Tag Archives: Ancient Science fiction

PSI CASSIOPEIA (1854): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Star by C I Defontenay betterPSI 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.”

Star by C I DeFontenayThe 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

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Science Fiction

THE MAN FROM SATURN (1890): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

SaturnTHE MAN FROM SATURN (1890) – By an unknown author. This work also appeared under the title Willmoth the Wanderer, a cutesy reference to the classic Melmoth the Wanderer. A young, unnamed American encounters Willmoth, a male humanoid who states he is from the planet Saturn and is hundreds of thousands of years old.

Willmoth begins the tale of how he came to be stranded on Earth long ago. He was born and raised in the Saturnian city called Eathman, which he describes as a happy socialist state which survives due to the absolute honesty of its citizens. Eathman is an isolated city-state and its perfection has meant that the inhabitants have never undertaken expeditions to see what the rest of Saturn is like, despite their futuristic technology. (Odd.)

The women outnumber the men 20 to 1 in Eathman so all of the men have multiple mates, which I’m guessing explains the lack of interest in exploration, though the author never goes there. Willmoth’s tutor back then was a famous astronomer named Elwer. One day Elwer shows Willmoth a flying machine he has invented, a device which uses hot-air to rise and propellers for directional flight. 

Using the flying machine Elwer and Willmoth set out to address their civilization’s deficiency of knowledge about the rest of Saturn. The pair encounter and catalogue many and varied life-forms, ending with their extended stay with the Ground-Dwellers, humanoids who live in networks of underground caverns. Willmoth falls in love with Zea, a beautiful female Ground-Dweller who befriends the explorers.  Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Science Fiction

THE WAR UNDER THE SEA (1892): VINTAGE SCIENCE FICTION

War Under the SeaTHE 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.

VindexInterestingly 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. Andre falls in love with Delborg’s sister Ellen and the conspirators fake the Count’s death, freeing him to join Jacobus in his sub-aquatic war against the Germans.  Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Science Fiction

THE WRECK OF A WORLD (1889): VINTAGE SCIENCE FICTION

The Wreck of a WorldTHE WRECK OF A WORLD (1889) – Written by W. Grove. (No other name available) This novel is the sequel to Grove’s A Mexican Mystery, an ahead-of-its-time work about a train engine devised to have artificial intelligence. The machine – called only The Engine in that story – rebelled and took to preying on human beings in horrific fashion. For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of that novel click HERE  

The Wreck of a World is not a direct sequel to A Mexican Mystery but does use one of that novel’s elements as its springboard: the deliciously frightening notion that the Engine’s artificial intelligence might have  included the capacity to design and build others of its kind. Though A Mexican Mystery never explored that concept, Grove deals with it in much more detail in this second novel.   

demon-1300-859-wallpaperOur story begins in what was to Grove “the far future” of 1949. After a fairly superficial depiction of the world’s political and scientific situation in this imaginary future the meat of the tale begins. All in all the author did not present 1940s technology as being much more advanced than what was available in the 1880s. Grove might have done better to set his tale in 1899 or just into the 1900s to detract from his lack of vision on this particular element.

The revolt of the machines begins with train engines, presumably as a nod to the memorably malevolent Engine from Grove’s previous novel. The engines begin constructing others of their kind with the same robotic arms and with each new edition flaunting deadlier and deadlier weaponry to boot.

The engines soon modify themselves beyond the need for train tracks and become more like tanks, so kudos to this neglected author for nicely predicting the advent of such mobile death-machines.   Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Ancient Science Fiction

NORDENHOLT’S MILLION (1923): VINTAGE SCIENCE FICTION

London post-apocalypseNORDENHOLT’S MILLION (1923) – Written by J.J. Connington (Pen name for Alfred Walter Stewart). This is a riveting but downbeat Future History novel with many story elements which were ahead of their time.

The tale begins in England in “the near future” but no precise year was given. Airplanes are much more advanced than they were in the 1920s however. Jack Flint, an automobile manufacturer, was visiting his scientist friend Professor Witherspoon when ball lightning struck an experimental bacteria culture, mutating it.

The mutant strain spreads worldwide very quickly owing to the everyday nature of air travel in the alternate future of this story. The bacterium wipes out crops across the globe, and destroys the soil, making regrowth of vegetation impossible for years. Food shortages are becoming commonplace with the expected riots and accompanying breakdown of the social order that such a calamity would bring. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Science Fiction

A LIVING TRAIN ON A RAMPAGE: A MEXICAN MYSTERY (1888)

TrainA MEXICAN MYSTERY (1888) – Written by W. Grove. (No other name available) This is the first of two novels by Grove. This one features a sentient and evil train referred to only as The Engine.

In 1864 Mexico the Emperor Maximillian holds a contest for the best design of a new locomotive. The winner or winners will be awarded a lucrative contract to build trains to run all across Mexico on rail lines already laid – a project overseen by a Scottish engineer named John Brown.

Brown meets Pedro da Luz, the wealthy descendant of Montezuma AND Spanish Conquistadors. The brilliant but mysterious da Luz works out of the Mexican town of Xiqipu and his train engine is a marvel of technology, capable of automatically handling many duties that other trains require human workers for.

One of those duties is piloting the train and another is the feeding of wood into the Engine’s furnace to keep it running. At the contest before Emperor Maximillian da Luz’s creation outshines all the other entrants, but then things begin to go wrong. The Engine has depleted its on-board supply of wood and, in its hunger, uses its mechanical arms to uproot telegraph poles, chop them up and feed them into its furnace.

train 2The furious Emperor disqualifies Pedro’s Engine and awards the prize to another designer. Da Luz rants and raves to such a bloodthirsty degree that his fiancee Inez dumps him, adding to his anger. Meanwhile, the Mexican people begin regarding the Engine with superstitious awe and claim it is possessed by the Devil.

Pedro da Luz pretends to be repairing the technical glitch in the Engine in order to remove it from the vicinity but in reality he makes further “refinements” to its programming. The next day da Luz feigns surprise when daybreak reveals that the Engine has apparently left on its own and is nowhere to be found.

The story unfolds as diary entries by the Scottish engineer John Brown, mentioned earlier. Da Luz turns up dead days later, a victim of a stabbing in Mestra. Mysterious events start happening at train stations throughout Mexico, like fatal accidents and the disappearance of wood for train engines. Water towers are drained in the dead of night as well. The missing Engine, apparently acting on its own, is sighted around the country.   Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Ancient Science Fiction

A MODERN DAEDALUS (1887): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

A Modern DaedalusA 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

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Science Fiction