WITHIN AN ACE OF THE END OF THE WORLD (1900) – Written by Robert Barr. No doubt about it, Barr was obsessed with the notion of humanity possibly bringing on its own demise through ill-considered scientific tampering. Recently Balladeer’s Blog reviewed another of his stories, The Doom of London, which mined the same creative territory.
This time around the tale is set in the “present” and the near future of 1903. In 1900 a scientist named Bonsel treats a crowd of VIPs to a lavish banquet, after which he announces that all of the food consumed was created artificially. This was done through his new process of drawing nitrogen from the atmosphere and combining it with other chemicals.
Thus the Great Food Corporation is launched, with many of the banquet’s attendees being its initial investors. The company thrives until 1903, when the Guildhall Banquet degenerates into a chaotic bacchanal and partial riot. Soon this “Guildhall Syndrome” spreads, with the most beastly aspects of human nature on display everywhere it manifests.
John Rule, a British gentleman put off by the poor taste of it all, probes deeper and determines that the scandalous orgies and accompanying violence have been caused by an atmospheric imbalance. That imbalance was caused by the Great Food Corporation’s siphoning off of too much nitrogen from Earth’s atmosphere. 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. Our protagonist doesn’t want his invention used for such a blood-soaked purpose and in the ensuing argument his father throws him out of the house. Continue reading
THE DOOM OF LONDON (1892) – Written by Robert Barr. In the “far future” of the mid-Twentieth Century the narrator of this tale looks back at the catastrophe that hit London in the 1890s.
The premise is that our narrator is outraged by a piece written by a Professor Mowberry in which the professor ventures the opinion that the destruction of London was an overall beneficial event. His reasoning is that it got rid of millions of unnecessary people. Pretty callous attitude, unless you’re talking about getting rid of the Kardashians.
At any rate we readers are informed that in the mid-Twentieth Century fog has been completely done away with (?), preventing what happened to London in the 1890s from ever happening again. It turns out that what started out seeming to be nothing but the usual London fog was actually deadly gases unleashed from deep in the Earth by careless mining. Continue reading
THE ARCTIC DEATH (1927) – Written by Wilford Allen, On A Far World, covered below, was a prequel to this same tale. The Arctic Death is set in the 1930s, which was “the near future” when the story was first published.
A mysterious epidemic called the Arctic Death is spreading southward from the North Pole, leaving countless frozen bodies in its wake. Professor Charles Breinbar, the greatest scientific mind of the decade, uses high-tech “Q-Rays” to determine that the victims did not just die of cold but were snuffed out by malign disembodied entities of some sort.
Breinbar devises special insulation which allows him and his assistant to enter the region currently being affected by the spreading wave of fatalities. Investigating the area our heroes witness people dropping dead in the streets after being affected by energy emanating from floating balls of light. Continue reading
THE THAMES VALLEY CATASTROPHE (1884) – Written by Grant Allen. The story is presented in the form of a memoir about the destruction of London as seen from “the futuristic” 20th Century.
“Back” in 1884 a Londoner familiar with lava eruptions and flows that happened in the American West in the past tries – in what would become a trope of later disaster movies – to warn the authorities that danger lurks. Needless to say his warnings go unheeded and lava erupts in the Thames Valley. Continue reading
MY COUSIN’S AIRSHIP, A TALE OF 1950 (1902) – Written by W.F. Alexander. Though written in 1902 this story is set in a fictional 1950 which has seen incredible scientific advances.
The action begins in England, where our narrator lives with his true love Margaret. His cousin Stephen Rankin – a former rival for Margaret’s affections – is a nasty mean-spirited mad scientist figure.
Stephen has invented a new type of aerocar which can travel 45 miles per hour, which we readers are told makes it the fastest aircraft of 1950. (!) As a peace-making gesture the inventor invites our narrator along for a joyride in the airship. Continue reading
THE LUNARIAN PROFESSOR AND HIS REMARKABLE REVELATIONS CONCERNING THE EARTH, THE MOON AND MARS TOGETHER WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE CRUISE OF THE SALLY ANN (1909) – Written by James B Alexander back in the glory days of titles so long they might not fit in a 140 character limit.
The story is set in 1892, when James Alexander pretends that, while on a fishing trip he encountered a humanoid with a head like a globe, six limbs, large eyes and six wings. The being claims to be a “Lunarian,” a man from our moon.
He is a professor and informs Alexander that he and his fellow Lunarians travel from planet to planet by manipulating gravity. They live in vast underground caverns on the moon, caverns with a breathable atmosphere. Their mastery of gravity is the key to their advanced technology.
The professor’s people have been observing Earth for an untold amount of time. James Alexander even learns that in the distant past humans had to fight intelligently evolving reptiles for planetary supremacy. The cavemen won.
The Lunarians grow vegetation in hydroponic trays and dispose of their dead through a disintegration process that breaks the bodies down into their base elements, thus nothing gets wasted. Though their own culture is socialistic the Lunarians have no shyness about earning profits by selling their advanced technology to other inhabited planets.
The Lunarians have even developed methods of predicting the future. Alexander asks about Earth’s future and the professor from the moon is happy to lay it all out for the Earthling. Continue reading