Roumier. Set in the 1640s this story features an angel named Zachiel who transports a man and his sister to the planets of our solar system. Continue reading
THE QUEER SIDE OF THINGS (1890s) – Written by James Frank Sullivan. Straight from the Gay Nineties, it’s a selection of Sullivan’s contributions to the Strand magazine’s short fiction column The Queer Side of Things.
So, before we all find ourselves on Queer Street just because some Dick wants to arrest us for seeming as queer as a clockwork orange, here’s a snatch of J.F.’s work from The Queer Side of Things column.
OLD PROFESSOR WILLETT (December 1892) – Professor Willett announces to his family that his latest invention is going to make all of them rich but refuses to elaborate. Willett disappears after a few days without revealing any more details.
Foul play is suspected and the story’s narrator investigates. It turns out the Professor had devised a highly advanced explosive made from natural fibers. The explosive goes off with no sound and is so rapid its victims seem to simply vanish.
Willett was the first to go during an accident with his invention. Other family members have been perishing/ vanishing, too and the narrator is desperate to save his fiancée – one of the Professor’s daughters – from meeting the same fate.
SPOILER: He is too late and in despair lets himself die from the super-explosive, too.
THE DWINDLING HOUR (January 1893) – Pre-Einsteinian look at Relativity. A relic in the form of a water clock made from rare stone around 5000 B.C. gets passed down from civilization to civilization. Odd changes in the size of the water hole in the bowl of the water clock seem harmless at first but eventually are understood to be ominous. Continue reading
Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky did real-life work crucial to space-flight and is one of the neglected pioneers of Science Fiction. Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at a few of his works.
DREAMS OF EARTH AND SKY (1895) – The opening section of this piece presents the well-worn Hollow Earth with an interior sun storyline. The real treasure is found in the “Dreams of the Sky” portion.
An asteroid in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter is so large that today it would be called a Dwarf Planet like Ceres. The planetoid is inhabited by ambulatory plant-like humanoids who have wings instead of arms and who live in small versions of greenhouses.
These flying plant-people from the Asteroid Belt obtain nourishment through chlorophyll and solar radiation. They also have advanced technology like the harnessing of dismantled asteroids into rings, resulting in lower gravity for manufacturing work.
The beings have even created “space-trains” capable of taking them on interstellar journeys.
OUT OF THE EARTH (1920) – Coincidentally set in the year 2017 A.D. this tale features what readers are told is the first manned flight to the moon, some 48 years AFTER it happened in real life. An international team of tycoons and scientific adventurers are planning to explore the universe, with the moon an obvious first step.
This international fellowship is headquartered in the Himalayas and boasts members from Russia, America, England, France, Germany and Italy. Tsiolkovsky was ballsy enough to use millionaires and industrialists as the story’s heroes despite the disapproval of the (by 1920) Soviet government.
The fellowship uses a multi-stage rocket propelled by liquid fuel. After perfecting model rockets the group moves on to full-scale spacecraft. The explorers orbit the Earth first, and use space suits for extra-vehicular activities. Continue reading
Yes, the first eleven days of November are about World War One here at Balladeer’s Blog – with my other topics thrown in as well.
This blog post combines World War One with my Ancient Science Fiction category to present vintage stories regarding that conflict.
Many of them feature dieselpunk inventions like I covered in my reviews of the pulp magazine G-8 And His Battle Aces.
BLOOD AND IRON (1917) – Written by Robert Hobart Davis & Perley Poore Sheehan. Dramatic depiction of advanced technology being used in World War One. In Germany one of the Kaiser’s scientists is experimenting with replacing lost limbs and organs with mechanical replacements. He has been trying to create cyborgs out of maimed German soldiers from the front lines.
After many failures, Experiment Number 241 is the scientist’s first success. His replacement arms and legs possess superhuman strength plus his replacement ears and eyes have granted him long-range vision and hearing.
Kaiser Wilhelm is thrilled, since this means that previously mortal wounds will now pave the way for cyborg soldiers. The Kaiser interrogates and drills Number 241 and expresses annoyance with the cyborg’s robotic way of speaking.
Number 241 at length has enough and kills the Kaiser, leaving a bloody pulp of a corpse. The horrified scientist’s expression of shock is met with a robotic reply of “Blood – and – iron.” (As in Otto Von Bismarck’s motto.)
IN THE CHANNEL (1907)- Written by B.T. Stewart. Though penned seven years before the Guns of August blazed this story featured Kaiser Wilhelm’s forces launching an offensive in the English Channel and the surrounding waters.
The short story centers on naval battles, with the Germans unseating the Britons as “rulers of the waves.” The Germans then go on to win the entire war in this combination of the Future War sub-genre with the “are we fully prepared for war” exploitation tales. Continue reading
AN INTER-PLANETARY RUPTURE (1906) – Written by Frank L Packard. This work of Science Fiction is set in the far-off year 3102 A.D. Since the year 2532 all of the Earth has been united under one single government, which is headquartered in America’s Washington, D.C. (Yet this was written by a Canadian.)
The global parliamentary body was called the Assembly of the World and met in an enormous billion-dollar building called the Edifice of Deliberations. Former sovereign nations of the Earth are represented there like States or Provinces were in countries during the past.
The executive body of the world government is called the Supreme Council of Earth and meets in the same building as the Assembly but in the opposite wing. This Supreme Council consists of 12 members who are appointed based on their brilliance and accomplishments in global law and governance.
In an interesting touch the flag of the United Earth is red and white: a blood-red field with a white dove in the center.
To the people of the 32nd Century space travel is as easy as train or ship travel to the people of 1906. Multiple inhabited planets interact with each other and periodic wars are as common between these planets as wars between nations were in the past.
An asteroid called Mizar has been under Earth’s political jurisdiction since the Treaty of 2970. The people living on Mizar declare their independence from the Earth and strongly request that the people of the planet Mercury annex the asteroid. Mercury’s government hungers for Mizar because of its strategic orbital path. Continue reading
THE GUARDIAN OF MYSTERY ISLAND (1896) – Written by Dr Edmond Molcini. Mystery Island lies off the coast of Maine and everyone near the coast considers the place haunted by a true monstrosity – a large ghost-dog.
Sam Lenartson, the hero of the story, is new to the region and is bemused by the superstitious whispers about Mystery Island. He decides to investigate by sailing over to the place but can’t find anyone willing to brave the isle with him.
Sam arrives alone and, though he hears distant barking of an apparently large canine when he follows the sounds he finds a small dog and its owner. That owner is a very, very, VERY old French woman who is either senile or insane. She says she has been around since the 1790s, kept alive by chewing what she calls “Devil Weed.” Continue reading
Full Title: A NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE AND ASTONISHING ADVENTURES OF JOHN DANIEL, A SMITH AT ROYSTON IN HERTFORDSHIRE, FOR A COURSE OF SEVENTY YEARS. (1751) – Written by Ralph Morris, supposedly a pseudonym used by an unknown man.
Around the year 1650 John Daniel, a smith in Royston, is subjected to the relentless advances of his sultry stepmother. To avoid a situation which would hurt his father, John goes off to sea on a ship bound for the Moluccas. Enroute the ship goes under, with the only survivors being John Daniel and a young man who turns out to really be a woman in disguise.
John and this woman – named Ruth – are castaways on an uncharted and uninhabited island somewhere near Java. Food, shelter, fresh water and game animals are in huge supply, so John and Ruth name the place the Isle of Providence. The couple perform a do-it-yourself wedding ceremony and begin having children.
As the years go by our main characters have six sons and five daughters. Any other ships that draw near the island always wreck, leaving no survivors so the family abandons hope of rescue. Five of the sons and five of the daughters are married to each other when they reach their teen years. (All together now: “Eeewww!”)
The unmarried son, Daniel (yes his name is Daniel Daniel) has a knack for inventing things and builds a flying machine. Its general shape is like one of our modern-day airplanes but the wings are leather over metal rod frames and in order to fly the wings must “flap,” which they do, powered by a pump.
John insists on accompanying his son Daniel (I’ll call him “Dan-Dan” from this point on) on the “mechanical eagle’s” test-flight. The flying machine performs even better than Dan-Dan hoped, but is so strong and fast that it winds up taking the inventor and his father to the moon. Continue reading