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.

Pixel Scroll 1/5/19 Mr. Gorn, Tear Down This Suit

(1) NOVIK SPEAKS OUT FOR FANFIC. In “Freed From Copyright, These Classic Works Are Yours To Adapt”, NPR discusses works newly entering public domain, and the writerly impulse to appropriate or retell stories.

A large body of films, music, and books from that year entered the public domain on Jan. 1, the first time that’s happened in 20 years. And that means they can be used according to the will of new creators who wish to adopt or adapt them.

…Those lengthy copyrights can be a barrier to the creation of new art. “Copyright has been overextended so many times, largely at the behest of major copyright holders,” says author Naomi Novik. “Even though what that actually does is inhibit people from creating new works and sharing these older works.” Novik is a founding member of the Organization for Transformative Works, a nonprofit that focuses on preserving fan fiction and art — that is, work created by fans, based on characters and worlds from their favorite written works, film, and TV, which can occasionally come into conflict with copyright law.

… Novik says that the impulse to re-imagine art is innate. “That kind of process of imagination is just something that our brains do. It doesn’t matter what law you put around it, our brains are still going to do it,” she says.

Inevitably, the spring of adaptations will bring about bad versions of these classic works. As Blake Hazard, great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald, told The New York Times, “I hope people maybe will be energized to do something original with the work, but of course the fear is that there will be some degradation of the text.”

Miller, who adapted Homer, does worry about the possibility of betraying the texts. But as she was working on Circe, she says, “I came to the understanding that I can’t hurt Homer. He’s fine. Whatever I do, that’s just my response to him. But the original text will be just fine.”

(2) DEAMERICANIZING THE HUGOS. Australian writer T.R. Napper wants to broaden the meaning of diversity: “The Hugos: Putting the World into WorldCon”.

It’s time to put the world into WorldCon. Time to include geography and national culture in the definition of diversity. Past time.

This here is just a discussion in good faith. Remember those? There’s no outrage; no political side. All I’m saying is this: historically, the winner of the Hugo for best novel has been from the US, 82% of the time. If we take just the past five years (2014 – 2018) Americans have been nominated 90% of the time (27/30) and won 90% (the latter number comes from Ken Liu (as translator) sharing the award with Cixin Liu for The Three-Body Problem). For the Nebulas – while not related to WorldCon directly, still reflective of what is happening in the genre – the picture is worse: US writers have been nominated 91% of the time (30/34) and won 100%….

Of course, right in the sweet spot of Napper’s 5-year sample are three years deeply affected by Sad/Rabid Puppy slate voting. Diversity of all kinds suffered in those years. What happens if I go back and pick my own sample – say, the year 2010? The Worldcon was in Australia, and the five Best Novel nominees included two Canadians and a Brit – 60% — leaving Americans at only 40%. Or 2009 when it was in Montreal – the five nominees included two Brits – 40% — and Americans were 60%.

And are people really expected to stop thinking that diversity looks like N.K. Jemisin’s three-year run, an unmatched achievement, and dismiss it as just another bunch of Hugos predictably won by an American writer?

The remainder of Napper’s post is a suggested reading list of international novels, a positive contribution, and always in order.

Unfortunately, the next part of being constructive is putting up a list of potential novels and short stories to read. This is why outrage is so much easier than informed discussion: it doesn’t come with so much fucking homework.

But I’ve done my homework. I’ve talked to editors and writers from Australia, Zimbabwe, the UK, New Zealand, Singapore, and – yes – the United States. And I’ve come up with a list. It’s not a comprehensive one. I don’t have that sort of time, and I wouldn’t want it to be. A comprehensive list would be so eye-rollingly long the reader would have no idea where to start. And any such claim to completeness would be immediately debunked. I’m not aiming for perfection or quantity.

Also note that none of these are my nominations (yet). I will add my own to the list over the next few weeks as I get my reading done. I have two I’d like to include from my reading as Aurealis judge, though unfortunately I cannot divulge those until the awards are announced.

All these caveats aside, I present to you a flawed and partial list of stories that entirely reasonable humans from all across the world have recommended. Which is about as good as it gets…

(3) EX NIHILIS. Popular Science explains “Zero is just 1,500 years old. Before it, there was nothing.”

Accounting is an ancient profession. Sumer, the earliest known Mesopotamian civilization, had a positional numbering system, so there was no need for placeholders. A subsequent empire, Babylon, had different demands, so its number-crunching class used two empty wedges to represent a sum like 507. Across the world, the Mayan civilization came up with its own solution to a similar problem, placing a shell where modern mathematicians might place a 0. Some experts argue these wedges are ground zero, to borrow a phrase, but most academics attribute the invention of zero as a number—not as a warm body but a symbol in its own right, one that can be used in equations—to India.

(4) GENTLEMEN, BE SEATED. Now that Camestros Felapton has excused himself from the Hugo race, he knows it’s safe to resume writing hilarious stuff like “Other Revised Canon Aspects of Poo”, which would have increased his risks of winning one. Where are we going with this? Well, here’s the premise, with his second example

The other day J.K.Rowling’s Pottermore revealed that Hogwarts was originally built without toilets because wizards just pooped anyway and then magicked it away. Below are other poo related details about other franchises that you might not know….

Star Wars: there are no bathrooms in Star Wars but there are small toilet robots who follow you around waiting for you to do your business and clean it up. That’s what those little boxy droids are.

(5) EINSTEIN OBIT. The actor known as Super Dave Osborne died January 2. Mark Evanier paid tribute in “Bob Einstein, R.I.P.”

[His work included a] long run as the self-immolating daredevil Super Dave Osborne. You never knew what daring feat Super Dave would attempt; only that at the end of it, he would meet some fate previously met by Wile E. Coyote.

GIMBEL OBIT. Lyricist Norman Gimbel died December 19. His Washington Post obit, “Norman Gimbel, Oscar-winning lyricist of ‘Happy Days’ theme and ‘Girl From Ipanema,’ dies at 91”, notes that “The Girl from Ipanema” was written for a science fiction musical in Brazil, to answer the musical question “Why is an alien hanging around in Brazil?” Gimbel also wrote the lyrics for the 1970s Wonder Woman theme.  

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 5, 1950The Flying Saucer opened in theaters.
  • January 5, 1951Two Lost Worlds premiered…with dinosaurs in Australia.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Best known for his role as the title role in The Adventures of Superman and several associated films. I remember the show fondly from much later syndication and thought that both the acting and stories were well done. He also played the lead role in The Adventures of Sir Galahad and was Mike Patton in The Jungle Goddess. He was in a fair number of series as well but I can’t determine if any of them were genre.  (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1929Russ Manning. An artist  who created and drew the Gold Key comic book character Magnus: Robot Fighter; who drew the Tarzan comic book from 1965 – 1969 and the Tarzan newspaper comic strip from 1967 – 1972; and the Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979 – 1980. (Credit to Bill here at File 770 for this Birthday.) (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 5, 1941 Hayao Miyazaki, 78. A masterful storyteller who chose animation as his medium. He co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985 and has directed some of the best loved films of all time. His films include the Oscar winning film Spirited Away, My Neighbor Tortoro, and adapting the classic novel Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones for the big screen. (Thanks to Matt Russell for this Birthday.)
  • Born January 5, 1959Clancy Brown, 60. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive to list here, but I’ll single out his work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of favorite weird series, Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1978 January Jones, 41. Emma Frost In X-Men: First Class is her only film role to dates but earlier when searching the net I did find her in The Last Man on Earth which is, and I quote, “an American post-apocalyptic comedy television series.”  Anyone seen this? 
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 41. Ahhhh one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novels but they didn’t tickle my fancy. I’ve not read her Mira Grant work so do advise on how it is. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) BORG LICENSE REVOKED. A Canadian Star Trek fan is going to court after the government insurance company revoked his “ASIMIL8” license plate, that he got because he likes the Borg, and had a frame that added the tag “Resistance is Futile.” The term was considered insulting to First Nations people, who have often been asked to assimilate to settler culture. The Edmonton Journal has the story — “’Obviously inappropriate:’ Insurer says ASIMIL8 plate shouldn’t have been issued”.

In a recently filed legal brief, Troller explained that he drove around with the plate for nearly two years and no one complained. He renewed it with MPI in 2016 without issue.

An Ontario woman posted a photo of the licence plate on Facebook on April 22, 2017. Court filings show a transcript of a call she made to MPI in which she said the plate was offensive because of the history of government assimilation policies.

Not all plate requests go sailing through:

The documents include a 47-page list of licence plates that were denied by MPI. They include BITE ME, VINO, MMMBEER, SKODEN, HYZNBRG, HOLYCOW, PWALKER and 50 GREY.

A man in Nova Scotia has also gone to court over a personalized licence plate. Lorne Grabher has been trying to reinstate his “GRABHER” plate since it was revoked in 2016 by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles following an anonymous complaint.

(10) DOWNWIND FROM HOLLYWOOD. Just became aware of this fine blog entry published last year by Kip W: “Classical Gas”. Examples at the link.

The Disney corporation, ever sensitive to the winds of change, and (since at least the 1950s) ever willing to recut their old products up for present-day sensibilities, determined to get out on the cutting edge of kid appeal by folding flatulence humor into their classic releases. Leaked memo from 2008 reveals some of the specific ideas explored…

(11) IT’S A STING. Jalopnik: “You Can Buy All Four Bumblebee Camaros From Transformers, but They’re Not Street Legal”.

Perhaps you’ve seen a Transformers movie, or two, or six, in the past 11 years. (Google says there are six now.) Perhaps you’ve liked them, even, to the point that you’ve dreamed of one day owning the sporty, automatic stunt cars that turn into robots on the big screen. Now’s your chance to own four.

There’s one big catch, though: All four of the vehicles will come with a scrap title and none of them will be street legal. There go your carpool plans for the next Transformers movie premiere. Darn.

Barrett-Jackson is auctioning off four Transformers movie cars as a package deal in Scottsdale, Arizona later this month—all four of them black-and-yellow Chevrolet Camaros representing the robot character Bumblebee, who (which?) recently starred in an unnecessarily sexy movie of his (its?) namesake. Money from the Camaros’ auction will go to charity, and the person who wins will get a 2010 model from the first and second movies, a 2010 model from the third movie, a 2013 model from the fourth movie and a 2016 one from the fifth movie

(12) IS THIS WHAT SCIENCE IS FOR? Here’s another thing that’s coming – “Buttered Popcorn Oreos Are in the Works, and TBH, I Don’t Know What to Feel”.

We’re less than a week into the new year, and we already have a handful of new Oreo flavors to fuel us through 2019. As if the news of flavors like Carrot Cake and Dark Chocolate haven’t been enough to pique your interest, perhaps the rumors of Oreo’s latest out-of-the-box offering, Buttered Popcorn, will do the trick.

(13) HOW’S THEIR SFF SECTION? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The National Geographic website seems pretty certain that, “This is the world’s most beautiful bookstore.” Given that it was converted from a rather splendid theater, the Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore certainly had a leg up in achieving that appellation.

On a bustling commercial street in the fashionable Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos AiresArgentina, you can visit a serene temple of books. The lighting is soft, with accents that showcase the best in early 20th-century craftsmanship. Conversations are hushed, as if in a grand library, yet the space is so warm and welcoming that the raised café at the back of the cavernous room is filled with patrons reading and sipping cappuccinos and chocolate submarinos.

You’ve entered the Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore, which blogs and guidebooks often dub “the world’s most beautiful bookstore.” They may not be wrong. The sprawling shop is housed in a beautifully preserved antique theater. Only instead of tango dancers and singers, the stars are now the printed word.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Onion knows many claim success using other ways — but this really works: “Increase Your Cognitive Ability By Reading A Fucking Book For Once”.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Joel Zakem, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

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!)

Wandering Through the Public Domain #3

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

By Colleen McMahon: Fans of the public domain have been looking forward to 2019 for a very long time — 20 years to be exact! This is because on January 1, 2019, new works will enter the public domain in the United States for the first time since 1998. In this edition of “Wandering Through the Public Domain,” I want to take a brief look at how the “public domain freeze” happened.

In 1998, the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) was passed by Congress. For copyrights owned by an individual, the term was extended to life of the creator plus 70 years. For copyrights owned by corporations, the term was extended to 95 years from publication or first use.

The previous update to copyright law in 1976 had done away with the need to renew copyrights for 28-year terms. The 1976 law set the term for individual copyright at life plus 50 years, or 75 years for corporate copyrights, and the implications of this latter term is what set the stage for the 1998 changes.

Under the 1976 law, Disney faced the possibility of Mickey Mouse moving into the public domain in 2003, 75 years after the release of the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Steamboat Willie.” Beginning in the early 1990s, Disney heavily lobbied Congress to lengthen the copyright term, joined by other large corporations like Time Warner.

Republican Congressman Sonny Bono was a vocal supporter and sponsor of copyright extension legislation in the 1990s, and his unfortunate death in a ski accident in early 1998 created additional momentum for passage of the new law. Mary Bono, the late Congressman’s widow, was appointed to finish Sonny’s term and took up the copyright cause. The CTEA was renamed “TheSonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act” and passage of the law was promoted as a way to memorialize a popular Congressman and celebrity. The law was passed by both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Clinton in October 1998.

Up until the law was passed, works had been passing into the public domain each January as the 75-year mark was reached. Under the 75-year term, works copyrighted in 1923 would have moved into the public domain on January 1, 1999, but the 20-year extension meant that the new expiration date for 1923 works moved to 2019. The public domain limit that has been frozen at 1922 for two decades will at last begin moving again in just a few weeks.

I’ve been looking at 1923 publications and have not found much in the F/SF realm as yet. The one exception so far is H.G. Wells’ Men Like Gods, a “scientific fantasy” about a utopian society in a parallel universe. There is more to come just over the horizon, as the earliest science fiction magazines began publishing in the late1920s.

In the meantime, we can still enjoy the many pre-1923 works as well as later ones where the copyright was not renewed while we look forward to a new burst of public domain access each January — at least until Congress decides to change the laws again. Mickey Mouse is back on the expiration schedule for 2023, so Disney is probably revving up their lobbying efforts even as I write this….

On to this week’s finds:

Lester Del Rey (1915-1993) is best remembered these days as an editor, particularly of the publishing imprint that still bears his name, but he was also a prolific author of science fiction in earlier years. Project Gutenberg has three Lester Del Rey novels, all of which have also been recorded through Librivox:

I’m not sure this is really science fiction, but Atom Mystery by Charles Coombs (1914-1994) is a fun kid/YA book with a trope you don’t see anymore — finding a uranium mine as a ticket to riches!

Recent Librivox releases:

The Note-Books of Samuel Butler by Samuel Butler (1851-1928) and Henry Festing Jones (1835-1902)

A collection of unpublished writings of Samuel Butler, edited after his death by Henry Festing Jones. Musings on writing, art, and philosophy, including thoughts about Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited, which are often categorized as early F/SF.

[Full disclosure: I worked on this project, recording two of the chapters!]

Mowgli: All of the Mowgli Stories from the Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling (1868-1936)

In the Jungle Books, Kipling tells 9 wonderful and exciting tales about Mowgli, the human baby raised by a pack of wolves in the jungles of India. His exploits and adventures are many and varied especially his dealing with the other animals such as his wolf mother and father and brother wolves, Baloo the wise bear who teaches him the Law of the Jungle, and in his life long battle with Shere-Kahn, the lame human-killing tiger. This edition collects all the Mowgli stories from both Jungle Book volumes and places them in chronological order.

The Castle of the Carpathians by Jules Verne (1828-1905)

The Castle stood above the quiet little town for as long as folks remembered: barren, deserted, lonely and frightening to the townsfolk. Until one day, smoke began to ascend from the dunjon. They were warned not to go near, and when intrepid souls dared to venture to uncover the mystery of the ruined castle, they learned firsthand what supernatural terrors await inside The Castle of the Carpathians.

Short Science Fiction Collection 059 by Various

20 short science fiction stories by various authors. This volume includes stories by Lester Del Rey, H.Beam Piper, Robert Silverberg, Miriam Allen DeFord, Philip K.Dick, and others.