Tag Archives: proto-science fiction

A MODERN DAEDALUS (1887): ANCIENT SCI FI FOR ST PATRICK’S DAY

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

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THE LUNARIAN PROFESSOR (1909): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Lunarian ProfessorTHE 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

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THE PURPLE DEATH (1895): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Purple DeathTHE PURPLE DEATH (1895) – Written by William Livingston Alden. Presented in the first person this story is narrated by a British gentleman staying in Italy. He becomes friendly with his neighbor, a German M.D. and bacteriologist named Dr Schmidt.

Subsequent conversations reveal that Schmidt is a good old-fashioned mad scientist who has some very odd sympathies. The German doctor sides with Anarchists (among the biggest bogey-men of the 1890s) and his only objection to the occasional assassinations that Anarchists commit is how impractical those crimes are. Continue reading

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A VOYAGE TO THE WORLD IN THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (1755): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Voyage to world at Centre of the Earth 2A 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.  

Voyage to world at centrePeriodically 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

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THE NEW HUMANS (1909): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

UgandaTHE 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

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ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION: EIGHT MORE EXAMPLES (1744-1910)

Speedy JourneyOne of the most popular posts here at Balladeer’s Blog was my list about “ancient” science fiction from 1634-1909. Here is a followup list of sci fi tales that were way ahead of their time. FOR THE ORIGINAL LIST CLICK HERE     

THE SPEEDY JOURNEY (1744) – Written by Eberhard Christian Kindermann. A five-man crew from Earth pilot a spacecraft to a moon of Mars, where they encounter alien life-forms of all kinds as well as secrets tying the inhabitants to Earth people by way of odd religious parallels. The space travelers also encounter a world-destroying meteor and a “space whirlpool.” CLICK HERE  

THE VOYAGE OF LORD CETON TO THE SEVEN PLANETS (1765) – Written by female author Marie-Anne de Roumier. Set in the 1640s this story features an angel named Zachiel who transports a man and his sister to the planets of our solar system. Continue reading

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THE QUEER SIDE OF THINGS: ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

StrandTHE QUEER SIDE OF THINGS (1890s) – Written by James Frank Sullivan.  Straight from the Gay Nineties, it’s a selection of Sullivan’s contributions to the Strand magazine’s short fiction column The Queer Side of Things.

So, before we all find ourselves on Queer Street just because some Dick wants to arrest us for seeming as queer as a clockwork orange, here’s a snatch of J.F.’s work from The Queer Side of Things column. 

OLD PROFESSOR WILLETT (December 1892) – Professor Willett announces to his family that his latest invention is going to make all of them rich but refuses to elaborate. Willett disappears after a few days without revealing any more details.

Foul play is suspected and the story’s narrator investigates. It turns out the Professor had devised a highly advanced explosive made from natural fibers. The explosive goes off with no sound and is so rapid its victims seem to simply vanish.

Willett was the first to go during an accident with his invention. Other family members have been perishing/ vanishing, too and the narrator is desperate to save his fiancée – one of the Professor’s daughters – from meeting the same fate.

SPOILER: He is too late and in despair lets himself die from the super-explosive, too.   

THE DWINDLING HOUR (January 1893) – Pre-Einsteinian look at Relativity. A relic in the form of a water clock made from rare stone around 5000 B.C. gets passed down from civilization to civilization. Odd changes in the size of the water hole in the bowl of the water clock seem harmless at first but eventually are understood to be ominous.  Continue reading

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