THE INCUBATED GIRL (1896) – Written by F.T. Jane, as in THE Jane who originated the Jane’s Guides.
It would be overly glib to describe this novel as just a sci-fi version of Alraune because it definitely goes in some unexpected directions. Plus Alraune itself borrowed heavily from Homunculus, Mandrake and Mandragore folklore. There’s a touch of The Great God Pan as well.
The Incubated Girl begins with British Egyptologist Blackburn Zadara discovering an ancient coffin of a Priest of Isis. There is no corpse inside but rather a manuscript and assorted chemical concoctions. Zadara returns to England with the discovery and translates the manuscript – it is a guide to creating human life by using the chemical substances that were buried with the manuscript.
Blackburn closely follows the instructions and months later he invites his friend Meredyth Wilson Sr over to witness the initial results of the experiment. Wilson watches as Zadara opens a large egg-shaped pod from which he removes a little baby girl.
Blackburn Zadara names the child Stella and tells Meredyth that according to the Egyptian manuscript Stella will be supernaturally healthy and will never experience death as long as she never drinks human milk nor eats any meat.
Over the years as Stella grows, Zadara tries to create additional humanoids but those efforts always fail. The Egyptologist has been using specifically deaf-mute servants to attend to Stella to limit involved interaction with other humans.
By her 18th year Stella is beautiful and highly intelligent but is as selfish as a newborn and enjoys enacting revenge against anyone who gets on her bad side. Blackburn takes the incubated girl to London with him, but she abandons him there, since she finds him ugly and unpleasant. Continue reading
A DARWINIAN SCHOONER (1893) – Written by William Alden. With the latest Planet of the Apes movie hitting many theaters today I figured it was a good time to post a review of this story that’s in a similar spirit.
The tale starts on board a 22-man ship called the Jane G Mather. This vessel is 500 miles or so west of Cape Saint Roque in Brazil when the 2nd Mate – Mr Samuels – catches sight of a schooner barely a mile off.
The schooner has full sails on but keeps listing to and fro almost as if its crew were novices or drunk. After two hours the Captain – Bill Simmons – takes an interest in the careering ship in the distance since it is clearly a potential threat to sea traffic.
Captain Simmons has Mr Samuels round up an away team consisting of Samuels himself and four other men. They are to board the errant vessel and advise the captain to get his crew and his ship under better control. Soon, Samuels and his four men pull alongside the schooner and are shocked to see nothing but large monkeys – baboons, Samuels guesses – aboard the ship.
The 2nd Mate of the Mather is unnerved at the sight and by how calmly the baboons watch him and the rest of the away team board the ship. The primates make no sound and do not jump around or otherwise behave like real monkeys, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Continue reading
THE ABYSMAL INVADERS (1929) – Written by Edmond Hamilton. This is a nice mish-mash of elements that are part Creature Feature, part Doctor Who and part Jurassic Park. Hamilton gets bashed as a hack but his stories are harmless fun.
The hero of this tale is Professor Norton, an eminent biologist. He is doing field work in a Southern Illinois swamp when, from caverns beneath the swamp an army of dinosaurs comes pouring out. AND ALL OF THEM ARE BEING RIDDEN BY HUMANOID LIZARDS WHO WIELD RAY-GUNS!
Pteradactyls provide these invaders with their own Air Force and humans are driven before them. The city of Brinton is reduced to a virtual ruin before the onslaught of these Lizard-men. Continue reading
THE FALLEN RACE (1892) – Written by Austyn Granville. If you’ve ever thought to yourself “How come nobody ever combined science fiction, H. Rider Haggard-style Lost Race tales AND kangaroo rapists” then THIS is the story for you. (And please stay away from children.)
This novel is presented as if it is the real-life journal of the adventures of Dr Paul Gifford in the Great Australian Desert from 1874-1888. An ill-fated expedition into Australia’s desert is nearly wiped out by dysentery, thirst and spoiled food. The only two survivors are the aforementioned Dr Gifford and Jacky-Jacky, which may sound like the name of a Hip-Hop Artist but is really the name of an Australian Aborigine member of the expedition.
Just in time this unlikely pair comes across a huge lake, which event saves their lives. Adjacent to the lake is the lush, green land of the Anonos, a species which is a cross between humans and kangaroos and resulted from a long-ago mass rape of Australian Aborigine women by kangaroos. No, I’m serious.
Finally, the lyrics of that Men at Work song make sense:
“I come from a land Down Un-derrr/ Where kangaroos rape and men plun- derrr”
The Anonos have the fur and the short, stubby arms of kangaroos along with their long tongues but are otherwise human. Their intelligence is below average, so I’m guessing it never occurred to them to refer to themselves as “Man-supials.” But I kid … Anyway this hybrid species lives in a crudely constructed city of sorts. Continue reading
THE SHIP OF SILENT MEN (1920) – Written by Philip M Fisher. The crew of a ship called the Lanoa set out from Hawaii. A few days later an abnormally powerful electrical storm strikes, leaving the area unusually cold in its wake.
The men on board the Lanoa don’t have much time to ponder that before they begin receiving distress signals from a ship identified as the Karnak. Even though the message indicates that the death of the entire crew seems imminent, the Lanoa receives the message again later, after assuming the Karnak met with disaster. Continue reading
THE Nth MAN (1920 – 1928) – Written by Homer Eon Flint, who died in 1924. Though this short novel was not published until 1928 many fans of the author argue that it was actually written in 1920.
The story is set in what was then the near future of the 1930s. The Nth Man is an enormous humanoid figure with hardened skin like the shells of certain species of animals. He is supposedly 2 miles tall, but that would make many of the events in the novel impractical if not impossible.
The mysterious giant is regarded as half rumor and half Tall Tale as he sets the world talking with some incredible actions. He tears apart some of the Great Wall of China, he removes the head of the Sphinx and places it on top of one of the pyramids and he picks up a ship bound for Australia and carries it for thousands of miles.
Showing more cognitive purpose the Nth Man also makes off with an entire building to thwart a plot by anarchists and saves a little girl from drowning. All of the preceding deeds have been accomplished under cover of darkness but now the colossus comes out into the open, emerging from San Francisco Bay to tower over the city.
The Nth Man walks from coast to coast, easily defeating the aerial and land forces that attempt to stop him. You would think this proto-Kaiju sequence would have inspired a film adaptation long ago. The gigantic figure goes to Washington D.C. and lays down some demands from on-high. Continue reading
FUNGUS ISLE (1923) – Written by Philip M Fisher. Fungus Isle has the same proto-Creature Feature feel to it that The True Inheritors (qv) had. In the case of the previously reviewed story it was a forerunner of various giant spider flicks. In the case of Fungus Isle it seems like the inspiration for Attack of the Mushroom People, aka Matango, the Fungus of Terror.
A handful of friends find themselves shipwrecked on an uncharted island near New Guinea. The island is crawling with various types of fungus and our protagonists eventually encounter some fungi that are nearly humanoid and can walk.
The spores shot out by the fungi cling to human flesh, eventually accumulating to the point where they completely cover the body. Salt water serves as an effective remedy to clean off the spores but there is no food on the island except mushrooms. Continue reading