Wandering Through the Public Domain #13

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: Serendipity strikes again…I started this edition thinking that I didn’t have any feature topic that I wanted to write about, so I would instead just do a roundup of a bunch of authors whose birthdays I missed in April.

First up was Stanley G. Weinbaum (1902-1935), who, it turns out, is an author who made an enormous impact on the science fiction field in a tragically short life. Reading about Weinbaum was so interesting that he immediately took over and became the feature topic!

Stanley Weinbaum was born in 1902 and died of lung cancer just 33 years later, publishing only a handful of short stories (and one pseudonymous romance novel) in his lifetime. But his few stories formed an important basis for the full development of the science fiction genre.

His very first science fiction tale, “A Martian Odyssey”, appeared in Wonder Stories in 1934, and set a new standard for stories that to this point had existed on the far (and often nonsensical) fringe of adventure fiction. The story tells of the encounter between astronauts exploring Mars and an intelligent alien. They gradually learn to communicate with “Tweel” who then accompanies the explorers and helps explain several other Martian life forms they discover.

While “A Martian Odyssey” includes some typical-for-the-time encounters with dangerous aliens, complete with chases and hairsbreadth escapes, the real excitement of the plot revolves around the trial-and-error process of the humans and Martian figuring out how to communicate and understand the information Tweel is providing about the other species on Mars.

Isaac Asimov saw “A Martian Odyssey” as a turning point for science fiction, one that changed the parameters of the field for the writers who came after. He called it

a perfect Campbellian science fiction story, before John W. Campbell. Indeed, Tweel may be the first creature in science fiction to fulfil Campbell’s dictum, ‘write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man’. (from Asimov on Science Fiction, via Wikipedia).

In 2017, Alan Brown wrote about Stanley Weinbaum:

Weinbaum’s stories immediately stood out as different. His characters felt real and acted realistically. There was romance, but the women did not exist only as objects to be captured and/or rescued. The science was rooted in the latest developments, and thoughtfully applied. And most of all, the aliens were not simply bug-eyed monsters existing to invade the planet or threaten humanity. They felt real in the same way the human characters did—and yet seemed anything but human in the way they thought and acted.

In Weinbaum’s hands, a genre that was known for immaturity had grown up, but in a way that didn’t sacrifice any of the humor, fun, and adventure. You could read the stories for the sense of thrilling adventure alone, but those who wanted more found that as well.

Weinbaum published thirteen stories in Wonder Stories and Astounding between July 1934 and December 1935, and several more appeared posthumously over the next few years. His impact on the genre was recognized by writers and fans alike, as “A Martian Odyssey” was overwhelmingly voted into the first Science Fiction Hall of Fame collection. He was recognized with the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2008.

Project Gutenberg has seven works by Weinbaum, six short stories and a posthumously-published novel:

All of these works are available on Librivox:

A few more authors who had birthdays back in April:

Robert Bloch (1917-1994) has one novel on Project Gutenberg, This Crowded Earth (1958), which has also been recorded for Librivox.

Henry Kuttner (1915-1958) is represented by three stories at Project Gutenberg:

All have been recorded at Librivox, along with an additional novel, The Creature From Beyond Infinity.

Howard Browne (1908-1999) has six stories on Project Gutenberg (though at least two are really novel-length, but were serialized in pulp magazines):

Recent Librivox releases:

  • Short Science Fiction Collection 065 by Various

    Includes stories by Gordon R. Dickson, Frederic Brown, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Lester Del Rey, Ben Bova and more!

  • Tarzan and the Golden Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950)

    Tarzan’s amazing ability to establish kinship with some of the most dangerous animals in the jungle serves him well in this exciting story of his adventures with the Golden Lion, Jad-bal-ja, when the great and lordly animal becomes his ally and protector. Tarzan learns from the High Priestess, La, of a country north of Opar which is held in dread by the Oparians. It is peopled by a strange race of gorilla-men with the intelligence of humans and the strength of gorillas. From time to time they attack Opar, carrying off prisoners for use as slaves in the jewel-studded Temple where they worship a great black-maned lion. Accompanied by the faithful Jad-bal-ja, Tarzan invades the dread country in an attempt to win freedom for the hundreds of people held in slavery there…

  • The Year When Stardust Fell by Raymond Fisher Jones (1915-1994)

    The story of The Year When Stardust Fell is not a story of the distant future or of the remote past. It is not a story of a never-never land where fantastic happenings take place daily. It is a story of my town and yours, of people like you and me and the mayor in townhall, his sheriff on the corner, and the professor in the university—a story that happens no later than tomorrow. It is the portrayal of the unending conflict between ignorance and superstition on one hand, and knowledge and cultural enlightenment on the other as they come into conflict with each other during an unprecedented disaster brought on by the forces of nature.

  • The Cartels Jungle by Irving E. Cox Jr. (1915-2001)

    In most ideally conceived Utopias the world as it exists is depicted as a mushrooming horror of maladjustment, cruelty and crime. In this startlingly original short novel that basic premise is granted, but only to pave the way for an approach to Utopia over a highway of the mind so daringly unusual we predict you’ll forget completely that you’re embarking on a fictional excursion into the future by one of the most gifted writers in the field. And that forgetfulness will be accompanied by the startling realization that Irving E. Cox has a great deal more than a storyteller’s magic to impart.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #12

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon:I was looking up some authors recently mentioned in the birthday lists when things took a fascinating turn and I ended up discovering an author who wasn’t on the birthday lists at all, nor had I ever heard of him. But what a fascinating life he led!

This all began because author Peter O’Donnell’s birthdate was noted on April 11th. Off to Project Gutenberg to see if he had anything available. He did not — but that’s how I stumbled into the weird world of Elliott O’Donnell (1872-1965), celebrity “ghost hunter” and probable charlatan, but quite well known in the early decades of the 20th century, when ghost hunters wrote books instead of filming reality TV shows.

Before he emerged as a writer, he had a wildly varied career, with stints as a ranch hand in Oregon, a strike-breaking policeman in Chicago, and a schoolmaster and stage actor in England. His true calling was as a writer and storyteller. From 1906 on, he wrote prolifically, publishing novels, short fiction, hundreds of periodical articles, and ended up with over 60 books to his credit. Many of them dealt with topics of the paranormal and supernatural, but he freely mixed fact and fiction and it’s difficult to tell whether he took any of it truly seriously or if he had just found a good schtick.

His Wikipedia profile notes that when he died in 1965 at the age of 93, he left an estate of only 2,579 pounds, but in 2016 his personal papers sold at auction for 25,000 pounds.

Project Gutenberg has a nice assortment of his earlier works that have fallen into the public domain, including:

In addition to the above linked complete audiobooks, O’Donnell has stories in several of the ghost and horror story compilations, including one that might be my favorite ghost story title ever: “The Phantom Daschund of W— Street, London, W.

I’m heading out tomorrow on a trip to visit family in New Jersey, which involves a 15-hour drive from Georgia. I have a feeling that some of my drive will be spent listening to the Animal Ghosts audiobook!

Recent Librivox releases:

  • Ancient Tales and Folklore of Japan by Richard Gordon Smith (1858-1918)

    This volume is a collection of ancient Japanese tales. We hear of ordinary mortals interacting with the spirit world, sometimes to their benefit, sometimes to their doom, we hear of love and hate, and of war and peace.
    Note: I enjoyed reading two rather bloody tales in this collection!

  • The Red Hell of Jupiter by Paul Ernst (1899-1985)

    What is the mystery centered in Jupiter’s famous “Red Spot”? Two fighting Earthmen, caught by the “Pipe-men” like their vanished comrades, soon find out!

  • Here and Hereafter by Barry Pain (1864-1928)

    This is a collection of stories by Barry Pain. While not all of these fall squarely into the genre of ghost and horror story, for which the author is so well-known until today, many of them will send chills down the spines of reader and listeners, and all of them are well-crafted and enjoyable.

  • Sentry of the Sky by Evelyn E. Smith (1927-2000)

    There had to be a way for Sub-Archivist Clarey to get up in the world—but this way was right out of the tri-di dramas.

  • Dr. Heidenhoff’s Process by Edward Bellamy (1850-1898)

    Henry Burr’s fiance, Madeline, is seduced by another man. The guilt and painful memories she has as a result cause him to refer her to Dr. Heidenhoff, who has developed a method to remove such memories from people’s brains so that they can live happy lives.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #11

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: Andrew Lang (1844-1912) showed up on the birthday list for March 31, reminding me that I wanted to write about him here. Lang was a Scottish author and professor and had an astonishingly voluminous and broad output of work over his career. His academic areas of interest were in folklore and classics, but his writings ranged far beyond those, and aimed for different audiences, from fellow academics, to the general public, to children. Many of his works are completely outside or only tangential to the fantasy and science fiction field, so I will focus on Lang’s books that are of most potential interest to us here.

He is probably best known for having his name on a series of fairy tale books for children that collected stories from all over the world and had different colors in their titles — The Red Fairy Book, The Grey Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book, etc. for a total of 12 in all. Chances are good that you have seen an edition of one or more of these books on your own childhood bookshelves or those of a relative, and they are still frequently republished today.

In addition to appealing to childhood nostalgia, it’s good as readers to know about these books because they have been a wellspring of inspiration for other authors. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and J.R.R. Tolkien both praised Lang’s books. They have been a youthful formative influence and a source of tales to retell or transform for many authors since, including Aimee Bender and Margaret Atwood.

I made two new-to-me discoveries as I began reading up on these books by Andrew Lang. First, there were a LOT more books in the series than the 12 best-known fairy tale books, and encompassed poetry, history and biography, and mythology as well. There were 25 books all together, published between 1889 through 1913 and were usually published to coincide with the Christmas gift-giving season. Wikipedia has a good run-down of the titles in the complete series.

Second, while Lang worked with his wife Leonora “Nora” Blanche Alleyne Lang (1851-1933) closely on the first book, The Blue Fairy Book, the other volumes were almost entirely the work of Nora Lang and several other uncredited female authors. Nora Lang and her other collaborators sourced, translated, and rewrote the tales to be appropriate for Victorian/Edwardian children.  Most of the books in the series were published under Andrew Lang’s name alone, although he credits her in the introduction to one of the books as having done the majority of the writing, and later books in the series listed “Mrs. Lang” as the author.

Author, editor, and children’s literature critic Anita Silvey wrote of the Langs in her 1995 book, Children’s Books and Their Creators:

The irony of [Andrew] Lang’s life and work is that although he wrote for a profession — literary criticism; fiction; poems; books and articles on anthropology, mythology, history, and travel […] he is best recognized for the works he did not write.

There are over 150 works listed under Andrew Lang’s name on Project Gutenberg, including translations of Greek classics like the Iliad and the Odyssey, collaborations with other authors, and books by other authors where he wrote an introduction. PG also has four books attributed to Mrs. Lang. Librivox has 28 books by Andrew Lang so far (with one in progress) as well as numerous versions of short stories and poems in various compilations, and two books and several essays by Leonora Blanche Lang.

This brief overview doesn’t come close to doing justice to the output of Andrew Lang, Nora Lang, and their various collaborators, and as I continue to explore their works myself, I am sure I will be back with more suggestions in the future!

If you haven’t heard of the Langs before and are interested in exploring some of their work, Project Gutenberg’s The Fairy Books of Andrew Lang is a great place to start. It’s an index work compiled by PG volunteers that has a linked index to all of the tales included in the twelve “color” fairy books.

Two more interesting recent finds:

  • “Mars is Heaven”  by Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) was adapted for the radio show X Minus One in 1955 and is a fun listen. There are a lot of old-time radio shows on Internet Archive and I’ve begun exploring them a bit, so watch for more radio recommendations to come in the future.
  • R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel ?apek (1890-1938)has been in the public domain in the original Czech for years, but an English translation came out in 1923, so it has just turned up on Project Gutenberg in the last month. There is also a version of the play on Librivox that was created in 2014, so I’m not sure if this relies on the same translation (it says 1922).

Recent Librivox releases:

  • City of Endless Night by Milo Hastings (1884-1957)

    An example of early dystopian science fiction written shortly after World War I, “City of Endless Night” imagines a future with a very different ending to the Great War. Set in 2151 and in an underground Berlin, our protagonist is Lyman De Forrest, an American chemist who enters the city to discover the hidden truths of a forbidden metropolis. The subterranean world hosts a highly-regimented society of 300,000,000 sun-starved humans. As the first outsider to enter, he’s horrified by what he finds, but will he accomplish his mission and escape the living tomb?
  • Coffee Break Collection 18 – Pirates by Various

    This is the eighteenth Coffee Break Collection, in which Librivox readers select English language public domain works of about 15 minutes or less in duration — perfect to listen to during commutes, workouts or coffee breaks. The topic for this collection is pirates… a rich source of material. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, essays… the romance of a life on the ocean waves and the danger posed by the ‘bad boys (and girls)’; but sometimes the law catches up with them.

  • Finnish Legends by R. Eivand (??-??)

    One dark winter’s day in the north of Finland, Father Mikko seeks shelter in an isolated cabin till a storm abates. After dinner the family sit around the fire, and the daughter asks him to tell them “all the stories he had ever heard from the very beginning of the world all the way down”, and so the book begins. In the words of the author “If this little volume may in any degree awake some interest in the Finnish people its author will be amply satisfied, and its end will have been attained.”

Wandering Through the Public Domain #10

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: I have two things to share today that are a bit afield from my usual areas, but both will lead you to internet rabbit holes that are a lot of fun to explore.

The first is involves gaming, and I was led to it by an email from Jason Corley, forwarded to me by OGH:

While participating in the #1923GameJam at itch.io to celebrate the expansion of the public domain, I discovered an unproduced science fiction silent film screenplay by Nobel laureate Romaine Rolland, Man, Lord of Machinery, published in Vanity Fair in 1923.  I adapted it into an interactive fiction game for the jam and people can play it for free in a browser here:


They can also download a PDF version of the original publication there too.

Man, Lord of Machinery has a lot of the same themes as Metropolis, but predates it!

“Gaming Like It’s 1923” was a contest/challenge that ran in January, 2019. The challenge was to design a game in some way inspired by a 1923 work that had just entered the public domain. You can find the site for the completed game jam, with all 34 games and a list of the winners, here.

I haven’t had a chance to really explore the games, but I was particularly taken with the transformation of a Robert Frost poem into a typical game scenario in Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening To Steal Treasure!

The second is a treasure trove of images at the Magazine Art Collection at the Internet Archive. This collection was started pretty recently, in December 2018, and it’s unclear if it has been uploaded in its entirety or if there is more to come. It currently contains over 15,000 images, mostly magazine covers but also including some advertising and interior illustrations from magazines.

Only some of it is SFF related, and it’s likely that not all of it is in the public domain, as it contains pieces from well beyond 1923, but it’s a feast of eye candy and fun to explore.

If you have spent any time exploring fannish things, especially pre-internet, you have probably heard of APAs, self-published small magazines that circulated among fans. APA stands for Amateur Press Association, and it turns out that SF-related APAs are a subset of a wider phenomenon that began in the latter 19th-century and embraced “amateur journalism” around a wide variety of topics.

The United Amateur Press Association was founded in 1895, and H.P. Lovecraft became heavily involved with the organization beginning in the 1910s. He published nonfiction essays and critical pieces as well as early short stories in the United Amateur, the organization’s official magazine.

Writings in the United Amateur, 1915-1922 collects these early Lovecraft pieces. Lovecraft continued writing and publishing with the UAPA well past 1922, but the later pieces are not in the public domain. There are commercially published books that collect all of the pieces, but this collection provides a good sampling of his developing fiction style as well as his eccentric (and sometimes offensive) opinions.

While the United Amateur writings have not been recorded for Librivox, virtually all of his other public domain works have been, most multiple times. You can find them here.

Among the recent birthday notices was Joe L. Hensley (1926-2007), who is represented at Project Gutenberg by one story, “Now We Are Three”, which has been recorded at Librivox as part of Short Science Fiction Collection 22.

April 1 marked the birthday of Samuel R. Delany (b. 1942), who has two novels at Project Gutenberg:

Both are also available as audiobooks at Librivox.

Periodically, the volunteers at Librivox declare a month to focus on finishing off languishing projects, and March was one of those months. The “March Toward the Finish Line” ended with an impressive 122 books added to the catalog, including some that may be of interest to folks here:

  • Dracula (Version 4) by Bram Stoker (1847-1912)

    Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced Count Dracula, and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and a woman led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

  • Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873)

    Laura grew up on a castle in the Austrian mountains with her father, slightly lonely as there are no potential companions around. Her loneliness is at an end when a carriage accindent close by their castle brings a mysterious visitor: Carmilla was injured in the accident, and remains at the castle to heal. But there is something dark about Carmilla. Is Laura in danger?

  • The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed by Cenydd Morus (1879-1937)

    Cenydd Morus’s (Kenneth Morris) imaginative retelling of tales from the Mabinogion, the great work of Welsh literature first recorded in the 12th-13th century. Written while he was working for the Theosophical Society in California, Morris’s version restores the Gods that he believed had disappeared from the written record but must have been present in the oral tradition of the Druid bards.

  • Pursuit by Lester Del Rey (1915-1993)

    Wilbur Hawkes wakes with no memory of the last seven months. He knows he’s in danger, but he doesn’t know why. No sooner does he leave his apartment than it explodes in flames, and, to escape, he must run through New York, not knowing where to run, or who he is running from. With heat rays, disintegrating men, and exploding cats, how can this not involve aliens? What other explanation can there be?

Wandering Through the Public Domain #9

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: I’ve had some upheaval in my personal life in the last month, and I haven’t been keeping up with this column or with some of the older comments. So I’ll start by taking an opportunity to clarify a couple of things which may have been misunderstood, based on some of the comments on older entries.

First, when I mention a work here, it’s generally because it’s either one that I have come across in my own “wanderings”, or because it has some tie to something recently discussed, such as when an author’s birthday comes up in the daily listing, and it turns out that they have some public domain books or stories available.

It’s not meant to imply that a book is just now entering the public domain (unless otherwise stated, as in the recent discussion of the 1923 copyright expirations) or that it is in any way a new discovery to anyone but me. So, for example, Flatland by Abbott has indeed been in the public domain for many years, and only came up here because a new audiobook recording of it was recently released.

Second, someone apparently took offense at my passing observation that John W. Campbell is better known nowadays for his role as an editor as a writer. That is no judgement on Campbell as a writer, or any of the other forgotten or less-remembered names that come up. It’s just a general impression of the overall collective memory or focus of 2019 fandom and who tends to be well-known and who does not. If I’m off base on my estimation of how well-known any particular writer is at this point, I welcome correction.

Most stories and novels pass out of popular notice in a few decades, no matter how worthwhile they are. There’s no point in hand-wringing about this or decrying the crappiness of modern fandom for not being sufficiently aware of certain writers. I prefer to look at it as a vast realm of potential buried treasures, and poke about looking for some forgotten books that are worth unearthing. I started writing this series merely to share some of these finds.

On that note, let’s turn to some of the recent diggings:

In Cat Rambo’s introduction to this month’s StoryBundle featuring contemporary female speculative fiction authors, she mentions four names as examples of women authors who have largely faded away. This, as usual, sent me off to see if anything by those authors is available on my favorite sites.

Miriam DeFord was already covered in a previous installment. I could not find any public domain works by Zenna Henderson, alas. However, the other two authors that Rambo mentioned, Judith Merril and Katherine MacLean, are each represented by several short stories on Project Gutenberg.

Judith Merril (1923-1997):

To date, neither story has been recorded for Librivox.

Katherine MacLean (1925- )

All of these stories have been recorded at least once for Librivox.

Speaking of women authors, Andre Norton (1912-2005) had a February birthday. She has short stories as well as several full-length novels available on Project Gutenberg:

In addition to her science fiction, Norton has a YA adventure novel (Ralestone Luck) and two Westerns (Ride Proud, Rebel! and Rebel Spurs) on PG. All of her works have been recorded, most in multiple versions, for Librivox.

Staying on the topic of women authors, Leigh Brackett’s (1915-1978) name is probably most recognizable as one of the credited screenwriters of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. She was well-known enough as a screenwriter in the 1940s that Howard Hawks is said to have once demanded, “Get me that guy, Brackett” to help William Faulkner finish the script for The Big Sleep. Brackett is also notable as the first woman author to receive a Hugo nomination, for her 1956 post-nuclear-war novel The Long Tomorrow.

The Long Tomorrow does not appear to be in the public domain, but two stories by Brackett are available on Project Gutenberg:

Both stories have been recorded for Librivox.

Recent Librivox releases:

  • The Mermaid’s Message and Other Stories by Various

    This is a collection of fairy tales and fables compiled in 1919. The stories contain original but old-fashioned tales which modern children and grown-ups will enjoy.
  • Master of Life and Death by Robert Silverberg (1935- )

    When Roy Walton becomes the new director of the UN division of population control, after the director is assassinated, he becomes the most hated man in the world. Being Director involved him in not only population control, but a terra-forming project on Venus, and negotiations with aliens. Not only that, but some people were trying to kill him. To stay alive, he had to become The Master of Life and Death.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #8

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: I stumbled onto a fun book on Project Gutenberg today while I was looking for something completely different — as so often happens with me. I was checking to see if an 1835 book about Georgia was available on PG, and the author’s name was Longstreet. I couldn’t remember the first name, so I was checking all the authors named Longstreet. When I got to Hattie Longstreet, I found this eye-catching cover:

I never did find that Georgia book — at least, not today — but after skimming the first section of The Little Match Man, I downloaded it to read in its entirety, and perhaps organize a Librivox project to record it.

The narrator of the story is a foreign correspondent based in Japan. One day, he is bored and entertains himself by making a tiny man out of matchsticks, as he used to do when he was a child. Then, ready to smoke a cigarette, he tells the match man that he is going to strike his head. And then this happens:

But I got no further. The little man moved, and falling on his knees held out his hands as if in prayer.

I was very much surprised, and examined him carefully on every side. I had made a great many little men just like him, but I had never seen any one of them move by himself. I looked to see if there was anywhere a bit of string that I had pulled without meaning to. But no, I found nothing. The little man remained quite still in his new position, until at last I was reassured. I thought the jar of some one passing outside, or a puff of air had thrown him from the box, he was so slim and light. I sat him up again and watched him closely.

After a few minutes I saw distinctly that he moved himself. For some time he trembled very slightly, then he held out his arms, and slowly rose to his feet. I could hear a tiny voice, which seemed to come from him, but it was so feeble that compared with it the voice of a cricket would sound like a trombone.

There follows a series of stories, each with several charming illustrations by Hattie Longstreet, of their adventures together for the next few months.

I next looked up the author, and that’s where things got a bit dark. The author’s name is Luigi Barzini (1874-1947) and he was an Italian journalist. Among other assignments, he was embedded in the Japanese army in Manchuria during the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. He wrote several non-fiction books, but The Little Match Man appears to be the only fiction he ever published. The English translation came out in 1917.

In the 1920s, Barzini became a Fascist and was one of the 250 signatories to the Manifesto of Fascist Intellectuals in 1925. In the 1930s he joined Mussolini’s government and served on various high-level commissions, culminating with his heading of the official press agency of the Italian Social Republic (the puppet state maintained in Italy after the Germans took over in 1943). After the war, he was charged and convicted for his role in Mussolini’s regime and banned from journalism. He died in poverty in 1947.

His politics also tore apart his family. One of his sons, Ettore, joined the Italian resistance, was captured, and died in a German concentration camp. His namesake, Luigi Barzini Jr., also went into journalism and was a foreign correspondent in Asia, covering the rape of Nanking among other momentous events in Japan’s war in China. Back in Italy in 1940, Barzini Jr. was charged with leaking information to the enemy and disparaging Il Duce, and was confined under house arrest and forbidden to write. The war’s end allowed Barzini Jr. to resume his career even as his father’s was ended, and he went on to become an influential writer in both Italian and English in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as a political mover and shaker.

The senior Barzini’s later career may explain why The Little Match Man is so thoroughly forgotten, but it does seem to be a fun little story.

The Pixel Scroll birthday list recently surprised me with the inclusion of Victorian scholar and art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900), someone I never thought had any connection to the science fiction or fantasy worlds. It turns out that he wrote a kind of fairy tale, a short novel called The King of the Golden River, also available as a Librivox audiobook. Here’s the description from Librivox:

When three brothers mortally offend Mr. Southwest Wind, Esquire, their farm is laid waste and their riches lost. Desperate for money, the brothers become goldsmiths and melt down their remaining treasures . . . only to find that the spirit of the King of the Golden River resides with a molded tankard, and knows the secret of the riches of the Golden River.

Sounds downright whimsical for someone remembered as a Very Serious Intellectual in the high Victorian age!

Recent Librivox releases:

  • Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (1858-1924)

    The book follows the journey of five children who discover a mysterious creature (called by them as It) who grants them their wishes. Join in as they ask for the craziest of wishes, which are granted true for a day!

A collection of poetry about ghosts, hauntings and other spooky topics, including poems by Kipling, Longfellow, Yeats, Rosetti and many others.

A Deal with the Devil is a classic tale with a humorous twist. We find that on the night preceeding his 100th birthday Grandpapa, a cantankerous yet loveable sort, has made a deal with the devil, which his granddaughter, in part, will pay.

  • Wolfbane by Frederik Pohl (1919-2013) and C.M. Kornbluth (1923-1958)

A rogue planet, populated by strange machines known as Pyramids, has stolen the Earth from the Solar system, taking it off into interstellar space. The moon has been ‘ignited’ by alien technology to serve as a miniature sun around which both planets orbit. This new sun is rekindled every 5 years, though as the book opens, the rekindling is nearly overdue and there is fear among the populace that it may never happen again.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #7

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon:I turn up material for this column in the most roundabout ways. For example, I was looking at CLEWS, a historic true crime blog, and saw a reference to Miriam Allen DeFord (1888-1975), who apparently wrote some crime books. The illustration with the blog entry looked like a 1950s paperback, and I know that many of those were reprints of material that had already fallen into the public domain at that point.

So I did a quick search on DeFord and found that her birth year was 1888, which makes her promising for potential Librivox recording material. At this point I was thinking true crime works, which are scarce on Librivox, so I’m always looking for a chance to record a new one.

Off to Project Gutenberg to check their DeFord holdings. To my surprise, the four works they have are all science fiction! Time to dig further into Ms. DeFord’s background. It turns out that she was a very prolific writer who wrote across many genres. She was an editor and journalist as well.

She began her career in journalism in the early 1900s, with a distinct leftist and feminist bent. She wrote for multiple socialist publications, was a proponent of birth control and women’s suffrage, and wrote several non-fiction books early in her career. Later, she turned to fiction and published stories in just about all of the major mystery and science fiction magazines from the 1950s-1980s. She even made an appearance in Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology, and one of her stories became the basis of a Night Gallery episode.

She seems mostly forgotten now, and the little I read of her made me want to know more. I’m particularly intrigued by two anthologies she edited. Space, Time, and Crime (1964) has stories where the mystery and SF genres intersect. The other, Xenogenesis (1968), is a collection of her own short fiction dealing with gender themes.

Project Gutenberg has 4 of Miriam Allen Deford’s short stories:

All have been recorded at Librivox.

From a really obscure old-time SF author, to a really well-known one — at least by name, though I don’t think his own writings are widely read any more. John W. Campbell (1910-1971) is best remembered now as a prominent editor who did much to shape the early decades of modern science fiction through the kinds of stories he purchased, commissioned, and/or encouraged aspirants to write.

There are five John W. Campbell works on Project Gutenberg, four full-length novels and one short story:

All have been recorded at Librivox at least once, with “The Last Evolution” having three different versions in various short SF collections.

Recent Librivox releases:

  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

    This story deals with the obvious fact that we humans are split, dual. We have urges to do the ‘right’ thing, to be honorable and wise, but we also frequently fail to follow these better instincts and follow instead urges to do dishonorable, evil things. We seem to battle within ourselves. Are we really composed of two different personalities housed within the same brain, within the same person? Dr Jekyll in this story is so convinced and manages by scientific means to actually split himself into his ordinary composite self, and his evil self whom he calls Mr. Hyde. The horror of this unnatural split is well documented here and shows what might happen were this possible.

  • Mars is My Destination by Frank Belknap Long (1901-1994)


    … Earth’s first colony in Space. Men killed for the coveted ticket that allowed them to go there. And, once there, the killing went on….


    … Ralph Graham’s goal since boyhood—and he was Mars-bound with authority that put the whole planet in his pocket—if he could live long enough to assert it!

  • Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott (1838-1926)

    This is a satirical novel written by Edwin A. Abbott, first published in 1884. Abbott uses a two-dimensional world, with himself as the protagonist, known simply as “A Square”, to deride the Victorian aristocracy and its hierarchies. But the book has retained its value throughout the years for its unique portrayal of a two-dimensional world, and how a Sphere introduces the Square to the incomprehensible possibility of a third dimension.

  • A Mirror of Shalott by Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914)

    Fourteen stories of the strange by the Anglican then Roman Catholic priest, Robert Hugh Benson. The form of the book is of stories told by a gathering of Roman Catholic clergy.

  • The Vampire; or, The Bride of the Isles by James Planché (1796-1880)

    Set in the Scottish Isles, Planché’s play begins with our heroine having a prophetic vision of her own demise. Lady Margaret is besieged with a nightmarish visitation from a vampiric fiend who threatens to feast upon her blood. These premonitions are quickly borne out when she meets her betrothed, the villainous Lord Ruthven, an otherworldly creature alluded to in local gossip and rumor. He seeks to marry Margaret in order to drain her of her blood. Will her prophetic dreams come true? Or will she be saved from Ruthven’s villainous schemes?

Wandering Through the Public Domain #6

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: When I first discovered Project Gutenberg and Internet Archive, I struggled with how best to read the books I found, because reading on my regular computer was hard on the eyes and the layout was not always ideal. There are numerous formats for the texts on both sites, and many options for e-readers, so it might take some experimentation to figure out what works for you.

I thought I’d take a minute to describe the system I’ve worked out, in the hopes it might help someone else overcome this obstacle to enjoyable (and free!) reading experiences. My experience is mainly with Apple devices and I’m not familiar with the equivalent apps and procedures in Android, but the overall process should have similar steps.

As I’ve reached the age of needing reading glasses, I’ve found I have a strong preference for reading ebooks, usually on my iPad using the Kindle app. No need to find my reading glasses and a strong light with a backlit screen and easy text resizing!

However, it turns out that downloading the books in the so-called “Kindle format” (MOBI) often produces scrambled layout and punctuation — if you have ever attempted to read the free public domain books available through Amazon, you will be familiar. So for Kindle, I recommend using the PDF format rather than MOBI, on both sites.

Unfortunately, it can be a tedious process to get the PDF into Kindle. Each file must be “sent” via Amazon. They can be slow to show up in your Kindle library, and sometimes they get lost in the ether. The one advantage is that once the file does arrive, you can access it through any Kindle reader or app.

Recently I discovered that for both IA and PG texts, it’s much easier to use the Apple Books app, so it’s become my go-to for public domain texts.

On Project Gutenberg, the easiest way to transfer the file is to click on the Google Drive or Dropbox icon next to the EPUB option on the main page for the book. This puts a copy of the file on Google Drive or Dropbox, after which you simply open whichever one you use and select the “Open in…” option. Click on the Books app to open the file. After that, it is in your Books library on that device until you decide to remove it. If you use more than one Apple device, you will have to repeat it for each one.

Although Internet Archive offers EPUB and Kindle format for most of its files, I have found it far easier to open the text in PDF format and download that. If I’m looking at Internet Archive on my iPad (I use Chrome), then once the PDF version is open, it’s simple to click the “Open In…” button at the bottom of the screen and drop it directly into the Books app. On my laptop, I download the PDF, then upload it to Drive. Then I can pull it up on my iPad and open it in Books.

As I said, there are many routes to get the files to your preferred reader. If you have other methods that work well for your preferred formats, please feel free to share in the comments!

For everyone who hasn’t slipped into a coma after that scintillating discussion, how about some actual book suggestions?

In a comment on the previous installment, Robert Whitaker Sirignano mentioned that Nikola Tesla had written for Electric Experimenter magazine, edited by Hugo Gernsback. If you are curious about that magazine, Internet Archive has four single issues from the 1910s, as well as the complete volume 7 (1919).

F. Orlin Tremaine (1899-1956) had his 120th birthday on January 7, and it turns out that he has one work on PG, published under the name Warner Von Lorne: Wanted–7 Fearless Engineers! This is a multi-chapter novella originally published in Amazing Stories in 1939. It has been recorded as a stand-alone work on Librivox.

Algis Budrys (1931-2008) has several short stories on Project Gutenberg:

All of the Budrys stories except “Wall of Crystal, Eye of Night” have been recorded at least once at Librivox, as part of various Short Science Fiction Collections.

Recent Librivox releases:

  • Queen Sheba’s Ring by H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925)

    A famed archeologist, an aging doctor, and a young army engineer set out across the African desert on a great adventure. Professor Higgs is in search of new archeological discoveries, Dr. Adams seeks to rescue his kidnapped son, and Captain Orme wants to forget an unhappy love affair. Maqueda, Daughter of Kings, ruler of the Abati, enlists their aid to destroy the sacred idol of a neighboring tribe with promises to help the doctor rescue his son.

  • Short Ghost and Horror Collection 032 by Various

    A collection of 20 short stories about various things that go bump in the night. Includes stories by Lord Dunsany, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Ambrose Bierce, M.R. James and others. (Full disclosure: I recorded the Le Fanu story).

  • The Enemies of Books by William Blades (1824-1890)

    The author, an avid book collector, calls for the better protection of books against the “enemies” which lead to their physical destruction. In a series of brief chapters, he details the losses caused by raging fire, floods of water, noxious gases, sheer neglect, ignorant bigotry, invasions of bookworms and other vermin, inept bookbinders, clueless book collectors, clumsy servants, and mishandling by children.

Yes, I know that last one is not SFF, but it is certainly filled with horrors for the passionate book lovers among us!

Wandering Through the Public Domain #5

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: We have passed the January 1 date and 1923 works have safely entered the public domain! There was a quite a flurry in the new projects boards in the volunteer forums at Librivox, and the recording process has already begun for some of the most anticipated books like Gibran’s The Prophet and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the Golden Lion. I look forward to mentioning the SFF-related ones here as they are completed and released over the next few months.

Speaking of 1923 works, in the previous installment of this column, I had said that I had not found a copy of The Barge of Haunted Lives online as yet, but that recently changed. You can now access it on the Internet Archive here.

The New York Times took note of the public domain watershed and it mentions some of the “big name” items moving out of copyright, and also contains a pretty good explanation of the whole 20-year public domain “freeze” that had been in place. If my attempt at it wasn’t clear enough, this article might help!

A recent Pixel Scroll mentioned an upcoming comic book based on The Light Princess by George MacDonald (1824-1905). MacDonald was a prolific author as well as a poet and Christian minister. Much of his work was intended for children or what we nowadays call “Young Adult” audiences, but he also wrote novels and nonfiction for adults.

I don’t know much about him myself at this point and am interested in finding out more, so there may be an upcoming column with more in-depth information. For now, here are links to the two works mentioned in the Scroll item:

Birthday mentions in the Pixel Scrolls often send me off to Project Gutenberg to see what might be available from the older authors mentioned. Some recents:

Charles Harness (1915-2005) has one short story, The Professional Approach. It was co-written with Theodore L. Thomas (1920-2005) and originally appeared in Analog in September, 1962. It’s been recorded once for Librivox, as part of Short Science Fiction Collection 014.

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) has nothing Middle-Earthish in the public domain, but there is a 1922 reference work, A Middle English Vocabulary. This was a companion volume to Sisam’s Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose.

Tolkien also wrote a very brief introductory note to a volume of poetry, A Spring Harvest, by Geoffrey Bache Smith (1894-1916). This is a posthumous collection published in tribute to Smith, who was killed in France.

No one has been brave enough to tackle the recording of a Middle English glossary, but there is one Tolkien poem on Librivox. (Token Tolkien, you might say…) In 2010, Librivox volunteers produced Librivox’s Most Wanted, a collection of early poems by authors whose most famous works are often suggested/requested by Librivox listeners, but those works are still in the public domain. The collection includes one Tolkien poem, “Goblin Feet”, as well as poems by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, C.S. Lewis, and others.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) is represented on Project Gutenberg by five works, four of which are nonfiction (and three of those are separate volumes of the same work). The nonfiction books:

His one work of fiction on PG is Youth, a short story that was published in Space Science Fiction, May 1952. There’s one Librivox audio version, on Short Science Fiction Collection 034.

Charles Beaumont (1929-1967) shared a January 2nd birthday with Asimov, and has two stories on PG:

  • The Beautiful People (If: World of Science Fiction, September, 1952)
  • Elegy (Imagination: Stories of Science and Fantasy, February 1953)

Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939) is best known for his non-SFF novels, particularly The Good Soldier and the Parades’ End series, but he has a few books that tip over into fantasy and science fiction, including:

The latter is also available as a Librivox audiobook, with a plot summary from Wikipedia:

The Inheritors: An Extravagant Story (1901) is a quasi-science fiction novel on which Ford Madox Ford and Joseph Conrad collaborated. It looks at society’s mental evolution and what is gained and lost in the process. Written before the first World War, its themes of corruption and the effect of the 20th Century on British aristocracy appeared to predict history. In the novel, the metaphor of the “fourth dimension” is used to explain a societal shift from a generation of people who have traditional values of interdependence, being overtaken by a modern generation who believe in expediency, callously using political power to bring down the old order.

Some other recent Librivox releases:

  • The Light Invisible by Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914)

    Fifteen short ghost stories by the Anglican then Roman Catholic priest, Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914). The form of the book is of an old English Roman Catholic priest telling stories to his young friend.

  • A Book of Bargains by Vincent O’Sullivan (1868-1940)

    This is a volume of short horror stories by American-born short story writer, poet and critic Vincent O’Sullivan. Sometimes considered the last of the decadents, O’Sullivan was a notable literary figure of his time, a friend of Oscar Wilde, and a favourite of many critics. The stories in the Book of Bargains are all of them notable horror stories, each involving a bargain with the devil – either explicitly or figuratively.

  • Armageddon 2149 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan (1888-1940) (version 3)

    This is the original ‘Buck Rogers’ SF classic. Thrill to the adventures of Anthony “Buck” Rogers, one of the most celebrated characters in the history of science fiction. Famed in comic strips, television, in movies, and even radio, this is the first novel to introduce Buck Rogers to the reading public. In Armageddon – 2419 A.D., Buck, a victim of accidental suspended animation, awakens five hundred years later to discover America groaning under the tyranny of the villainous Han, ruling from the safety of their armored machine-cities. Falling in love with one of America’s new warrior-women, Wilma Deering, Rogers soon become a central figure in using new-fangled scientific weapons – disintegrators, jumping belts, inertron, and paralysis rays – to revolt against the Han.

  • My Inventions and Other Works by Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)

    Between February and October 1919, Nikola Tesla submitted many articles to the magazine Electrical Experimenter. The most famous of these works is a six part series titled My Inventions, which is an autobiographical account of Nikola Tesla’s life and his most celebrated discoveries. This work has been compiled and republished as a stand-alone book several times under different names, but has been a cause of some controversy due to some versions deviating from the original text without explanation. This LibriVox project returns to the original text and expands upon it through the addition of Nikola Tesla’s own supplementary articles as they were published in 1919.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #4

From 1500 Miles Per Hour: A Story of a Visit to the Planet Mars by Charles Dixon.

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: As January 1 approaches and 1923 copyrights become public domain, commenters on the previous installment pointed out some 1923 works that might appeal to genre readers. Bill suggested four:

  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

  • The Sherlock Holmes story, “The Adventure of the Creeping Man”. This one is tricky, as the most common source is The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, which collected the final Holmes stories and was published in 1927, so it remains under copyright for a few more years. However, the story itself was published in The Strand magazine in 1923, so you can find it for free there when the 1923 issues of the magazine come online.

  • Certain “archy and mehitabel” pieces by Don Marquis. Without more detail on the pieces I couldn’t look around for an online version, but plenty of Don Marquis works published in 1922 and earlier are already available on Project Gutenberg.

  • Doctor Doolittle and the Secret Lake by Hugh Lofting.

Bruce Arthurs mentioned The Barge of Haunted Lives by J.Aubrey Tyson, a “club story” collection where an eccentric millionaire gathers nine people who have had supernatural experiences and has each tell his or her story.

I didn’t see an online version of this book (yet!) but Tyson also wrote a 1922 novel, The Scarlet Tanager, which is available through the Internet Archive. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes it as “ Near Future thriller…which is set in 1930, rousingly presents a submarine pirate and his right-wing cohorts; a tough US intelligence agent opposes their efforts to topple the American government. A UK agent, the actress of the title, also becomes involved. Sf devices include sonar and an invisible Ray.” Sounds like fun!

My favorite recent Project Gutenberg discovery is 1500 Miles Per Hour: A Story of a Visit to the Planet Mars by Charles Dixon (1858-1926). Published in 1895, it tells the story of four men and a dog who travel to Mars by rocket ship, where they encounter strange life forms, including terrible monsters. The illustrations are eye-popping, and a post at the Somnium Project blog contains several examples of them.

From this blog post, I also found out about the British Library’s Flickr account containing over a million illustrations from books in their collection. The illustrations from 1500 Miles Per Hour are included in the “Space and SciFi” album, along with over 400 others. The entire collection is wonderful and inspiring to browse through. There are albums of everything from children’s book illustrations to fashion to antique maps.

Terry Gene Carr (1937-1987) was a lifelong science fiction fan who published many fanzines and won the Hugo award for Best Fan Writer in 1973. He was well known for editing science fiction anthologies, and also wrote several novels. One of them, Warlord of Kor, is available on Project Gutenberg. There are also two audio versions available on Librivox.

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) has two early short stories on Project Gutenberg:

Both stories have been recorded multiple times at Librivox, mostly in the short science fiction collections, but there is also a dramatic reading of 2 B R 0 2 B.

Rose Macauley (1881-1958) was an English novelist who has two novels with near-future themes:

  • What-Not: A Prophetic Comedy was published in 1918, and was recently described by The Guardian as “a forgotten feminist dystopian novel, a story of eugenics and newspaper manipulation that is believed to have influenced Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four”. It’s had some buzz lately because it is being re-released in a new edition, complete with restored sections that were left out of the original 1918 edition. But you can read the original version for free at PG.

  • Mystery at Geneva: an Improbable Tale of Singular Happenings, published in 1922, tells a then-near-future tale of Bolsheviks battling a counter-revolution of monarchists, and a communist plot to destroy the League of Nations foiled by a woman journalist. Librivox has an audio edition as well.

Recent Librivox releases:

  • A Christmas Carol (Version 11) by Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

    The classic Christmas story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. The result of their visit shows that redemption is achievable for even the worst of us.

  • Cupid’s Whirligig by Edward Sharpham (1576-1608)

    Cupid’s Whirligig is a city comedy: a play in colloquial language dealing with the everyday life of London’s citizens. A knight, Sir Timothy Troublesome, suspects his wife of cheating on him and, to prove that any children she bears are not his own, decides to ‘geld’ himself. Meanwhile, the young Lord Nonsuch dreams of bedding the knight’s wife, and in disguise enters the Troublesomes’ employ as a servant. Cupid descends from the heavens to cast a love spell on the citizens of London and, by the last act, one character loves another, who loves another, and so on until the last loves the first: a “Cupid’s whirligig”.

  • In the Fourth Year: Anticipations of a World Peace by H.G. Wells (1866-1946)

    In the Fourth Year is a collection H.G. Wells assembled in the spring of 1918 from essays he had recently published discussing the problem of establishing lasting peace when World War I ended. It is mostly devoted to plans for the League of Nations and the discussion of post-war politics.

  • Christmas Short Works Collection 2018 by Various

    A delightful collection of stories and poems, with several interesting selections discussing various Christmas and holiday traditions, and a lovely Christmas play, featuring a full cast. All selections have been chosen and narrated by LibriVox volunteers to commemorate Christmas 2018. Includes “Thurlow’s Christmas Story”, a spooky tale with a Christmas angle (which I read for the collection and really enjoyed!)