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Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Journey in Other Worlds

by John Jacob Astor

This posting appeared on my other blog. Its purpose here is to collect all the previous Gutenberg postings here before moving on.

Snippets from the Gutenberg Collection: free downloads 2012

"The Signals from the Arctic Circle"

I have to call this a fantasy rather than science fiction. There is no recorded date of publication but it's clearly around 1900. 

What I find interesting is how much it reflects the character of its age. As the reference to a jolly good hunting trip on Jupiter indicates, it's more like a safari to Africa than to another planet: the Darkest Africa so beloved of the glory days of European colonialism and imperialism. The idea of the 'draining of the swamps' to make the land 'productive' is in the best late Victorian mercantilist tradition.

At the same time, its illustrations also indicate the influence of Darwin's The Origin of Species - or perhaps The Voyage of the Beagle even more so.

It's a fascinating snapshot of an age of romance, self-assurance, and pride in inventive science. I hope you enjoy the design of the spaceship. Clearly the concept of the bullet fired into space was the best way (the only way imaginable at the time) to escape from earth.

"A Battle Royal"

Here's the tiny excerpt:

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Until the Callisto entered the planet's atmosphere, its five moons appeared like silver shields against the black sky, but now things were looking more terrestrial, and they began to feel at home.  Bearwarden put down his note-book, and Ayrault returned a photograph to his pocket, while all three gazed at their new abode. 

Beneath them was a vast continent variegated by chains of lakes and rivers stretching away in all directions except toward the equator, where lay a placid ocean as far as their telescopes could pierce.  To the eastward were towering and massive mountains, and along the southern border of the continent smoking volcanoes, while toward the west they saw forests, gently rolling plains, and table-lands that would have satisfied a poet or set an agriculturist's heart at rest. 

"How I should like to mine those hills for copper, or drain the swamps to the south!" exclaimed Col. Bearwarden.  "The Lake Superior mines and the reclamation of the Florida Everglades would be nothing to this."

"Any inhabitants we may find here have so much land at their disposal that they will not need to drain swamps on account of pressure of population for some time," put in the doctor.

"The Combat with the Dragons"

"I hope we may find some four-legged inhabitants," said Ayrault, thinking of their explosive magazine rifles.  "If Jupiter is passing through its Jurassic or Mesozoic period, there must be any amount of some kind of game."

"The Journey Home"

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A Journey in Other Worlds by John Jacob Astor

Downloadable free in various formats from gutenberg.com

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