PHARAOH’S BROKER: BEING THE VERY REMARKABLE EXPERIENCES IN ANOTHER WORLD OF ISIDOR WERNER WRITTEN BY HIMSELF (1899) – Written by Elmer Dwiggins under the name Ellsworth Douglass. For obvious reasons I shortened the title for the blog post headline.
Isidor Werner is a successful wheeling and dealing speculator on the grain market in Chicago. His old teacher from Heidelberg, Professor Anderwelt, comes to him seeking financial backing for an antigravity device he is working on. In exchange for 90% of the profits from the device (seems reasonable), Werner agrees.
Anderwelt uses the funding not only on the antigravity technology but for the construction of a spaceship. The professor convinces his former student Isidor to ride along with him on a trip to Mars. Continue reading
THE SCARLET PLAGUE (1912) – Written by THE Jack London. Years ago Balladeer’s Blog reviewed London’s mad scientist horror tale A Thousand Deaths, now I’ll examine The Scarlet Plague, London’s post-apocalypse plague story set in the year 2073.
Jack London opens up this novella with a grim look at what life is like in the aftermath of the Scarlet Plague which swept the planet in the year 2013. Many recent reviews of this book focus purely on the disease angle because of the world’s ongoing Covid experience, but I think they overlook a lot of London’s political and class commentary.
I’ll take a look at the way in which London presented the pre-plague America of 2013 as a dystopia even before the first victim of the Scarlet Plague passed away. The elderly survivor recounting the tale to his grandchildren in 2073 doesn’t describe it that way because he was in a privileged class as an “educator”.
James Howard Smith is that elderly survivor in a world returned largely to hunting and gathering. He is cared for by his three grandsons, Edwin and two others whose absurd names probably contribute to keeping The Scarlet Plague so underappreciated – Hoo-Hoo and Harelip. (?) They get by as well as they can in northern California, raising dogs to help them herd the goats that they raise for meat and milk, and relying on the ocean for much of the rest of their food supply. Primitive weapons like bows and arrows are all they have on hand to use against wild bears and other menaces. Continue reading
THE CAVERN OF FIRE (1888) – Written by Francis W Doughty. This novel was originally serialized in The Boys of New York from September 15th to November 3rd of 1888. The main character is Professor Hardcastle, head of Merton College in Illinois. Hardcastle’s pet theory over the years has been that America’s mound builders were really from ancient Greece.
At long last he gets some proof of his belief when a tornado not only slams Merton College but also tears open one of the aged mounds in question. Hardcastle, his student Jack Merton and their Chinese aide John Foo discover an iron chest in the opened mound. The chest contains leather pages which, when translated by the professor, are revealed to feature the account of an ancient Greek adventurer named Polyxaphanes.
Polyxaphanes explored far northern caverns leading deep into the Earth, past the realm of the Hyperboreans and ultimately surfacing amid the Toltecs of what is now Mexico. From there the resourceful Greek eventually found his way to America. Hardcastle, Merton and Foo set off in a lighter than air balloon to search for the Mexican end of the vast subterranean cavern system described by Polyxaphanes. Continue reading
ARE THE PLANETS INHABITED? (1913) – Written by Edward Walter Maunder, this book began with ridicule of the outdated belief that the sun and moon might be inhabited, but it doesn’t exactly embody scientific accuracy itself. Therefore I’m classifying it as science fiction even though in 1913 it was considered to be a series of observations adhering to rigid scientific principles.
MARS – Maunder hilariously refers over and over again to “independent confirmations” that Mars had canals. It was believed that these canals provided water from the planet’s polar ice caps to the rest of the desert planet. The author proceeds to cite observations from no less an authority than Percival Lowell, who in 1894 added “oases” at the “junctions” of Schiaparelli’s Martian canals.
The supposed regularity and precision of those oases (reservoirs might have been a better term, even though it, too, would be in error) “proved” to scientists of the time that they could NOT be mere natural formations. This book explains that the Martians are apparently mounting a monumental engineering project in a losing battle to keep their population alive. Continue reading
THE STEAM MAN OF THE PRAIRIES (1868) – Written by Edward Sylvester Ellis. Before the Frank Reade stories came this work that is often hailed as the first Dime Novel with a science fiction theme.
Ellis seems to have been inspired by the REAL and well-known Newark Steam Man built by Zadoc P Dederick in January of 1868. That Steam Man was built strictly to pull carts and wagonloads up and down the street. Its human appearance was just a novelty.
Back to Ellis’ novel: In Saint Louis lives Johnny Brainerd, a 15 year old dwarf with a hunchback, who has a brilliant mind in his misshapen body. After a long line of somewhat modest inventions Johnny constructs a human-shaped Steam Man that stands 9 feet tall. It has long legs with spiked feet, has the boilers in its chest, the firepot in its stomach and lets excess steam vent from its hat. (Dederick’s Newark Steam Man also wore a top hat.) The creation’s nose serves as its whistle, like on a tea kettle. Continue reading
THE NEW HUMANS (1909) – Written by B Vallance. No other name has come to light for the author of this thought-provoking work. Explorer Montgomery Merrick is roaming around the wilds of 1909 Uganda when he falls down a mountainside and into a concealed valley.
Merrick’s injuries are such that he does not expect to survive but he wakes up on an operating table in fine condition. Looking down at him are amoeboid humans who don barrel-shaped exo-skeletons whenever they need to keep their forms stable, as in during the surgery they were performing on Merrick.
One of the beings speaks English and introduces himself to the recovering patient as the Chief Adaptor, who takes credit for “repairing” our hero. Merrick gradually becomes aware that his ultimate fate is still being debated by his odd saviors. Continue reading
Thank you to all of you who have expressed condolences over recent family events. You people are the greatest!
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
Balladeer’s Blog’s end of year retrospective resumes with this look at September’s best:
AMERICA: PART OF THE DUNE FRANCHISE – America’s equivalents of the Harkonnens and other Houses. Click HERE.
TWENTY MORE SENSATIONAL FAILED PREDICTIONS – The latest list of predictions which failed big-time. Click HERE.
DEMOCRAT SLOGANS – A humorous look at the attitudes and policies of Democrats. Click HERE.
THE FIRST TWENTY HULK STORIES FROM THE 1960s – The Hulk takes on the Leader, the Gargoyle, the Circus of Crime and more. Click HERE.
FOOL KILLER: JULY 1911 – The Fool Killer whacks bloated rich pigs like J.P. Morgan, William A Clark, astrologers and others. Click HERE.
DEMOCRATS AND CORPORATE FASCISM – A look at the Democrats and their embrace of corporate fascism. Click HERE.
SUPERHERO PANTHEON OF NOVELTY PRESS – Forgotten 1940s superheroes like the White Streak, Twister, Sub-Zero Man and the Green Sorceress. Click HERE.
CIVIL RIGHTS ICON CLARENCE HENDERSON SAYS TRUMP DID MORE FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR IN FOUR YEARS THAN BIDEN DID IN NEARLY FIFTY. The title says it all. Click HERE.
VENUS IN FURS: AN OPERA VERSION OF THE 1870 NOVEL – Another look at an opera adaptation of an unexpected work. Click HERE. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s end of year retrospective continues with this look at June’s best:
INSPECTOR LIPINZKI: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973) – The best episode of Season Two involved this detective investigating the spectacular theft of a huge diamond. Click HERE.
DEMOCRATS HAVE A PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE … WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT – It often seems like in America you’re only as free as the most intolerant Democrat allows you to be. Click HERE.
THE ARTIFICIAL MAN (1884): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION – The tale of an artificially designed human being. Click HERE.
THE FIRST TWENTY CAPTAIN AMERICA STORIES OF THE 1940s – The Golden Age adventures of the red white and blue superhero. Click HERE.
JOURNALISTS AGREE THAT DEMOCRAT BIAS HAS KILLED THEIR PROFESSION’S CREDIBILITY – The title says it all. Click HERE.
PRIZE COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON – Another 1940s group of superheroes who are all but forgotten. Click HERE.
VICTIMS OF THE DEMOCRAT RIOTERS SPEAK OUT – The victims of color who suffered through the Democrat riots this year were ignored by the Democrats’ media outlets. Click HERE.
FOOL KILLER: MAY 1911 – James Larkin Pearson’s version of the Fool Killer continues his career. Click HERE.
DEMOCRAT VOTE FRAUD SCANDALS IN NEW JERSEY AND WISCONSIN – Yes, even in June more and more Democrat vote fraud scandals were making the news. Click HERE.
DEFECTIVE DETECTIVES (1971) – A BBC show with Max Carrados the blind detective and others. Click HERE. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s year-end retrospective continues with this look at May’s best:
LADY MOLLY: DETECTIVE – Baroness Orczy’s female detective from 1910, solving a murder mystery involving a woman in a “big hat.” Click HERE.
TWENTY MORE “ANCIENT” SCIENCE FICTION STORIES – From hundreds of years ago onward, here are tales about genetically modified humanoid giants stalking the land, machines in the 1800s rebelling against humanity and so much more! Click HERE.
TRANSGRESS WITH ME: MAY FOURTH – Another daring and iconoclastic look at ideas which threaten the powers that be. Click HERE.
SUPERHERO PANTHEON OF FOX FEATURES – A look at forgotten superheroes of long ago. Click HERE.
TWIN PEAKS IN POLAND: THE MAGICAL WORLD OF ANIA – The disappearance of a troubled young woman leads to a series of nightmarish goings-on. Click HERE.
JAWBREAKERS: GRAND BIZARRE – The latest volume of the mercenary superhero team created by independent comics legend Richard C Meyer. Click HERE.
TWENTY COLD WAR ATTACKS ON U.S. AIRCRAFT – Plenty of violent encounters during the Cold War. Click HERE.
CONSOLATIONS IN TRAVEL (1830) ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION – A trip to assorted planets in our solar system. Click HERE.
SATANIC PANIC 2: ANTI-TRUMP HYSTERIA – The absurd overreactions to everything Trump ever did and said will likely be remembered in the same spirit as the bogus Satanic Panic of the 1980s or the periodic Red Scares. Click HERE.
THE DEATH TRAP (1908): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION – A creature feature type of battle with a monster in the Chicago sewer system. Click HERE. Continue reading