Tag Archives: Science fiction


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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World War One picWorld War OneWorld War OneYes, the first eleven days of November are about World War One here at Balladeer’s Blog – with my other topics thrown in as well.

This blog post combines World War One with my Ancient Science Fiction category to present vintage stories regarding that conflict.

Many of them feature dieselpunk inventions like I covered in my reviews of the pulp magazine G-8 And His Battle Aces.

Blood and IronBLOOD AND IRON (1917) – Written by Robert Hobart Davis & Perley Poore Sheehan. Dramatic depiction of advanced technology being used in World War One. In Germany one of the Kaiser’s scientists is experimenting with replacing lost limbs and organs with mechanical replacements. He has been trying to create cyborgs out of maimed German soldiers from the front lines.

After many failures, Experiment Number 241 is the scientist’s first success. His replacement arms and legs possess superhuman strength plus his replacement ears and eyes have granted him long-range vision and hearing.

Kaiser Wilhelm is thrilled, since this means that previously mortal wounds will now pave the way for cyborg soldiers. The Kaiser interrogates and drills Number 241 and expresses annoyance with the cyborg’s robotic way of speaking.

Number 241 at length has enough and kills the Kaiser, leaving a bloody pulp of a corpse. The horrified scientist’s expression of shock is met with a robotic reply of “Blood – and – iron.” (As in Otto Von Bismarck’s motto.)   

IN THE CHANNEL (1907)- Written by B.T. Stewart. Though penned seven years before the Guns of August blazed this story featured Kaiser Wilhelm’s forces launching an offensive in the English Channel and the surrounding waters.

The short story centers on naval battles, with the Germans unseating the Britons as “rulers of the waves.” The Germans then go on to win the entire war in this combination of the Future War sub-genre with the “are we fully prepared for war” exploitation tales.     Continue reading


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Guardian of Mystery IslandTHE GUARDIAN OF MYSTERY ISLAND (1896) – Written by Dr Edmond Molcini. Mystery Island lies off the coast of Maine and everyone near the coast considers the place haunted by a true monstrosity – a large ghost-dog.

Sam Lenartson, the hero of the story, is new to the region and is bemused by the superstitious whispers about Mystery Island. He decides to investigate by sailing over to the place but can’t find anyone willing to brave the isle with him.

Sam arrives alone and, though he hears distant barking of an apparently large canine when he follows the sounds he finds a small dog and its owner. That owner is a very, very, VERY old French woman who is either senile or insane. She says she has been around since the 1790s, kept alive by chewing what she calls “Devil Weed.” Continue reading

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John DanielFull 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!”)

John Daniel 2The 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

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Stolen PlanetTHE 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


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Future washington d.c.A PESTILENT VAPOR (1903) – Written by Alice MacGowan, this neglected story introduced a figure who should have become as famous in his way as H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man. 

The tale is set in “the far future” of 1950. The mad scientist Dr Sylvester assassinates the U.S. President for refusing to grant Sylvester the appointment he wanted to an overseas post where he could continue his bizarre experiments.

The not so good doctor is taken into custody and gets even more spiteful satisfaction out of the way the country is rife with rioting and protests. Dr Sylvester wants to further his plans by exploiting the spreading anarchy and disappears from his prison cell.

Sylvester has discovered a way of transforming his body into a gaseous state. When no one was watching him he turned into a vapor and drifted out of the prison, returning to his human form when he had reached safety. Continue reading


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MARSBEYOND 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


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