THE 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.
The 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
PSI CASSIOPEIA, or STAR: A MARVELOUS HISTORY OF WORLDS IN OUTER SPACE (1854) – Written by Dr Charlemagne Ischer Defontenay, a French M.D. and author. Long before J.R.R. Tolkien churned out obsessive amounts of fine detail about his fictional Middle Earth, Defontenay produced this volume of history, poetry and drama from his fictional planets in the star system Psi Cassiopeia.
The narrator of the story is supposedly translating alien documents which he discovered in an artificial meteor that crashed in the Himalayas. The documents were from a planet called (incongruously enough) “Star.”
The system where that planet is located is a three-star system. Ruliel is the large, white star at the center, around which orbit the two lesser stars Altether (green) and Erragror (blue). The planet called Star is orbited by large planetoids/ moons named Tassul, Lessur, Rudar and Elier. Throwing all science to the winds the planet is also orbited by a small red star called Urrias.
Star and its satellites are inhabited except, of course, for Urrias. The translated documents cover a roughly 1,000 year period of events regarding these worlds. The ancient Starian humanoids formed a united world-wide culture which started as an Empire before becoming a socialist planet economically and politically. The documents also claim that their culture boasted beautiful architecture, incredible feats of engineering and awe-inspiring works of art.
At one point a plague swept the globe, reducing the proud Starian civilization to chaos. A Nihilist Cult formed as the plague kept whittling away at the population over the course of years. In the post-apocalyptic ruins the Nihilists formed a fanatical religion devoted to ending all life on Star. The zealots formed armies which exterminated millions of Starians with the intention of taking their own lives when all non-members of their cult had been wiped out. Continue reading
Picture by Doneplay at Deviant Art
THE SEA DEMONS (1916) by Victor Rousseau Emanuel aka H.M. Egbert. Set in contemporary times this story features Lt Donald Paget of the Royal Navy battling sea creatures. World War One is raging but Paget’s scientist friend Masterman warns him about invisible humanoid sea beings who are mutating into air-breathers.
That development means the Sea Demons are looking to conquer the surface world and with their respectable intelligence they just might succeed. Paget dismisses the story as lunacy even after the Sea Demons kill Masterman to prevent him from rallying the surface world against them.
Lt Paget remains skeptical even after he encounters Sea Demons going through the late Masterman’s papers to find out how much he knew about them. Not even Agent Scully would still be doubting the existence of the sea creatures by this point but Donald remains skeptical until he goes back on duty at sea where he and his crew encounter the Sea Demons in action. Continue reading
UP IN THE AIR AND DOWN IN THE SEA (1863) – Written by William S Hayward, this story was originally serialized in The Boy’s Journal from February to August of 1863. In 1865 it was published in novel form as The Cloud King.
The main character of the tale is scientific adventurer Victor Volans, who has been obsessed with ballooning all his life. During his childhood he would spend untold amounts of time sending up balloons and noting how long they would stay aloft and how far they would travel.
Eventually he moved on to an experiment in which he sent kittens up with a larger balloon, but unfortunately the kittens died from the cold air at the altitude their balloon reached. Little Victor followed up that tragedy by sending up his little brother. The brother survived his balloon trip but the horrified Volans parents angrily forbade Victor from conducting any further experiments.
Years later, when Volans was a teenager, his parents moved the entire family to California to try to cash in on the Gold Rush. Victor took jobs to earn his own money and returned to his ballooning experiments.
On a test flight in his brand-new balloon, Volans loses control to intense winds which blow him and his aircraft over the Pacific Ocean. Eventually Victor winds up encountering two Lost Worlds somewhere in the Pacific. The first of these is the Region of Eternal Night, where our hero must fend off flying fire beings whose touch can burn humans to death. Continue reading
THE WAR UNDER THE SEA (1892) – Written by Georges Le Faure. This sci-fi work was intended as an escapist societal salve to a French public still smarting from their loss to Germanic forces during the Franco-Prussian War just over two decades earlier.
One of the main characters in The War Under The Sea is Count Andre Petersen, a French military man who saw service in the Franco-Prussian War. The Count was appalled at France’s humiliation and since then has been running a secret intelligence organization to ensure that his homeland will be much better prepared the next time they must face Germans in war. And that’s not the only outrageous science fiction concept put forth in this novel. (I’m kidding.)
Unfortunately for Count Andre the Germans have been outmaneuvering his organization at the arts of spycraft and know the names of every member of his secret organization – even the Danish, Austrian and Alsation operatives. Unless the Count agrees to a political marriage to the daughter of a German Consul followed by the disbanding of his spy network the Germans will kill every one of his agents.
Interestingly enough, despite this threat the Germans are not depicted as being any more bloodthirsty than the alleged “heroes” of this story as we will see. Though the Count and his allies prove equally callous about large-scale killing (and worse) their attitude is romanticized and approved of by the narrative since Andre and the others are fighting France’s traditional Continental foes the Germans. Instead of Film Noir think of this novel’s approach as callous enough to be called World Noir. Or at least Politics Noir.
The Count is rescued from his dilemma by Jacobus Delborg, a Dutch scientist who has created an incredibly advanced submarine and has been running an anti-German spy network of his own. Continue reading
A MODERN DAEDALUS (1887) – By Tom Greer. No, the title’s not referring to James Joyce’s character Stephen Dedalus (sic) but this tale IS about Ireland. The main character is a young man named Jack O’Halloran, a recent college graduate who returns to his native Ireland.
Jack has dreamed about flying since he was a child and now he uses his genius to create a winged apparatus that can be worn by a single person to take to the skies. Our modern Daedalus flies around at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour with his new invention. Jack is thrilled but complications arise when he shares the news with his father.
Old Man O’Halloran wants to use his son’s winged apparatus to wage aerial warfare against the hated British and thereby win independence for Ireland. Continue reading
THE SPIDER OF GUYANA (1860) – Written by the team of Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian. Balladeer’s Blog’s previous looks at ancient works of science fiction have established how far back the “big bug” trope goes. Creature Feature movies were far from the first appearance of oversized insects and arachnids. And atomic radiation wasn’t needed to justify such outrageous mutations.
This story is set in Spinbronn, a resort town in the mountains of Germany. Sufferers of gout and other afflictions flock to Spinbronn to soak in its healing waters as prescribed by their physicians. Disappearances begin to plague the area. Continue reading