May 31, 2023 · 1:05 pm
A VOYAGE TO THE WORLD IN THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (1755) – This intriguing work was published in London anonymously and no author has yet been decisively identified. The novel’s narrator – who remains as anonymous as the book’s author – parties away his inheritance and then ships out for Italy.
Exploring on Mount Vesuvius our hero accidentally falls into what we readers are eventually told is just one of many holes that lead to the interior of the Earth, where another world awaits. A miraculous landing on a haystack saves the narrator’s life but he finds himself unable to move because of the greater gravity of this interior world.
A friendly inhabitant of the inner Earth applies a chemical salve to our protagonist’s body, a salve which allows him to stand up and move about in the higher gravity. A second salve massaged into the narrator’s body renders him capable of understanding and conversing in the language of Inner Earth.
The inhabitants of this interior world dress in silk robes and live to be 200 years old or older. They possess limited telepathy. Precious gems litter the ground but those jewels are meaningless to the Inner Earthers. Their society is partially socialist but with families held sacrosanct and with paternal authority sovereign in each household until the children reach adulthood.
Periodically a King is elected for a lifetime term. Common-sense morality prevails, and ingratitude is especially frowned upon. All of the inhabitants are strict vegetarians, as are the animals so the humans and the beasts interact peacefully.
In addition to the usual above-ground animals, Inner Earth also boasts gigantic birds who are trained to provide air travel throughout the subterranean land. Our hero gets to meet the reigning King in the world capital called Oudentominos.
The King makes him welcome but stresses that visitors are usually encouraged to leave after a year. That custom was set in place when a still-extant colony of British men and women discovered Inner Earth nearly a hundred years earlier and have been causing frequent problems.
During our protagonist’s stay the cantankerous Brits once again come close to mutinying so the Inner Earthers attack them and subdue them. The men are castrated and both sexes of the Anglos are scattered around Inner Earth to prevent any more rebellions from fermenting.
As for life on other planets in our solar system: Continue reading →
May 22, 2023 · 5:55 pm
AN INTER-PLANETARY RUPTURE (1906) – Written by Frank L Packard. This work of Science Fiction is set in the far-off year 3102 A.D. Since the year 2532 all of the Earth has been united under one single government, which is headquartered in America’s Washington, D.C. (Yet this was written by a Canadian.)
The global parliamentary body was called the Assembly of the World and met in an enormous billion-dollar building called the Edifice of Deliberations. Former sovereign nations of the Earth are represented there like States or Provinces were in countries during the past.
The executive body of the world government is called the Supreme Council of Earth and meets in the same building as the Assembly but in the opposite wing. This Supreme Council consists of 12 members who are appointed based on their brilliance and accomplishments in global law and governance.
In an interesting touch the flag of the United Earth is red and white: a blood-red field with a white dove in the center.
To the people of the 32nd Century space travel is as easy as train or ship travel to the people of 1906. Multiple inhabited planets interact with each other and periodic wars are as common between these planets as wars between nations were in the past.
An asteroid called Mizar has been under Earth’s political jurisdiction since the Treaty of 2970. The people living on Mizar declare their independence from the Earth and strongly request that the people of the planet Mercury annex the asteroid. Mercury’s government hungers for Mizar because of its strategic orbital path. Continue reading →
May 16, 2023 · 9:46 am
Full Title: A NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE AND ASTONISHING ADVENTURES OF JOHN DANIEL, A SMITH AT ROYSTON IN HERTFORDSHIRE, FOR A COURSE OF SEVENTY YEARS. (1751) – Written by Ralph Morris, supposedly a pseudonym used by an unknown man.
Around the year 1650 John Daniel, a smith in Royston, is subjected to the relentless advances of his sultry stepmother. To avoid a situation which would hurt his father, John goes off to sea on a ship bound for the Moluccas. Enroute the ship goes under, with the only survivors being John Daniel and a young man who turns out to really be a woman in disguise.
John and this woman – named Ruth – are castaways on an uncharted and uninhabited island somewhere near Java. Food, shelter, fresh water and game animals are in huge supply, so John and Ruth name the place the Isle of Providence. The couple perform a do-it-yourself wedding ceremony and begin having children.
As the years go by our main characters have six sons and five daughters. Any other ships that draw near the island always wreck, leaving no survivors so the family abandons hope of rescue. Five of the sons and five of the daughters are married to each other when they reach their teen years. (All together now: “Eeewww!”)
The unmarried son, Daniel (yes his name is Daniel Daniel) has a knack for inventing things and builds a flying machine. Its general shape is like one of our modern-day airplanes but the wings are leather over metal rod frames and in order to fly the wings must “flap,” which they do, powered by a pump.
John insists on accompanying his son Daniel (I’ll call him “Dan-Dan” from this point on) on the “mechanical eagle’s” test-flight. The flying machine performs even better than Dan-Dan hoped, but is so strong and fast that it winds up taking the inventor and his father to the moon. Continue reading →
May 10, 2023 · 7:27 pm
A DARWINIAN SCHOONER (1893) – Written by William Alden. With so many fans of the various Planet of the Apes movies still around, 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 east 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 →
May 8, 2023 · 8:19 am
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 Morton, 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!
Pterodactyls 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 →
May 2, 2023 · 9:07 pm
FIVE HUNDRED YEARS HENCE (1818) – Written under the pseudonym “D” this work was published the same year as Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. The story is presented as written observations of the world in October and November of the year 2318.
London has fallen so far in prominence that it is by then just a fishing village, barely known outside of England. Liverpool is close to becoming a ghost town, and Oxford is closing its sole remaining institution of higher education. In Edinburgh of all places, disparaging Great Britain is a crime punishable by being hanged upside down.
Next, D turned their attention across the pond to the United States. Continue reading →
April 20, 2023 · 1:10 am
THE BRICK MOON (1872) – Written by Edward Everett Hale, best known for The Man without a Country. This novella started out as a serialized story published in 1869 in the October, November and December issues of Atlantic Monthly. A follow-up installment, titled Life in the Brick Moon, was published in the February 1870 issue.
In 1872, the entire four-part piece was published by Roberts Brothers as part of His Level Best and Other Stories, which contained works by multiple authors. The Brick Moon was published again in 1899 as part of Edward Everett Hale’s The Brick Moon and Other Stories.
The story begins in the 1840s when Frederic Ingham, the tale’s narrator, and his college friends Orcutt and Halliburton plan a dream project which winds up taking decades to fulfill – a manmade artificial satellite, the first recorded in science fiction stories.
The possibility of wireless communication was unknown in that time period, so the three friends don’t plan to use their Brick Moon to transmit and receive communications. They instead plan for it to serve as a heavenly object that ships at sea can use as a marker. Continue reading →
March 9, 2023 · 4:25 pm
THE END OF AN EPOCH (1901) – Written by A. Lincoln Green, this novel about a world-threatening disease presented the tale of brilliant young Adam Godwin, a recent Oxford graduate who pursues his interest in microbiology. During the course of his research into antitoxins, Adam becomes aware of the controversial Dr. Azrael Falk.
Falk is in India, experimenting on human test subjects with his hybrids of assorted bacteria and other microorganisms. Godwin becomes so fascinated with Dr. Falk’s heinous yet productive work that it strains his relationship with his fiancee Evelyn Morpeth, daughter of the wealthy Sir John Morpeth.
Ultimately, Adam starts neglecting Evelyn to the point that she lays down an ultimatum: Godwin must choose between her and his research. Adam chooses his research, so the engagement is ended, and the willful Evelyn joins her father’s expedition to the North Pole.
Dr. Falk relocates to London and hires Adam Godwin as his assistant. Adam’s admiration for the man’s scientific genius increases even as his personal dislike for Falk’s selfish nature threatens to overwhelm that admiration. When Azrael sufficiently trusts Adam, he reveals to him that he has developed a combination of dengue, tetanus, influenza, sleeping sickness, bubonic plague and meningitis. Continue reading →
February 22, 2023 · 9:02 pm
THE KE WHONKUS PEOPLE aka A Tale of the North Pole Country (1890) – The author John O. Greene was American, but the main character in this story is a Canadian named Sampson De Lilly. Sampson survives a shipwreck and is picked up by a steamship headed for the North Pole.
When the steamer hits too much ice and mist to proceed any further, De Lilly and other crew members continue heading north on dogsleds. Ultimately, they reach Ke Whonkus, a previously unknown island just south of the Pole, but possessed of a warm climate.
The island is inhabited by 4 and a half million people, all of them white and some of them survivors of the doomed expedition of John Franklin in the 1840s. Those survivors speak English and serve as translators for Sampson and his colleagues.
Most technology on Ke Whonkus is more advanced than in the rest of the world. The inhabitants have electric lighting through all the populated areas, plus electric cars and trains. Continue reading →
November 16, 2022 · 11:15 pm
THE CAPTIVITY OF THE PROFESSOR (1901) – Written by A. Lincoln Green, a presumed pen name, this story was first published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in the February 1901 isssue.
Years before H.G. Wells’ short story The Empire of the Ants came this tale for which that might have been a more appropriate title. The Captivity of the Professor is set in the jungles of Brazil. Our narrator is an entomologist from Scotland who is so intent on studying rare ant species that he ignores warnings of an indigenous tribe and travels into a forbidden region of the vast rainforest.
Before long the professor discovers an unusual ant of unknown species, possessing an oversized head and huge mandibles. The rest of the ant’s fellows fall upon our narrator and, proving to be incredibly intelligent, manage to herd him to their colony using painful bites to spur him along. Continue reading →