THE STOLEN PLANET (1906) – Written by John Mastin. Jervis Meredith, a wealthy young British man and his equally wealthy friend Fraser Burnley are so brilliant they invent anti-gravity. Next the young tycoons have a spaceship built so they can use their anti-gravity device to tour outer space.
The battleship-sized craft is named The Regina and combines propellers with Meredith and Burnley’s anti-gravity invention. The friends set off with a ten-man crew and – oddly enough – they are so paranoid about people stealing their secrets they have rigged an elaborate bugging system throughout the Regina so they can know what the crew members talk about.
The explorers make the eccentric decision to explore the region around Sirius first, rather than our own solar system. Enroute the Regina accidentally pulls an uncharted planet out of its orbit (?) and causes it to collide with another uncharted planet. This collision causes a new sun to be born. (Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog will remember that this was apparently a big idea for a time since a lot of these old stories feature suns forming from colliding planets.)
Eventually our heroes decide to explore some planets on their way to the star Sirius. On the first planet they visit the explorers find enormous ruins obviously built by a gigantic race that is now extinct. The structures were beautiful from what can be made out and are made of materials unknown on Earth.
Jervis and Fraser – British to the core – “annex” the planet in the name of the King of England. They name the world Silens and soon find the atmosphere to be so radioactive they must leave before they suffer permanent damage.
Next the Regina survives an encounter with a comet, then lands on another planet. This one is many times the size of Earth and with gravity thousands of times greater. All the animals of this planet (Inimicus Ingens) are gigantic compared to Earth animals. Even germs are so large they are visible to the naked eye.
The explorers are captured by the world’s enormous humanoids but manage to escape the beings with a spunky alien sea creature as their new mascot. A guided missile that the aliens shoot at the Regina fails to hit it. Continue reading
BEYOND THE ETHER (1898) – Written by W. Cairns Johnston. This little honey is so jam-packed with enjoyable weirdness that it’s sort of like “If Ed Wood wrote Steam-Punk.”
Two friends from Harvard reunite on a camping and mountain-climbing trip. In Maine they discover a mysterious new gas which erupts from the ground. The pair study the gas and decide to use its lighter than air properties to visit other planets in our solar system.
In a cosmic-level coincidence our heroes later stumble upon a previously unknown plant here on Earth. The plant can be used to induce suspended animation for space travel and to heal grievous injuries. The incredibly lucky explorers leave the Earth on board their balloon propelled by their new gas.
At 30,000 feet they use their newly-discovered plant to put themselves into suspended animation for their trip to Mars. More than three years later they wake up as they enter the atmosphere of the Red Planet. Clumsily, our space pioneers fall out of their balloon’s basket and land in the nest of a gigantic Martian eagle. Continue reading
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