A MEXICAN MYSTERY (1888) – Written by W. Grove. (No other name available) This is the first of two novels featuring Grove’s 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.
The 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
THE ULTIMATE INHERITORS (1914) – Written by Berg Bellair. This is a very entertaining work of vintage or “ancient” science fiction and is especially noteworthy for the way it anticipates the many “big bug” movies of the 1950s and later.
In the California desert, where the Golden State borders Arizona and Mexico, a pair of investment miners named Big Ike Pemberton and Joe Kinzie save an older man from dying of exposure. The man turns out to be Doctor Bauer, a scientist who was investigating uranium deposits in the vicinity.
Dr Bauer is the sole survivor of an expedition whose exploratory blasting work accidentally freed dozens of giant, horse-sized spiders from subterranean caverns. Bauer has photographic proof of this claim and theorizes that radiation from the uranium deposits mutated the spiders into their current enormous state. Continue reading
Thank you to all the Balladeer’s Blog readers who let me know where to lay my hands on a French copy of The Cross of Blood (1941), one of the Nyctalope novels I had not yet been able to track down.
I have ordered it and will post a review after I get a chance to read it.
For my take on many of the other adventures of France’s cyborg Pulp Hero the Nyctalope CLICK HERE Continue reading
THE AURORAPHONE (1890) – Written by Cyrus Cole. This fun piece of vintage or “ancient” science fiction features the character Gaston Lesage, an eccentric genius who moves to the mountains of Colorado to continue his pet experiments. Lesage is obsessed with perfecting transmission and reception of radio signals, especially regarding potential contact with other planets.
The altitude of the Rocky Mountains made Colorado the ideal location for Lesage’s experiments and, together with his assistant – a freed black man named Pete King – he perfects a device he called the Auroraphone.
One day when Gaston and Pete are entertaining a pair of men prospecting for gold the Auroraphone picks up the first of a series of transmissions from intelligent life on the planet Saturn. In the days ahead Lesage learns a great deal about Saturnian history and science courtesy of his fellow “ham radio operator” Rulph Bozar, a denizen of the ringed planet.
The Saturnians are much more advanced than Earth and already have flying machines, electric automobiles and powerful sensors which let them watch and record events on Earth and other planets. They also have been using metal robots crafted to look just like the Saturnians themselves, who resemble Terrans in general physiology. Continue reading
Too late Edison learned the awful price to be paid for repeatedly asking if his bikini made him look fat.
From 1898 it’s Garrett P Serviss’ work of science fiction.
PART ONE – After the Martian invaders from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and Serviss’ own Fighters From Mars died from exposure to Earth germs, astronomers around the world realized the ordeal wasn’t over yet. All indications were that the Martians were readying another fleet of spaceships to attack the Earth. CLICK HERE
PART TWO – Thomas Alva Edison reverse-engineered the Martian space craft. The nations of the Earth then banded together to build an entire fleet of similar vessels and take the war to the Red Planet. President McKinley, Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm and other heads of state from around the world attend the global summit. CLICK HERE
PART THREE – After a monumental effort the Earth has a space-fleet of its own, equipped with Edison’s Disintegrator Rays as weaponry. With Edison commanding the flagship and with military men and scientific geniuses from around the world as an officer corps the Earth Fleet departs the Earth. CLICK HERE Continue reading
THE ADVENTURES OF A MICRO-MAN (1902) – This work of vintage or “ancient” science fiction was authored by Lancelot Bayly under the pen name Edwin Pallender. The central character of the story was Doctor Geoffrey Hassler, a wealthy eccentric scientist who has discovered “microgen” a gas which shrinks objects down to a very small size.
Dr Hassler’s demonstrations of the procedure in a diving-bell shaped chamber convinces even the skeptics and he rakes in even more money plus scientific recognition. One day when he, his daughter Muriel, her fiancee Gerald and a family friend named Reverend Eden are all inside the chamber a fluke accident causes them all to be shrunk down to a fraction of an inch.
Nobody was around to witness the accident so the quartet are trapped at tiny size for approximately 10 days, when the microgen treatment will wear off and they will return to normal. In their struggle to survive they manage to escape the chamber and make their way to Dr Hassler’s garden which – at their current size – is like a vast, dangerous jungle to them. Knowing they need food and water the group has no alternative but to venture forth. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog examines another Pulp Hero who doesn’t get as much love as he deserves. Science Fiction pioneer Jean de la Hire from France created the Nyctalope (“Nightwalker”) in 1908 but since many of de la Hire’s works were not translated into English for decades this fascinating cyborg Pulp Hero and proto-superhero languished in obscurity.
This French figure survived a violent incident with the help of scientists who “had the technology” to give him yellow bionic eyes which could see in the dark and for long distances. In addition his saviors replaced his damaged heart with a cybernetic one, endowing him with superhuman stamina since that artificial organ slowed the buildup of lactic acid in his system.
The Nyctalope’s serialized adventures were collected into novel form after each story ended.
THE MAN WHO COULD LIVE UNDERWATER (1908) In the story which introduced the Nyctalope he was a supporting character to one of Jean de la Hire’s other fictional figures, in this case Charles Severac. That man invented and captained the Torpedo, a super-scientific submarine that would make Captain Nemo AND Mighty Jack green with envy.
The Nyctalope helped Severac battle a mad scientist named Oxus and his associates Fulbert the monk and Balsan the surgeon. The villains had created a hybrid shark-man called the Ichtaner, meant to be the start of an amphibious army. Needless to say our heroes emerged triumphant and the Ichtaner was returned to normal.
In this debut appearance the Nyctalope’s secret identity was given as Jean de Sainte Clair, but de la Hire would absent-mindedly alternate between that and Leo Saint-Clair in future adventures before finally settling on the latter name.
(NOTE: Various fan-created histories of the Nyctalope resolve the difference by claiming that Jean de Sainte Clair was the father of Leo Saint-Clair. As fun as those fan works are they are not always official.)
THE MYSTERY OF THE FIFTEEN (1911) aka THE NYCTALOPE ON MARS – Oxus the Mad returned as a villain in this first solo adventure of the Nyctalope. Oxus (renamed Arkhus in some later translations) was a member of a group called The Fifteen – a secret organization of megalomaniacal madmen.
The Fifteen had formed an alliance with a race on Mars, and through that alliance they had access to interplanetary spacecraft and additional advanced technology. Oxus, Koynos and their co-conspirators were spiriting women away to the Red Planet to marry some of them. They were planning to use the rest on a project cross-breeding Martians and humans to create perfect beings and an unstoppable warrior race in order to conquer both worlds. Continue reading