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!)

7 thoughts on “Wandering Through the Public Domain #4

  1. By “certain Archy & Mehitabel pieces,” I merely meant those which were published originally in 1923. Otherwise, nothing specific in mind.

  2. As to Don Marquis and the “archy and mehitabel” pieces, they appeared in Marquis’s newspaper column. Unfortunately, the first collection of them in book form was “archy and mehitabel” published in 1927, so although the columns written in 1923 and earlier are in the public domain, the collection won’t be available in the public domain until 2023, if my math is correct.

    here is the first appearance of archy

    http://www.donmarquis.org/coming.htm
    in their honor, my shift key is taking a nap.

  3. I used to find a lot of SFFH, Myths & Legends, and History/Archaelogy books on Gutenberg when I had the time to browse there.
    Unless the search function there has gotten a lot better, and a quick look suggests it has not, the best way to find anything on Gutenberg is to just browse by most recent uploads.
    It’s a lot of work, but you don’t have to look at all the previous uploads at once, as it shows the dates, so you can just start where you left it off.

    There is a lot of SFFH there, including a lot of Philip K. Dick, and a lot of US Pulp Magazines. So, well worth doing the browsing for SFFH fans who wants to look at the history of the genre.

  4. @Weirdmage: The search function at Gutenberg is definitely quirky; I’ve found things at random that I then had a lot of trouble trying to find again by searching on title or author, so I suspect some things have sunk into the index, never to be seen again except by random queries or direct links from search engines.

    The “bookshelves” are also handy but I don’t think they have been kept consistently up-to-date with newer releases. So, while checking out a bookshelf for biography or science fiction or what have you may turn up some interesting reading material, it won’t show you everything that PG has in that area.

    I keep up with the recent releases by choosing the “Latest” option on the search page and checking that out about once a week or so.

    But my favorite way to browse PG when I’m at loose ends or just looking for ideas for books to read or suggest on Librivox, (or now, here), is to go to the book search page and choose “Random”. It serves up 30 random books (you have to go on to page 2 to see the last 5, I often don’t bother, so, 25) to look over. And “books” can mean full-length books, volumes of multi-volume works, issues of periodicals, books in languages other than English, and sound files (I haven’t checked too many of the sound files but I think that most of those link to electronic-voice versions of the texts rather than a Librivox recording with real people reading it). Or, more recently, an index list collecting the links to all of an author’s works on PG. So any random list of 25 (or 30) titles to look over can lead to all sorts of interesting rabbit holes to squirm down.

    Then if you hit the refresh button on your browser — 25 more, and 25 more, and 25 more …and before I know it , I’ve spent an hour browsing titles and sorting interesting future possibilities into my bookmarks files rather than actually reading.

    And that’s one way that Mt. Tsundoku grows ever higher…

    Here’s a link to the search page that has the Latest and Random buttons.

  5. The listing for “Terry Gene Carr” threw me at first, because I don’t recall him ever using his middle name in his bylines. In fact, I don’t recall ever knowing he had a middle name.

  6. @Jerry Kaufman The PG page doesn’t include a photo of the cover, but it does have the title page, which indeed only lists his name as “Terry Carr”. But I default to the name as listed in the PG and Librivox catalogs, which includes the Gene in this case.

  7. Pingback: Wandering Through the Public Domain #5 | File 770

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