“The Machine Stops” is a science fiction short story by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster’s The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928. After being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965, it was included that same year in the populist anthology Modern Short Stories. In 1973 it was also included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two. Continue reading “The Machine Stops”
Many of Jules Verne’s novels deal with concepts that have become reality. “Paris in the Twentieth Century” is no exception exploring Paris in August 1960, 97 years in Verne’s future, where society places value only on business and technology. The novel follows a young man who struggles unsuccessfully to live in a technologically advanced, but culturally backwards world. Often referred to as Verne’s “lost novel”, the work paints a grim, dystopian view of a technological future civilization. Continue reading “Jules Verne looks into the future with “Paris in the Twentieth Century””
Written by Jane Wells Web Loudon but published anonymously in 1827, the book gives an interesting look at the future. The story is of a mummy, Cheops, reanimated in the 22nd century, inspired by the exciting development of the era, and a positive look at the future. Continue reading “The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century”
200 Years ago Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley created the story “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus” on a rainy afternoon in Geneva. Mary and her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, were staying with their friend Lord Byron when he proposed they each write a ghost story. The first edition of the novel was published anonymously in London in 1818, when Mary was only 20 years old.
The basis of the story echoes Mary’s travels through Europe. Journeying down the River Rhine the Shelley’s stopped at Gernsheim, just 17 km from Frankenstein Castle. Two centuries earlier an alchemist engaged in experiments. Later, they traveled to Geneva—where much of the story takes place. During her travels her companions discussed galvanism and other medical advances of the day. Eventually, Mary dreamt about a scientist who created life using galvanism–the basis for her novel.
Although serving as the basis for the Western horror story and the inspiration for numerous movies in the 20th century, the book Frankenstein is much more than pop fiction. The story explores philosophical themes and challenges Romantic ideals about the beauty and goodness of nature.
Golf in the Year 2000, or, What We Are Coming To is an 1892 novel by J. McCullough. It is a specimen of science fiction of the Victorian era, and an example of time travel in fiction. It tells the story of Alexander J. Gibson, who falls into a deep sleep in 1892 and awakens in 2000.
The plot follows Gibson as he is introduced to the wonders of the dawning 21st century by his host, the current owner of the house where Gibson lay sleeping for 108 years. Like Gibson, the host is a passionate golf player. Much of the story revolves around the two men’s visits to the golf course, where Gibson learns first-hand the radical changes that technology has made to the game. There are golf clubs that automatically keep their user’s score, driverless golf caddies or carts, and special jackets, which everyone must wear, that yell “Fore!” whenever the player begins his swing.
Modern readers are fascinated by the many startlingly accurate “predictions” contained in Golf in the Year 2000. These include bullet trains, digital watches, and television (although those specific terms are not used). It correctly predicts the conversion of the British pound to decimal coins. It notably fails to anticipate modern air travel, instead postulating that undersea trains will cut trans-Atlantic travel time to a few hours. Similarly, Gibson’s jest about travel to the moon is answered with an explanation that this is still a few generations off. It anticipates a form of chemical warfare, but suggests a very different impact.
One of the novel’s “predictions” is the liberation of women. In the book, women have achieved substantial equality with men, but with some remaining and new differences. Gibson learns that the women of 2000 dress like men, hold key positions in business (bank clerks are exclusively female) and government (but not yet prime minister, due to petty rivalries), and in fact do almost all of the work… while the men play golf full-time. In the view of the fictional narrator, this is a true utopia, though he does not find 21st century females to his liking.
is an 1896 utopian novel written by John McCoy, and published pseudonymously as the work of “The Lord Commissioner,” the narrator of the tale. The book is one element in the major wave of utopian and dystopian literature that characterized the final decades of the nineteenth century.
The story is written in a form resembling an epistolary novel: it consists of a series of reports from a Martian government official, the Lord Commissioner. He has been sent to Earth by the “Chancellor Commander” of Mars, the head of that planet’s unified government, to report on terrestrial conditions. (The Martians are more advanced than humans, and have explored the solar system.) The time of the story is not specified, though details in the text suggest the late twentieth century, about a hundred years after the book’s publication.
The Lord Commissioner travels to Earth by spaceship; he endures hallucinations due to the interplanetary “atmosphere.” He lands at “Midland,” the capital of the United States, and meets the president, who happens to be a woman. American society has been reformulated after a revolution around the turn of the twentieth century, when irate citizens blew up the Capitol and its congressmen. Laws must be approved by popular referenda before they take effect. The United States has expanded to include Canada and Central America. The salaries of business executives are limited. Gender equality has been achieved.
Technology has made major advances, including aircraft and electric cars; there is even a “lovemeter” that detects emotions. Vegetarianism is dominant, and alcohol abuse is a thing of the past. The Bible has been edited, with the bloody parts removed. Divorces are uncommon, and hard to obtain.
The Lord Commissioner falls in love with an Earth woman named Loleta, a friend of the president; he decides to remain on Earth with her.
Edison’s Conquest of Mars is an 1898 science fiction novel by American astronomer and writer Garrett P. Serviss. It was written as a sequel to Fighters from Mars, an unauthorized and heavily altered version of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds. It has a place in the history of science fiction for its early employment of themes and motifs that later became staples of the genre.
The book features Thomas Edison as the primary character, though neither Edison nor H. G. Wells were involved in its creation. Set after the devastating Martian attack in the previous story, the novel depicts Edison leading a group of scientists to develop ships and weapons, including a disintegration ray, for the defence of Earth. Edison and company fight the aliens in space and on Mars, eventually causing a flood that defeats the enemy and forces an end to hostilities. Serviss wrote himself into the story as a professor whom Edison consults; also appearing are scientists such as Edward Emerson Barnard, Lord Kelvin, Wilhelm Röntgen, and Silvanus P. Thompson, and heads of state such as Queen Victoria, U.S. President William McKinley, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Emperor Mutsuhito.
Serviss’ first attempt at fiction, the book was published serially in the New York Journal. Serviss went on to write other science fiction stories, arguably making him the first American to write science fiction professionally. An early example of what would later be called space opera, Edison’s Conquest of Mars was also a particularly literal “Edisonade”. The book contains some notable “firsts” in science fiction: alien abductions, spacesuits (called “air-tight suits”: see Spacesuits in fiction), aliens building the Pyramids, space battles, oxygen pills, asteroid mining and disintegrator rays.
Journey to Venus the Primeval World; Its Wonderful Creations and Gigantic Monsters is an 1895 science fiction novel written by Gustavus W. Pope. The book was a sequel to Pope’s novel of the previous year, Journey to Mars. The Venus volume features the same hero and heroine, Lt. Frederick Hamilton, USN, and his love interest the Martian princess Suhlamia. They travel to Venus on a Martian “ethervolt” spacecraft.
The publisher promoted the book as “full of exciting adventures, hairbreadth escapes, and perilous vicissitudes, among primeval monsters and semi-human creatures, the episodes following each other in such breathless succession that the interest of the reader never flags.”
Modern critics have noted the book largely for its depiction of giant dinosaur-like Venusian beasts. Pope’s pair of novels on Mars and Venus (volumes in a projected Romances of the Planets series that the author never continued) were precursors of popular planetary adventure novels of the twentieth century by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Otis Adelbert Kline, and other writers.
The original edition of Journey to Venus from Arena Publishing Co. featured sixteen illustrations by “Miss Fairfax and Mrs. McAuley.” The ensuing “paper-covered” edition reduced the illustrations to three. After the 1896 bankruptcy of Arena Publishing, Journey to Venus was reprinted in 1897 by the New York firm F. T. Neely, with the reduced number of three illustrations.