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:
- The Light Princess and Other Fairy Stories (Librivox audiobook here)
- Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women (Two different Librivox editions, here and here)
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:
- The Genetic Effects of Radiation, co-written with Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975). It was published in 1966 by the United States Atomic Energy Commission.
- Worlds Within Worlds: The Story of Nuclear Energy, Volume 1, published in 1972 by the U.S. Energy Research and Development Commission. Also, Volume 2 and Volume 3.
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 Brown Owl and The Queen Who Flew, both published as “fairy stories” for children.
- The Young Lovell, a historical novel with time-travel elements
- The Inheritors, co-written with Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), a 1901 science fictional social satire.
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.