Tag Archives: Steam-Punk


Log of the Flying FishTHE LOG OF THE FLYING FISH: A STORY OF AERIAL AND SUBMARINE PERIL AND ADVENTURE (1887) – Written by Harry Collingwood (William J.C. Lancaster).

Professor Heinrich von Schalckenburg, a brilliant German scientist, is speaking at the Migrants’ Club, an organization of explorers and scientific pioneers. Von Schalckenburg dismisses lighter than air vessels and claims he will prove the success of heavier than air vessels with two of his most recent inventions.

One of those inventions is a crystal powder which can be used as an explosive and as a source of electricity and gas. The other is a new metal alloy that the professor has dubbed “aethereum”, a light but strong substance.

Von Schalckenburg says he is 100,000 British pounds short of being able to construct a craft capable of flying AND serving as a submarine. Mighty Jack, eat your heart out! Sir Reginald Elphinstone, a member of the Migrants’ Club, finances the professor’s project. Continue reading


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War Under the SeaTHE 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.

VindexInterestingly 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


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The Wreck of a WorldTHE WRECK OF A WORLD (1889) – Written by W. Grove. (No other name available) This novel is the sequel to Grove’s A Mexican Mystery, an ahead-of-its-time work about a train engine devised to have artificial intelligence. The machine – called only The Engine in that story – rebelled and took to preying on human beings in horrific fashion. For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of that novel click HERE  

The Wreck of a World is not a direct sequel to A Mexican Mystery but does use one of that novel’s elements as its springboard: the deliciously frightening notion that the Engine’s artificial intelligence might have  included the capacity to design and build others of its kind. Though A Mexican Mystery never explored that concept, Grove deals with it in much more detail in this second novel.   

demon-1300-859-wallpaperOur story begins in what was to Grove “the far future” of 1949. After a fairly superficial depiction of the world’s political and scientific situation in this imaginary future the meat of the tale begins. All in all the author did not present 1940s technology as being much more advanced than what was available in the 1880s. Grove might have done better to set his tale in 1899 or just into the 1900s to detract from his lack of vision on this particular element.

The revolt of the machines begins with train engines, presumably as a nod to the memorably malevolent Engine from Grove’s previous novel. The engines begin constructing others of their kind with the same robotic arms and with each new edition flaunting deadlier and deadlier weaponry to boot.

The engines soon modify themselves beyond the need for train tracks and become more like tanks, so kudos to this neglected author for nicely predicting the advent of such mobile death-machines.   Continue reading


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MARSBalladeer’s Blog concludes its examination of Garrett P Serviss’ odd sequel to Fighters From Mars, his blatant imitation of War of the Worlds.


Soon the freed Earthwoman Aina (ah-EEE-nuh) was fluent enough in English and the High Command of the Terran fleet were well-versed enough in the ancient tongue of Aina’s people AND the Martians’ own language. In the present state of affairs Aina could understand and be understood enough that Edison, Serviss, Colonel Smith and the others could make clear to the former slave-girl their strategic needs.

When Aina gave the Earthmen a breakdown on all that she and her people had learned during their servitude on the Red Planet a plan came to mind. Thomas Edison’s strategy took the shape of the soon-to-be- formula “unstoppable army who can be defeated by a single quick blow inflicted at a ridiculously obvious point of weakness.” Continue reading


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The Martian moon Deimos

The Martian moon Deimos

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of Garrett P Serviss’ odd sequel to Fighters From Mars, his blatant imitation of War of the Worlds.


The 20 spaceships in the detachment commanded by Garrett Serviss and Colonel Alonzo Jefferson Smith rejoined the main fleet commanded by Thomas Edison. That main fleet was continuing its bombardment of the Martian forts and cities below with their disintegrator guns while trying to remain just outside of the range of the Martians’ lightning cannons. (I know “cannon” can also be plural but many people don’t so to avoid confusion I use “cannons” instead) 

Serviss and Smith informed Edison about the success of their raid to obtain supplies for the entire fleet and then revealed the other find from their raid: the captive Earth woman whom the Martians had been using as a slave. 

With the dire supply problem solved Edison decided to have the Terran fleet withdraw to the Martian moon of Deimos. The remaining 60-plus Earth ships landed on the side of that moon that was always faced away from the Red Planet. Patrols in camouflaged space suits were posted on the far horizon to keep a watch on Mars with telescopes to prevent any surprise attacks.     Continue reading


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Edison's Conquest of MarsBalladeer’s Blog continues its examination of Garrett P Serviss’ odd sequel to Fighters From Mars, his blatant imitation of War of the Worlds.


The Earth fleet remained far enough away from the Red Planet to be out of the range of the Martians’ heat rays and lightning cannons. Just over 60 spaceships were left of the 100 that had set out from Earth.

The Terrans regrouped after their defeat at the Battle of the Lake of the Sun. Because of the earlier disaster regarding their food and water barely 9 days’ worth of provisions remained to them and that was not even enough to last for the long trip back to Earth.  Continue reading


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Edison's Conquest of Mars 8Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of Garrett P Serviss’ odd sequel to Fighters From Mars, his blatant imitation of War of the Worlds.


As the black chemical cloud succeeded in hiding the entire surface of Mars from the Earth fleet’s view the men on board the spaceships began choking and suffocating as the strange fumes somehow slipped through microscopic pores on the hulls. 

Thomas Edison ordered the fleet to pull far enough away from the Red Planet that they would all be safe from the chemical smoke, which was limited to the Martian atmosphere. While the various commanders tried to plot a new attack strategy it was discovered that most of the food supplies on each of the Earth ships had been destroyed by leaks.

The fleet only had enough provisions left for 10 days, which was not even long enough for the return trip to Earth. The Terran forces now had no choice: they must somehow acquire food and water from the planet below or die. Continue reading


Filed under Ancient Science Fiction