took a hiatus for the holiday season but I’m back and ready to dig into some
more of the public domain treasures out there for fans of old-time science
fiction, fantasy, and horror.
the new Robert Downey Jr. version of Dolittle is coming out this week, I
thought it might be a good time to take a look at Hugh Lofting, the originator
of the Dr. Dolittle character and stories.
(1886-1947) didn’t set out to be a writer. Born in Berkshire, England, he
studied civil engineering at MIT and London Polytechnic and spent several years
traveling the world doing engineering work. When World War I began, he enlisted
and served in France for several years before being wounded and invalided out.
character of Doctor Dolittle, a Victorian physician who can talk to animals and
ministers to them instead of humans, originated in the trenches during the war.
Lofting later explained that his actual experiences were either too horrible or
too dull to include in letters home to his children, so he began writing
stories about Dolittle and illustrating them with pen-and-ink line drawings
collected those stories into his first book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle,
which was published in 1920 to immediate acclaim. He wrote seven more Dolittle
books between 1920 and 1928, when he tried to end the series by sending Doctor
Dolittle off planet in Doctor Dolittle in the Moon.
demand led him to write four more Dolittle books in the 1930s and 1940s, and
two additional collections were published posthumously in the 1950s. He also
wrote several works for children that were not in the Dolittle series, and a
book-length anti-war poem called Victory for the Slain, published in
first few Doctor Dolittle books are in the public domain now and are available
at Project Gutenberg:
Dolittle’s Circus was
published in 1924 and thus entered the public domain in the United States on
January 1 of this year. It will likely be released by Project Gutenberg in the
next few months.
Librivox has multiple versions of The
Story of Doctor Dolittle and The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle,
including dramatic readings (where different volunteers voice the various
characters) of both. Two versions of Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office are in
progress, a solo version and a dramatic reading, and will be released in the
next few months.
(1893-1961) came up in the birthday lists this week. He’s best remembered now
as a fiction writer — one of the “Big Three” of the early years of Weird
Tales (the other two being H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard), but he
began his writing career as a poet.
Gutenberg has two volumes of poetry by Clark Ashton Smith:
contains a long blank-verse poem called “The Hashish Eater, or the Apocalypse
of Evil”. This poem caught Lovecraft’s attention and his fan letter to Smith
initiated years of correspondence and collaboration.
poem and nineteen other works are included in a recent Librivox release, Lovecraft’s
Influences and Favorites. The compilation was inspired by Lovecraft’s 1927 essay,
“Supernatural Horror in Literature”, and collects the stories and poems
Lovecraft mentions, from Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher” to “Seaton’s Aunt”
by Walter de la Mare.
(1933- ) shares his birthday with Clark Ashton Smith, and is represented at
Project Gutenberg by three short stories:
In the future, people will be fitted with clockwork devices in their heads which, among other things, allows them to travel through time. Well, it seems one of these devices has frizzed-out, and a Clockwork man appears in the middle of a cricket match in 1923. The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle is believed to be the first instance of a human-machine cyborg appearing in literature.
This is a 1924 fantasy novel by Anglo-Irish writer Lord Dunsany, which became public domain in January 2020. It is widely recognized as one of the most acclaimed works in all of fantasy literature. Highly influential upon the fantasy genre as a whole, the novel was particularly formative in the subgenres of “fairytale fantasy” and “high fantasy”. And yet, it deals always with the truth: the power of love, the allure of nature, the yearning for contentment, the desire for fame, the quest for immortality, and the lure and the fear of magic. Arthur C. Clarke said this novel helped cement Dunsany as “one of the greatest writers of this century”.
Under the terms of a will, the Wildersham children have to relocate from the family house in the city to “Crossings” in the country, and to spend the first fortnight alone fending for themselves in the house. The children encounter interesting country neighbors, including ghosts and fairies. Or are they dreaming? Walter De La Mare was a poet, and we have a number of his poems available at Librivox. This is his only play.
This is a book of remarkable nautical ghost and horror stories written by William Clark Russell in 1893. The stories are for the most part set on ships and bring the reader on board for ghostly nights, wonderful sights, and strange occurrences.
Colleen McMahon: I had
a vague memory that I began this little column/project last November, and just
checked to make sure. Yes, the first “Wandering Through the Public Domain” was
posted on November 16, 2018, so this will mark my first anniversary here. Thank
you for reading and for your comments over the various columns, and thank you
so much to Mike Glyer for hosting my natterings!
It’s been a fun project
and I look forward to keeping it going for the foreseeable future. If you have
any feedback or suggestions, and especially if you have sought out and enjoyed
anything I’ve mentioned here, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
As so often happens, I
prepared to write today without any clear notion of what I wanted to do (though
I have a document with author and topic ideas to rev my brain up when needed).
And as so often also happens, I was gifted with a suggestion somewhat randomly.
A very recent Librivox
release (described in detail below) is An Earthman on Venus by Ralph
Milne Farley (1887-1963). When creating the listing for it, I had to look
up Mr. Farley to get his birth and death dates, and found something interesting
when I did. His Wikipedia entry was under the name Roger Sherman Hoar.
That in itself is not too
surprising, since many authors use pseudonyms. What did catch my eye was Mr.
Hoar’s day job — he was a state senator and assistant attorney general in
Massachusetts. He was descended from a distinguished American family. His
grandfather had served as a U.S. Attorney General, and his
great-great-grandfather was Roger Sherman, founding father and signer of the
Declaration of Independence.
Hoar was a graduate of
Harvard for both his undergraduate degree (1909) and law school (1911). The
same year that he finished law school, 1911, he began serving in the
Massachusetts state senate, although I could not find any detail about the
circumstances as to whether he was elected or appointed and how long he served.
He continued to have a distinguished career in law in Massachusetts and later
in Wisconsin, as well as taking a turn into engineering and teaching.
Hoar also began writing and publishing at a young age. He wrote multiple books
about law, mainly business law, under his own name. He published a tariff
manual in 1912 and a book about constitutional conventions in 1917.
Meanwhile, he was turning
out pulp fiction stories and novels, with most of his work being published
between the world wars. After he moved to Wisconsin, he joined the Milwaukee
Fictioneers, whose members also included Robert Bloch and Stanley G. Weinbaum
(both of whom were covered, coincidentally, in Wandering
Through the Public Domain #13)
His most famous works were
a series of “Radio Man” stories published through the 1920s and 1930s,
beginning with 1924’s “The Radio Man”. The stories began as serials in
magazines like Argosy and Amazing, but found a wider readership
when they were reprinted as paperback novels in the 1950s.
There are three Farley
works available through Project Gutenberg:
As mentioned below, An
Earthman on Venus was just released on Librivox, and The Radio Planet
is currently listed as “in progress”. “The Danger from the Deep” is included in
the recording of the complete August 1931
Astounding Stories issue.
When Myles Cabot accidentally transmitted himself to the planet Venus, he found himself naked and bewildered on a mystery world where every unguarded minute might mean a horrible death.
Man-eating plants, tiger-sized spiders, and dictatorial ant-men kept Myles on the run until he discovered the secret of the land—that humanity was a slave-race and that the monster ants were the real rulers of the world!
But Cabot was resourceful, and when his new found love, the Kewpie-doll princess Lilla, called for help, the ant-men learned what an angry Earthman can do.
An Earthman on Venus was originally published as The Radio Man in 1924.
Doctor John Dolittle is an animal doctor and famous naturalist whose success hinges on his ability to speak the languages of many different kinds of animals. This book, the second Dr. Dolittle adventure, is narrated by Tommy Stubbins, who meets the Doctor after finding an injured squirrel. Stubbins becomes interested in the Doctor’s work and has the opportunity to travel with him and several animal companions to a mysterious floating island called Spidermonkey Island.
A rip-roaring, pulpy and quirky space odyssey for your listening pleasure. Follow earth man Allen Green as his space ship fails and leaves him on a barbaric planet filled with other human descendants who have reverted to pre-technology existence. Naturally he is made a slave and must connive, plan, love and fight his way across 10,000 miles of danger to freedom. Full of strange beings, this planet highlights the amazing imagination of Philip Jose Farmer and his ability to make it scary and fun at the same time.
By Colleen McMahon: It’s hard to escape the fact that the vast majority of science
fiction in the public domain was written by men, so when I come across work by
a woman, I’m eager to feature it here. That was my thought when I saw the name Kris
soon discovered, however, that Kris Neville was a man, but with an intriguing
history as a writer of science fiction. Both Science Fiction
Encyclopedia and Wikipedia agree that despite Neville’s
early success (he began publishing in magazines in 1949 and continued steadily
well into the 1950s), he made a conscious decision to largely stop trying to
have a full-time fiction writing career due to what he saw as limitations in
he never became a widely known “big name,” Neville was well respected by his
fellow authors. Barry Malzberg wrote about him in 1979:
Kris Neville could have been among the ten most honored science fiction writers of his generation; instead, he virtually abandoned the field after conquering it early on…I can hardly blame him for this decision, and it was in any case carefully thought out. Neville, who sold his first story in 1949 and another fifteen by 1952, concluded early on that the perimeters of the field in the 1950s were simply too close to contain the kind of work he would have to do if he wanted to grow as a writer, and accordingly he quit. A scattering of stories has appeared over the last quarter of a century, and a couple of novels….Nowadays a short-short story shows up once a year or so in a magazine or original anthology; sometimes written in collaboration with his second wife, Lil, and always so astonishingly above the run of material surrounding it as to constitute an embarrassment to the other writers.
Gutenberg has one novella and eight shorter works by Neville. The novella is Earth Alert! from the February 1953 issue of Imagination:
Stories of Science and Fantasy. The short stories and novelettes:
of Neville’s stories have been recorded for Librivox so far.
one of those serendipity moments, I noticed the name Damon Knight
(1922-2002) on the cover image from the April 1963 Galaxy issue that
accompanied “Voyage to Far N’jurd”. Knight is probably best known as the author
of “To Serve Man”, a short story that became the basis of one of the
best-remembered Twilight Zone episodes (and a Halloween episode parody
on The Simpsons). “To Serve Man” is not at Project Gutenberg (it’s been
reprinted and anthologized enough times that it surely remains under copyright several
times over), but three other stories are:
find one female author to include this week: Catherine Moore, who usually
published as C.L. Moore (1911-1987). She was married to Henry Kuttner
from 1940 until his death in 1957, and they frequently collaborated. (Kuttner
is covered in Wandering
Through the Public Domain #13) She was a lifelong and active SF fan, but stopped writing in the
1950s, turning to a scriptwriting career in Hollywood for several years before
retiring entirely upon her second marriage. Sadly, she was nominated to be the
first woman SFWA Grand Master in the 1980s, but the nomination was withdrawn by
request of her husband, as Moore was too ill with Alzheimer’s to accept or attend.
Gutenberg has two of Moore’s early stories from the 1930s:
more work to briefly mention, Log of the Ark
by Noah; Hieroglyphics by Hamby Irving L. Gordon was recently released on Project Gutenberg.
It’s a short comic work that spoofs both the biblical story and ocean liner
travel of the time (1915) and includes plenty of silly illustrations.
This is the twenty-fourth 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 Ghosts, Ghouls and Spooky Things in honor of Halloween. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, essays… all chill and perplex.
John Thorndyke was one of the many successors to Sherlock Holmes’ “scientific deduction” approach to mystery solving. Thorndyke was a British doctor AND lawyer who practiced what we now call forensic science. Like Holmes, he had a friend who narrated his adventures (Jervis, not Watson), and appeared in numerous short stories and novels between 1907 and 1942.
A collection of twenty stories featuring ghoulies, ghosties, long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night. Expect shivers up your spine, the stench of human flesh, and the occasional touch of wonder.This collection includes stories by Poe, Le Fanu, H.G. Wells, Lovecraft and more!
A collection of 15 humorous short stories by the original master of speculative fiction: H. G. Wells. This was the first collection of short stories published by the author, and contains a mixture of fantasy, science-fiction and humour!
Colleen McMahon: A Pixel Scroll
October 11 mentioned a discussion among younger SF readers of a Katherine
MacLean story. This led me off to see what kinds of public domain works might
(1925-2019) mainly wrote short fiction from the 1940s through the 1970s. She
was well respected among the “hard” SF writers for stories that involved real
science. Her Wikipedia entry includes a fabulous anecdote in
which her science fiction fans help her get into an engineering conference in
In the 1930s and 1940s, scientists and boys planning to be scientists read Astounding (Analog) with close attention to the hottest most promising ideas and took them up as soon as they could get funded lab space. They did not openly express their gratitude to science fiction, because the funding depended on keeping claim to have originated the ideas they had put so much work into testing and verifying….
“I hastily looked around for a door to a lecture hall where I could sneak some listening time and get a line on current research, and be out of sight before the desk was reoccupied by the guardian of the gate….
Too late, a man built like a fullback in a business suit was bearing down on me. “I see you don’t have your badge. May I have your name? I’ll look it up in the registry….”
“Katherine MacLean, I came in because I am interested in–“
He interrupted. “Katherine MacLean! Are you that Katherine MacLean?” He gripped my hand and hung on. Who was that Katherine Maclean? Was I being mistaken for someone else?
“Are you the Katherine MacLean who wrote ‘Incommunicado’?”
Speechless with relief, I nodded. I would not be arrested or thrown out if they would accept me as a science fiction writer. He kept his grip on my hand and turned around and bellowed to his group of chatting friends, “Guess who I’ve got here. The little woman who wrote ‘Incommunicado’!”
…I had not been aware that my playing with communication ideas would attract the attention of prestigious Bell Telephone researchers. I had left radio and wavelength theory to my Dad as one of his hobbies and learned early that I could get a nasty shock from playing with his wiring. I could not account for their enthusiasm. I went back to the typewriter and lost myself in the story again.
The point is, that scientists not only read Astounding-Analog, they were fans of the writers and understood all the Ideas, even the obscure Ideas that were merely hinted at.
Sacrifice”, the story under consideration at Young People
Discuss Old SF, is
not on Project Gutenberg, but several other stories are available:
Snowball Effect” was adapted for the radio SF series X Minus One. More recently, two Maclean
stories were read for the radio show Buxom Blondes with Ray Guns (scroll down for the specific
episode). One of the stories, “Carnivore”, is also available through Project
Gutenberg and Librivox, but the other story, “Collision Orbit”, doesn’t appear
to be available anywhere else.
(1828-1862) was an early American writer of fantastic fiction who has largely
been forgotten, though one of his stories is still frequently anthologized. He
is best known for “What Was It?”, the tale of a man who is attacked by a
seemingly ghostly presence in the middle of the night. However, the presence
turns out to be more of an invisible man — or man-creature — and the main
character is able to overpower and capture it. It becomes a local curiosity for
several weeks, and then dies, with no one the wiser as to what the creature was
or where it came from.
was a contemporary of Poe’s, and his stories have a similar tone and style.
Like Poe, he was a major influence on later writers, including M.R. James,
Ambrose Bierce, and H.G. Wells.
weird tale, The Diamond
Lens (Librivox), could be
considered proto-science fiction, since it concerns a scientist using a new
type of microscope and discovering (and, of course, falling in love with) a
tiny woman he finds in a drop of water.
These are three imaginative SF stories by an author I admire a lot, William Tenn. Venus is a Man’s World, (Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1951), Project Hush (Galaxy Science Fiction, 1954) and Of All Possible Worlds (Galaxy, Sept 1956).
By Colleen McMahon: This was a slow week. No new Librivox audiobooks that fit into the
genre categories, however broadly drawn. So this might be a good time to
mention that Librivox does have a lot of older short science fiction available.
They have been doing a series of short science fiction collections for
way it works is that a volume is started, and anyone can contribute a short
science fiction story that is known to be in the public domain. Once there are
15-20 stories, the volume is closed and released and a new one opened. They are
up to 64 volumes at this point. If you are curious and would like to sample
some of them, the whole Short Science Fiction series is here.
have a bit of a backlog of random authors who were mentioned in the birthday
lists over the last few months, and this is a good time to do a little catching
up with some of these.
(1896-1982) had a birthday back in August. He is represented in Project Gutenberg
by two short stories:
Cosmic Deflector” has not been recorded yet for Librivox, but “Flight Through
Tomorrow” has been recorded three different times for Short Science
W. Fairman (1909-1977)
was active as an author from the late 1940s through the early 1970s, publishing
several novels and many short stories under his own name as well as the
pseudonym Ivar Jorgensen. He is also the founding editor of If science
fiction magazine, and later became editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic
is best remembered now as a television script writer (Captain Video and His
Video Rangers, Alfred Hitchcock Presents) and a pulp mystery author,
but he was quite prolific in science fiction too.
Gutenberg has 16 of his stories. He published most often in If: Worlds of
Science Fiction and, interestingly, in two cases he had two stories in one
issue, one published under his own name and one under the pseudonym “Kenneth
mentioned at the top of this installment, I could not find anything
genre-related in the list of recent releases, which is very unusual. However,
there is one book that might be of mild interest here: an all-but-forgotten
1923 mystery novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs!
The countryside outside of Los Angeles is a paradise on Earth: nature
gives bounty on the land, the animals are majestic, the oaks breathe and
the natural pools and ponds are all you would want on a summer’s day. And
if you are a Pennington or an Evans, life is simple and complete. However,
every paradise has a serpent. For Rancho Ganado, that comes in the shape
of Bootlegging, Drugs and Murder. All the vice of nearby Hollywood
manifest themselves in the picturesque landscape, throwing the lives of
these families into turmoil.
By Colleen McMahon: I wanted to start out this week with two offbeat suggestions that
are not strictly fantasy or science fiction literature, but that might be of
interest to some Filers. Both are recent audiobook releases from Librivox.
first is The Lost Art of
Gerald Stanley Lee (1862-1944). Lee was an American author and
Congregationalist minister, and he wrote The Lost Art of Reading in
1902. Long before the age of Netflix and screentime, even before radio and
widespread movie attendance, passionate defenders of the written word were
lamenting a decline in reading. In this case, Lee blames cities, trains, and
industrialization for speeding up life too much.
listening to an audiobook about how no one reads anymore is too meta, the text edition is available through Project
Gutenberg. (While searching around for information on this book, I discovered
that a book of the
same title was
published 108 years later, this one by Paul Ulin!)
other is one of Librivox’s quirkier collections: Insomnia
Collection Vol. 004, in
which volunteers found the most soporific reading material possible with the
idea of boring the listener to sleep. I can vouch for previous volumes, with
their excerpts from early 20th century telephone directories and copyright
renewal lists, as they have sent me off to dreamland on many mornings after
overnight shifts, when it was otherwise hard to settle down to sleep.
new volume is promising for more of the same, with selections like “W. Kent and
Co’s Annual Catalogue, April 1859,” and “Disinfection and Disinfectants.” I
contributed an excerpt from the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology’s detailed listing of
items collected in field expeditions in 1881, and it nearly put me to sleep while
I was trying to edit it, so it should work for anyone else who is battling
(1928-1992) was on the August birthday lists, and it turns out that he was a
very prolific author. In addition to his science fiction writing, he was a physician
and wrote plenty of nonfiction books as well, with titles like So You Want
to Be a Doctor (1957) and The Backyard Astronomer (1973). Late in
life, he seems to have turned toward sex education, with books on sexually
transmitted diseases, herpes, AIDs and a 1990 Teen Guide to Safe Sex.
public domain works on Project Gutenberg include lots of short stories and
novelettes, 25 titles in all. That’s too many to include here, so I’ll just
mention a few below and include a link to his complete works at PG.
(1913-2002) is probably best remembered now as a scriptwriter for television,
including shows like The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Star
Trek. (He wrote or co-wrote the episodes “The Corbomite Maneuver,” “This
Side of Paradise,” and “Whom Gods Destroy”.) However, he was also a novelist
with over twenty titles to his credit, as well as nonfiction books on chess and
bridge, and numerous short stories.
“Man’s Rights; or, How Would You Like It?: Comprising Dreams” is the first known feminist utopian novel written by a woman. The text features nine dreams experienced by a first-person female narrator. In the first seven dreams, she visits the planet Mars, finding a society where traditional sex roles and stereotypes are reversed. The narrator witnesses the oppression of the men on Mars and their struggle for equality. In the last two dreams, the narrator visits a future United States ruled by a woman president.
Sabotage accidentally takes Earth’s first manned interplanetary expedition to the Moon, where a sublunar adventure ensues, involving two intelligent species and a good deal of fighting as well as romance. The perceptive reader will perceive the author’s peculiar notions concerning the behavior of volcanos, an offense against scientific fact that is hard to pardon in a writer of science fiction, but if it can be overlooked, the variety of incident and the fast pace of the action, full of surprises, amply repay the reader’s generous indulgence.
Librivox volunteer Kirk Ziegler assembled his own anthology of 30 ghost stories (including multiple selections from a book of ghost stories from India) to record as a solo project. The collection includes intriguing titles like “The Phantom Toe,” “The Fight With a Ghost,” and “What the Professor Saw”.
By Colleen McMahon: I swear this happens almost every time I start to write one of
these entries. I open up the blank document with no idea what I’m going to
write about, and decide to do just a quick roundup of some links without going
into any detail about any of the authors, etc.
as I’m poking around looking for what I want to link to this week, something
catches my eye and sends me in a completely unexpected direction.
week it was Captain Midnight.
were a couple of mentions of the Captain Midnight TV show in recent Pixel
Scrolls. September 4 saw the anniversary of the first broadcast, and
September 9 was the birthday of Richard Webb, who played the title character.
I went to Internet Archive, to see if there were any Captain Midnight
episodes available (since a lot of lower-tier 1950s TV appears to have fallen
into public domain). I found two full episodes (at least one includes the
Ovaltine commercials) but I’m not linking them because they aren’t tagged as
public domain. There are some Captain Midnight comic issues and old-time
radio shows as well, but again, not clearly labeled as public domain.
at this point I would normally drop the idea and do something else. But then I
saw another video item intriguingly labeled “Captain
Midnight HBO Broadcast Intrusion”…and the rabbit hole opened up and down I went.
out that in April of 1986, in the middle of an HBO showing of The Falcon and
the Snowman, the movie was interrupted for several minutes, first by a
flickering screen, and then a “rainbow bar” screen overlaid with text reading
“GOODEVENING HBO FROM CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT $12.95/MONTH? NO WAY! (SHOWTIME/MOVIE
was a now largely-forgotten protest by one John R. MacDougall, a satellite dish
seller/installer in Florida who was angry about HBO’s rates for satellite
subscribers. He figured out how to take over of the HBO satellite to put out
was a small gesture by a guy angry that HBO and other paid cable services had
begun scrambling their satellite signals so that dish owners could no longer
watch for free. The $12.99 HBO subscription price for dish users was
significantly higher than the cable price. (That’s over $30/month in today’s
dollars; for comparison, you can currently subscribe to HBO NOW for $14.99.)
And the subscription cost was on top of the several hundred dollars you would
have to pay for descrambling equipment.
the protest was fleeting and mostly unnoticed, the response was major.
MacDougall was ultimately charged and pleaded out for probation and a $5,000
fine. But new laws were passed that made satellite hijacking a federal felony,
and the ATIS signal identification system was developed.
about the incident
has a lot more interesting detail about MacDougall, the event, and the
aftermath. John R. MacDougall is still around and still has his Florida
business; the biography page on his business website proudly
claims his Captain Midnight identity.
how about some actual public domain material before I call it a week?
Jack Williamson (1908-2006) is another recent Pixel Scroll
mention. I enjoyed the 1992 interview in the September 9 Scroll.
Williamson works are on Project Gutenberg:
Lady Truman received word fourteen months ago that her husband, Sir George Truman, has died in battle. Now a very eligible widow with a large estate, she has more suitors than she knows what to do with. As if that wasn’t enough, her house is now being haunted at night by the horrible and ghostly sound of a drum, apparently caused by the restless spirit of her husband. When an old man arrives who claims to be able to lay the spirit to rest, she is so desperate for relief that she determines to give him a chance. Written with wit and good humor, this play will have you laughing out loud!
Three classic SF stories by Jack Williamson: The Cosmic Express, The Pygmy Planet and Salvage in Space. All were published in Astounding Stories in the very early 1930’s. and all are fine examples of the far ranging imagination of science fiction writers of the day.
When Earth loses contact with the colony planet Eden, an expedition is sent to find out why. Even though the planet has been determined to have no hostile properties, the second expedition is astonished to find no evidence of the colony. The colonists are spread out, naked, wandering dazed among the bushes, with no sign of any of the technology they brought from Earth.
An anthology of short, chilling stories from Algernon Blackwood. They will make you start at noises in the night and wonder about your neighbors. These stories likely stem from Blackwood’s investigations into haunted houses for the Psychical Research Society and reflect his fascination with the weird, occult and supernatural.
Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) was a name that appeared multiple times in the Retro Hugo ballot this year. His Conjure Wife took the best novel Retro Hugo, and another Leiber novel, Gather, Darkness! was the second-place finisher. He was also in the hunt for Best Novelette for “Thieves’ House”.
none of these works are currently in the public domain, I did find a podcast with an
hour-long discussion of Conjure Wifeon Internet Archive. The podcast
was Necronomipod (which appears to be from 2007 and a completely
different iteration than the current day podcasts of the same title, which
discusses weirdness and true crime).
Conjure Wife was adapted as a movie called Inner Sanctum in 1948, and
the movie is in the public domain and available on Internet Archive. Interestingly, Fritz Leiber
Sr., father of the writer, was an actor and played Dr. Valonius in the movie.
there are plenty of other Lieber works, from short stories to full-length
novels, available on Project Gutenberg and Librivox, so I thought this would be
a good time to take a look.
volunteers sometimes make their own anthologies by recording a set of stories
as a stand-alone audiobook project, either on their own or with a group of volunteers.
Lieber features in several of these audiobooks:
more interesting Librivox anthology is X Minus One
This collects an assortment of short SF tales that were adapted by the radio
show X Minus One that ran from 1955-1958. The anthology includes “The
Moon is Green” by Leiber, along with other stories by authors like Robert
Sheckley, H. Beam Piper, Frederik Pohl, and several others. (X Minus One
adapted even more famous stories by the likes of Asimov, Heinlein and Bradbury,
but those stories aren’t in the public domain yet.)
of X Minus One, the series adapted three Leiber stories during its run,
and they are available on Internet Archive:
A world that actively seeks to kill the colonists. Not a pleasant
place. The hordes of ferocious animals all come with deadly poison and a
will to kill as many humans as possible. Even the plants have teeth and
claws and toxins dripping from every surface. They fly, crawl and run for
the chance to sink something terrible into a human arm or leg. Oh, and did
I mention the 2G gravity? Pyrrus is its name. The settlers there were
supermen… twice as strong as ordinary men and with instantaneous
reflexes. They had to be. For their business was murder…a 3 year old
Pyrrian had a loaded gun strapped to his forearm and knew how to use it or
he was a dead 3 year old. It was up to Jason dinAlt, interplanetary
gambler, to discover why Pyrrus had become so hostile during man’s brief
habitation…if he could stay alive long enough to even make a start…
The first of these stories was originally published in the July 1934
issue of Wonder Stories. It was followed four months later by a sequel,
“Valley of Dreams” in the same magazine. These classic stories
take us to Mars where we meet a Martian, or at least something very
different from us, and several other completely original specimens of
life. The Martian “Tweel” looks like an ostrich and the Egyptian
god Osiris – for good reason, as you will find out if you listen to the
Third in the trilogy of the feminist classics, after Moving the Mountain
and Herland. In Herland, three American young men discover a country
inhabited solely by women, who were parthenogenetic (asexual procreation),
and had borne only girl children for two thousand years; they marry three
of the women. Two of the men and one woman leave the country of Herland to
return to America; Jeff Margrave remaining in Herland with his wife,
Celis, a willing citizen; Terry O. Nicholson being expelled from Herland
for bad conduct; and Ellador electing to leave Herland with her husband,
Vandyck Jennings. We now continue the story, told from the viewpoint of
Vandyck Jennings, as they return to America.
In the midst of the war—that terrible conflict that threatened
humanity’s total destruction—the “new people” suddenly appeared.
Quietly performing incredible deeds, vanishing at will, they were an
enigma to both sides. Kurt Zen was an American intelligence officer among
the many sent to root them out. He found them. Taken captive in their
hidden lair, he waited as the enemy prepared to launch the super missile,
the bomb to end all bombs—and all life. If only he could find the source
of the new people’s power, Kurt alone might be able to prevent
obliteration of the Earth….
By Colleen McMahon: In the previous installment of this column, I began looking at
early time travel stories, mostly involving some sort of magical or
fantasy time travel. “Time slip” stories don’t explain much about the time
travel mechanism. The character falls asleep and wakes up in a different time,
or experiences the time travel as a dream or vision.
rapid growth of scientific understanding coupled with the spread of
industrialization laid the groundwork for more mechanized imaginings of time
travel. The seminal work is, of course, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine(4 Librivox versions available here). The idea of a machine that
could carry passengers to a targeted point in time became one of the key tropes
of science fiction. The Doctor’s TARDIS and other modern time machines are
direct descendents of Wells’ machine.
time, I promised that this column would look at The Time Machine and the
stories that followed it. However, most of the tales directly inspired by Wells
are, unfortunately for my purposes here, still under copyright so I couldn’t go
very far in that direction.
there are several intriguing stories that laid the groundwork for The Time
Machine, including a mostly-forgotten tale by Wells himself. So I thought
I’d dig into the forerunners of mechanical time travel instead.
saw the publication of two stories that illustrate the emergence of
“scientific” time travel.
first, by Grant Allen, is “Pausodyne”. It appeared in Belgravia magazine’s
Christmas Annual in 1881, and was collected in Allen’s Strange Stories in 1884.
combines a time slip — falling asleep and waking up in the future — with a
science-based explanation. The narrator meets a man on the streets of London who
is asking strange questions about coaches to Yorkshire and seems to be
unfamiliar with the concept of rail travel. As they talk, the strange man
reveals himself to be Jonathan Spottiswood, great uncle of the narrator, who
had disappeared years before.
turns out that Jonathan had been a “philosophical chemist” and had experimented
in a hidden lab with a chemical concoction he called “pausodyne”, which
produced a state of suspended animation. As he experimented with animals, one
night he was overcome by the pausodyne fumes and fell asleep in his laboratory.
When he woke and went outdoors, he discovered a completely changed world, and
gradually realized that he had been in suspended animation for century.
basically Rip Van Winkle with some chemical trappings, but it feels like a much
more modern time travel story because much of it focuses on how confused
Spottiswood is by the vast changes that have taken place in a hundred years.
Time travel has become more interesting as a theme because there is now a real
sense of transformation over relatively short time spans.
“The Clock That
Went Backward” by
Edward Page Mitchell appeared in the New York Sun in 1881. The time travel
device is the titular clock, of course, which takes the narrator and his cousin
300 years backward to the siege of the Dutch city of Leyden. It’s one of the
first stories that I know of with the trope of the time travelers themselves
being the cause of well-known historical events, as well as one of the pair
apparently becoming his own ancestor! (Audio version is included in Short Science
Fiction Collection 50).
in this case a watch, is also the time traveling mechanism in Lewis Carroll’s
last completed novel.Sylvie and
Bruno is a
2-volume series of tales taking place in both Fairyland and our world,
published in 1889 and 1893. Several of the stories revolve around a special
watch, the “Outlandish” watch. This appears to be an early instance of an
author working out “rules” for time travel, as in one case a character tries
unsuccessfully to use the watch to prevent an accident from taking place in the
past. They find that they can only witness events, not change them. (Librivox
has both volumes,
plus a dramatic reading version).
Wells published “The Chronic
his college newspaper in 1888, and it is a bit of a mess. Much of it is given
over to describing the weird things that the inhabitants of a small village in
Wales witness after a mysterious Dr. Nebogipfel takes up residence and begins
doing strange experiments. Eventually the townspeople opt for the time-honored
tradition of torches and pitchforks, only to find that the Doctor has vanished!
weeks later, the local minister who had disappeared at the same time turns up
alone. He proceeds to give a deposition of “the murder of an old man named
Williams, which occurred in 1862, this disappearance of Dr. Moses Nebogipfel,
the abduction of a ward in the year 4003 —-…Also several assaults on public
officials in the years 17,901 and 2.”
we only get a portion of that before the minister expires. He does explain how
he came to be traveling with Dr. Nebogipfel — he was visiting and talking with
him on the evening the mob came, and is forced to depart with Nebogipfel out of
fear that the villagers would kill him otherwise. The story ends frustratingly
with the promising sentence, “The voyage of the Chronic
Argonauts had begun.”
My biggest takeaway from reading “The Chronic Argonauts” is
how much Dr. Nebogipfel sounds like the inhabitant of a certain blue police
box. He is even repeatedly referred to as “The Doctor”!
One of the things that disquiets the villagers is the late
night noises emanating from his house, thus described: “at first a complaining
murmur, like the groaning of a wounded man, “gurr-urrurr-URR”,
rising by slow gradations in pitch and intensity to the likeness of a voice in
despairing passionate protest.”
When he suggests that the minister accompany him, the Doctor
proposes, “I was thinking while I was . . . away . . . Would you like to come?
I should greatly value a companion.” In the end, however, the arrival of the
mob leaves him no choice. When the villagers break in, they are stunned — “For
the calm, smiling doctor, and his quiet, black-clad companion, and the polished
platform which upbore them, had vanished before their eyes!”
All of this sounds awfully familiar, no? I’m amazed that this
hasn’t turned up as an episode of Doctor Who already, with the actual
Doctor bringing about the events that led to Wells’ story. (Maybe the part of
the story where Wells’ Doctor actually MURDERS the previous inhabitants of his
mansion is too big an obstacle?)
On the whole, Wells’ The Time Machine is a much better
piece of work, but you can see the seeds sprouting in “The Chronic Argonauts”.
Sadly, there is no Librivox recording of the piece yet.
I hope you have enjoyed this side trip into time travel
tales; I’ll be back to more random ramblings next time!
(1) FANAC.ORG SCANNING STATION AT DUBLIN
2019. Joe Siclari looks forward to digitizing
more zines and photos at the Worldcon —
FANAC.org has scanned and archived over 92,000 pages of fanzines. Next week, our Scanning Station is coming to Dublin. If you are attending the Dublin Worldcon and can brings fanzines appropriate for scanning, we would love to have them. We’ll scan right there on site – we’ll be set-up at a fan table in the Convention Center. Look for our banner.
…But there’s another source of public domain works: until the 1976 Copyright Act, US works were not copyrighted unless they were registered, and then they quickly became public domain unless that registration was renewed….
…Now, Leonard Richardson (previously) has done the magic data-mining work to affirmatively determine which of the 1924-63 books are in the public domain, which turns out to be 80% of those books; what’s more, many of these books have already been scanned by the Hathi Trust (which uses a limitation in copyright to scan university library holdings for use by educational institutions, regardless of copyright status).
“Fun facts” are, sadly, often less than fun. But here’s a genuinely fun fact: most books published in the US before 1964 are in the public domain! Back then, you had to send in a form to get a second 28-year copyright term, and most people didn’t bother.
(3) WHEATON W00TSTOUT. The 2019 pouring of Stone
Farking Wheaton w00tstout is here. Comic artist Alan Davis designed the
label. Will you collect it or drink it?
Over the years, Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout has become one of Stone’s most anticipated annual releases, and not just because it’s an astoundingly flavorful beer concocted as a collaboration between FARK’s Drew Curtis, nerd royalty Wil Wheaton and Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch. It’s the incredible label art adorning this beer over the years that has elevated it to the pinnacle of beer, geekery and beer geekery. “W00tstout is more than a great beer,” said actor, writer and Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout collaborator Wil Wheaton. “It’s a work of art, carefully designed to be as drinkable right now as it will be in a decade. I am so honored and proud to be one of its parents.”
(4) CLARION WEST 2020. Next year’s Clarion West instructors
have been announced:
(5) STRANGERS LIKE
ME. Brian Doherty, in “San
Diego Comic-Con and the Tensions of Market-Induced Growth” on Reason.com, reports from the convention and finds
that despite its huge size lovers of comics and the small press can find a
great deal to satisfy them at the convention. He also interviews
Maryelizabeth Yturvalde of the Mysterious Galaxy sf shop, who says she sold a
great many YA novels to Comic-Con attendees.
…But who are “people like yourself” in the tent of fannish tents? That’s the sticking point. Things can get complicated when you are thrust in a tight space with people whose nerdy obsessions don’t match yours. Smith joked about seeing a bunch of people dressed as Klingons sneering at the lame geeks striding by dressed as stormtroopers.
On one of this year’s historical panels, Barry Short, a longtime SDCC worker and a former comic shop owner, described the vast crowds attracted to the con as a clear victory, the promised land all the lonely geeks of decades gone by had been fighting for. Their culture was no longer mocked and hated! Their tribe had grown beyond imagining! But one detail that he chose to highlight was telling—that it was no longer hard to find T-shirts featuring Marvel superheroes.
That sort of thing would not be any kind of victory to, say, indie cartoonist Mary Fleener, who on a historical panel remembered fondly the days in the 1990s when she and a few fellow independent artists could pool money together for a table that cost less than $400 and profit selling their homemade mini-comix. Her tribe was different than Short’s; they just awkwardly co-existed in the same grounds.
Comics are not just the root of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters; they’re a newly respected part of American literary culture. The artists and writers responsible for that aren’t necessarily obsessed with superhero T-shirts. But even that conclusion was complicated at a SDCC panel starring Chris Ware, author of Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, one of the linchpins of modern literary comics. He admitted, in his self-lacerating sad-sack way, that as a nerdy, scared, hated kid in school, if he found anyone else who shared in any way his tortured love and fascination with crummy Mego toy figures of comics characters, he’d want to hold them close—too close for their comfort.
Comic-Con is filled with people who both seek validation in their manias and mistrust the manias next door, whether those neighboring fandoms seem to bring down the cultural property values or try to make them annoyingly highbrow.
No matter how pollyannaish you want to be about change and growth, more people in an experience makes for a different experience. Such changes may come to the benefit of the newcomers but the detriment of old-timers….
I am delighted to be part of the show and all I am, is a part of the show…I want to make it semi-clear, because I don’t want to make it too clear, that I am not a regular on the show. Data did die at the end of Nemesis. But I am on the show. I do make appearances. Data’s story is a part of the thread of show.”
Apparently the Data-like android is a predecessor called B-4.
Given Spiner’s connections to Area 51 — his Dr. Brakish Okun was in charge of research there in both “Independence Day” and “Independence Day: Resurgence,” its 20-years-later sequel — you can’t let the actor off the phone without asking if he has advice for anyone looking to follow the Facebook phenomenon and storm the secretive military installation to “see them aliens.”
“Well, let me just say, I know this is going to be a huge disappointment to everyone, but if they do this, and they actually get there, I will not be there,” Spiner says, dryly.
“I mean, unless I’m well paid. Then I’ll show up.”
The Korean release of the latest installment of Doraemon, Japan’s biggest anime franchise, has been postponed indefinitely as a trade war between the Asian neighbors continues to escalate.
Doraemon: Nobita’s Chronicle of the Moon Exploration, the 39th feature in the tales of the blue, “cat-type robot” and his human sidekick, schoolboy Nobita, is the latest victim in the Tokyo-Seoul spat.
Last month Butt Detective: The Movie was also caught up in the growing boycott of Japanese goods, services and companies. The film, a spinoff from a children’s book and anime TV series about a detective with a head shaped like a backside, had received maximum scores on South Korean review websites on its release, but got a bum deal after the sites were hit with posts calling for cinemagoers to boycott Japanese films.
…The current row was triggered when Japan announced July 1 that it was placing export restrictions to South Korea on materials used in manufacturing semiconductors, a major Korean industry. Tokyo accused Seoul of breaking sanctions on North Korea, but the move was widely seen as retaliation for a Korean court ruling that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has to pay compensation to Koreans forced to work for the company during World War II….
(8) ROSEN OBIT. Fraggle Rock voice actor Stuart M.
died reports SYFY Wire.
Stuart M. Rosen, a prolific voice actor and creator who helped develop the iconic children’s puppet program Dusty’s Treehouse in the late 1960s and voiced The Storyteller in HBO’s Fraggle Rock, reportedly has passed away from cancer. He was 80 years old.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 5, 1891 — Donald Kerr. Happy Hapgood in 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars which might be one of the earliest such films. His only other genre appearances were in the Abbott and Costello films such as Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man in uncredited roles. (Died 1977.)
Born August 5, 1935 — Wanda Ventham, 84. Mother of Benedict Cumberbatch. She’s showed up on during Doctor Who over a number of years playing three different roles (Jean Rock, Thea Ransome/Fendahl Core and Faroon) in three different stories, “The Faceless Ones” over six episodes, Serial: “Image of the Fendahl” over four episodes and “Time and the Rani” over three episodes. That’d mean she appeared with the Fourth and Seventh Doctors. She was also Col. Virginia Lake, a series regular on UFO, during the Seventies.
Born August 5, 1940 — Natalie Trundy,79. First, she was one of the Underdwellers named Albina in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Next, she played Dr. Stephanie Branton, a specialist studying apes from the future who came into our present day in Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Then in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, she played the chimp Lisa.
Born August 5, 1947 — Élisabeth Vonarburg, 72. Parisian born, she’s Quebec resident. She was the literary director of the French-Canadian SF magazine Solaris. Her first novel, Le Silence de la Cité, was published in 1981. Since then she’s been a prolific witter of novels and short fiction. In 1993, her website notes sgphecreceived a Prix spécial du Jury Philip K. Dick Award for In the Mothers’ Land. H’h. I’m pleased to say that iBooks is deeply stock in her works but Kindle has nothing at all by her. Her website, in French of course, is here.
Born August 5, 1956 — Robert Frezza, 63. Wrote five SF novels of a space opera-ish nature in five years covering two series, McLendon’s Syndrome and The VMR Theory, and The Small Colonial War series which is A Small Colonial War, Fire in a Faraway Place and Cain’s Land) before disappearing from writing SF twenty years ago.
Born August 5, 1956 — Maureen McCormick, 63. Though better for being Marcia Brady on The Brady Bunch, she has done some genre performances. She was Eve in Snow White: A Deadly Summer and Officer Tyler in Return to Horror High, both decidedly pulpish horror film. A step up in class was her portrayal of the young Endora in two episodes of Bewitched, “And Something Makes Three” and “Trick or Treat”. She shows up in another magical show, I Dream of Jeannie, as Susan in “My Master, the Doctor”. And she was used in six different roles on Fantasy Island.
Born August 5, 1968 — Matt Jones, 51. Started as columnist for Doctor Who Magazine. A decade later, he wrote two of the Tenth Doctor scripts, a two-parter, “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit”, and one for Torchwood, “Dead Man Walking”. He co-authored with Joan Ormond, Time Travel in Popular Media.
Born August 5, 1980 — JoSelle Vanderhooft, 39. Former Green Man reviewer with a single novel so far, Ebenezer, and several collections, Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories and Steam-Powered II: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories. She also co-edited with Steve Berman, Heiresses of Russ 2011: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction.
Born August 5, 1961 — Janet McTeer, 58. Last genre role was as Jessica’s mother, Alisa Jones. in Jessica Jones. She was also Edith Prior in The Divergent Series: Insurgent, and the elderly Princess Aurora who was the narrator in Maleficent.
I set myself two missions at the start of this year – one, to get into the Science Fiction Writers’ Association (SFWA, pronounced Siffwuh) by writing and selling a qualifying short story. And two, to take steps to snag an agent for what I hope will be the next step in my writing career.
Well, missions one accomplished….
(11) A HOIST OF BOOKS. Atlas Obscura reads from
the log of the “Bokbåten”,
a circulating library afloat.
Sweden and its Nordic neighbors are among the world’s most literate countries. These nations boast a range of newspapers and public libraries, as well as provide convenient access to computers and strong educational resources to its residents.
Access to books and resources might be harder to come by for some, though, especially those living on the remote islands of Stockholm’s archipelago—the largest group of islands in Sweden and the second-largest in the Baltic Sea.
To combat this obstacle while continuing its prioritization of literacy, twice a year the Stockholm Library Service rents a boat for a week and brings books to 23 inhabited islands. Each spring and fall, the boat is packed with approximately 3,000 books and sets sail along Stockholm’s eastern seaboard as an aquatic library….
(12) IT’S EERIE. He looks just like a pinker
version of my father when he was young.
My father is in the lower left corner of this holiday card, sent
out in the early days of television.
Meanwhile, John’s having his brain fixed, and the city Administrator comes in to whine about it. He was the one who wanted to disintegrate everybody last episode, if you recall. He doesn’t seem to like anything about the humans. Not their names, which he reckons are absurd (cheek!), not their culture of egalitarianism (though I could dispute that), and not their stupid, ugly faces (pot, kettle!)
If the closing moments of the second season finale of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” hadn’t already made it clear that the show was going to take an even darker turn next season, then creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa did so Sunday by confirming the fiery setting Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) and co. will be entering when the show returns….
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian,
Mike Kennedy, Jon Del Arroz, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew
Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day Jack Lint.]