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 SHIP OF SILENT MEN (1920) – Written by Philip M Fisher. The crew of a ship called the Lanoa set out from Hawaii. A few days later an abnormally powerful electrical storm strikes, leaving the area unusually cold in its wake.
The men on board the Lanoa don’t have much time to ponder that before they begin receiving distress signals from a ship identified as the Karnak. Even though the message indicates that the death of the entire crew seems imminent, the Lanoa receives the message again later, after assuming the Karnak met with disaster. Continue reading
Picture by Doneplay at Deviant Art
THE SEA DEMONS (1916) by Victor Rousseau Emanuel aka H.M. Egbert. Set in contemporary times this story features Lt Donald Paget of the Royal Navy battling sea creatures. World War One is raging but Paget’s scientist friend Masterman warns him about invisible humanoid sea beings who are mutating into air-breathers.
That development means the Sea Demons are looking to conquer the surface world and with their respectable intelligence they just might succeed. Paget dismisses the story as lunacy even after the Sea Demons kill Masterman to prevent him from rallying the surface world against them.
Lt Paget remains skeptical even after he encounters Sea Demons going through the late Masterman’s papers to find out how much he knew about them. Not even Agent Scully would still be doubting the existence of the sea creatures by this point but Donald remains skeptical until he goes back on duty at sea where he and his crew encounter the Sea Demons in action. Continue reading
THE MAN FROM SATURN (1890) – By an unknown author. This work also appeared under the title Willmoth the Wanderer, a cutesy reference to the classic Melmoth the Wanderer. A young, unnamed American encounters Willmoth, a male humanoid who states he is from the planet Saturn and is hundreds of thousands of years old.
Willmoth begins the tale of how he came to be stranded on Earth long ago. He was born and raised in the Saturnian city called Eathman, which he describes as a happy socialist state which survives due to the absolute honesty of its citizens. Eathman is an isolated city-state and its perfection has meant that the inhabitants have never undertaken expeditions to see what the rest of Saturn is like, despite their futuristic technology. (Odd.)
The women outnumber the men 20 to 1 in Eathman so all of the men have multiple mates, which I’m guessing explains the lack of interest in exploration, though the author never goes there. Willmoth’s tutor back then was a famous astronomer named Elwer. One day Elwer shows Willmoth a flying machine he has invented, a device which uses hot-air to rise and propellers for directional flight.
Using the flying machine Elwer and Willmoth set out to address their civilization’s deficiency of knowledge about the rest of Saturn. The pair encounter and catalogue many and varied life-forms, ending with their extended stay with the Ground-Dwellers, humanoids who live in networks of underground caverns. Willmoth falls in love with Zea, a beautiful female Ground-Dweller who befriends the explorers. Continue reading
THE WAR UNDER THE SEA (1892) – Written by Georges Le Faure. This sci-fi work was intended as an escapist societal salve to a French public still smarting from their loss to Germanic forces during the Franco-Prussian War just over two decades earlier.
One of the main characters in The War Under The Sea is Count Andre Petersen, a French military man who saw service in the Franco-Prussian War. The Count was appalled at France’s humiliation and since then has been running a secret intelligence organization to ensure that his homeland will be much better prepared the next time they must face Germans in war. And that’s not the only outrageous science fiction concept put forth in this novel. (I’m kidding.)
Unfortunately for Count Andre the Germans have been outmaneuvering his organization at the arts of spycraft and know the names of every member of his secret organization – even the Danish, Austrian and Alsation operatives. Unless the Count agrees to a political marriage to the daughter of a German Consul followed by the disbanding of his spy network the Germans will kill every one of his agents.
Interestingly enough, despite this threat the Germans are not depicted as being any more bloodthirsty than the alleged “heroes” of this story as we will see. Though the Count and his allies prove equally callous about large-scale killing (and worse) their attitude is romanticized and approved of by the narrative since Andre and the others are fighting France’s traditional Continental foes the Germans. Instead of Film Noir think of this novel’s approach as callous enough to be called World Noir. Or at least Politics Noir.
The Count is rescued from his dilemma by Jacobus Delborg, a Dutch scientist who has created an incredibly advanced submarine and has been running an anti-German spy network of his own. Andre falls in love with Delborg’s sister Ellen and the conspirators fake the Count’s death, freeing him to join Jacobus in his sub-aquatic war against the Germans. Continue reading