Imperial Incunables
More pulp ideasplosion.

jessnevins:

These courtesy of the Swiss pulps of WW2, which were effed-up by the standards of European pulps, which were WAAAAYYYYYY more effed-up than American pulps.

We’re talking about Iron Chef-levels of effed-up-edness, in which the writer of the story is dosed with LSD, then giving X by the editor, then drinks a quart of Jack Daniels, and then smokes a pound of Thai stick before writing the story.

  • Hardboiled private eyes meeting angels
  • Mad Scientists finding the graves of ancient astronauts on the moon
  • A procession of dancing dwarf skeletons preceding the arrival of the bad guy
  • Issues narrated the Sphinx—yes, issues plural & the Sphinx, not a sphinx
  • A snake-man as an ally of the private eye
  • Femme fatale nuns
  • An island where the former Greek and Norse gods are hanging out
  • The detective dying and coming back to life because of God’s direct intervention
  • Demonic possession
  • And, yes, metafiction, with the reader being arrested for killing the murder victim.

Brilliant - I almost don’t want to read them, as the reality would be disappointing. Unless it is awesome, I suppose.

jessnevins:

Sir Ralf Clifford - der unsichtbare Mensch oder Das geheimnisvolle Vermachtnis des Fakirs #1-192 (1921-1925) was a German heftroman (hero-novel, the German equivalent of the pulp) about…well, here’s what I’ve got in Pulp Heroes about him:

 Ralf Clifford, an American, had studied under a fakir in India and, when the fakir was dying, received from him the mummified head of a cobra. When Clifford presses the cobra head against his breast, he is injected with a poisonous fluid which scars him but also leaves him invisible for seven minutes. If Clifford should be dosed 217 times, he will die. (Fortunately, the series was cancelled before the 217th dose was applied). Clifford uses the mummified cobra head to fight for good. Clifford’s arch-enemy is Pitt Potter, a notorious murderer who is continually trying to steal the secret of invisibility from Clifford. Clifford’s adventures are on the fantastic side; he takes on secret cults, vampires, subterranean masterminds, werewolves, living Buddhas, the evil Jesuit, the Black Priest of Notre Dame, the vampire, the “Bride of the Catacombs,” Yellow Peril Mandarins in the Forbidden City of Peking, the “werewolf of Amsterdam,” Communist nihilist [sic] terrorists, a cursed Pharaonic mirror, “the Wandering Jew of London,” “the Amazon of Hyde Park,” and an evil Ent-like “living tree.”

In Sir Ralf Clifford # 137, “Der Echte Piranesi,” Clifford encounters an Italian jailer who has created the real version of Piranesi’s Carceri (example at top).

This sounds great - I previously reblogged something by Jess Nevins on this character, but utterly failed to find any of this online. Anyone know where one could find this?

Too much to hope for, that this was recorded and saved.

jessnevins:

From the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, 2 November 1937:

Thrill—The inside story of zombies, Haiti’s “living dead,” will be dramatized as Charles Martin’s “thrill of the week” on the program over NBC-WSMB at 7 p.m. And the first zombie ever to broadcast, Juano Robez, will be presented at the microphone.

I’m preparing a number of pieces on the ethnography and mythology of zombies and their ilk, so this would be well worth finding. As Baron Samedi is my witness, if this still exists I will find it.

I’m still trying to track down some old newsreel footage of a, possibly Dahomey, ceremony where they apparently bring a dead man back to life. So this other footage can go on my “to find” list.

jessnevins:

From the Sunday Morning Star of Wilmington, Delaware, 14 December 1947.

jessnevins:

From the Sunday Morning Star of Wilmington, Delaware, 14 December 1947.

Jess Nevins’ latest piece at io9 looks at the badass women of pulp, how can you resist?
As always there are some great examples that make you wish you could read them (even though you secretly suspect they’d be disappointing) but one I wanted to flag up is Hans Heinz Ewers' Alraune. His links with the Nazi party during the 1930s have meant that his books have been overlooked by a modern audience, but he did fall afoul of them which might redeem him slightly and his fiction, written long before this period, still stand up today. The greatest of these is Alraune, a very strange story of a more occult Frankenstein:

1911: Hans Heinz Ewers (1871-1943) was a German actor and writer who is  best known now for his horror fiction and his association with the Nazi  party. His most famous creation was the Nietzschean übermensch Frank  Braun, but Ewers also created the femme fatale Alraune, who appeared in Alraune: Die Geschichte eines lebenden Wesens (1911), and then later in films, starting with Alraune, die Henkerstochter (1918). In medieval German myth the semen of hanged men, collected from  the dirt beneath their bodies, would produce the Mandrake root, which  had various magical properties. In Ewers’ novel the mad scientist Dr.  Ten Brinken scrapes the ground beneath a freshly hanged man and uses the  semen gathered thereby to impregnate a prostitute. The prostitute gives  birth to a daughter, Alraune, who grows up to be “uncannily beautiful.”  However, when Alraune discovers her origin she turns to evil and  becomes a heartless, depraved, “somnambulant vamp” who uses her occult  and possibly vampiric powers of seduction on everyone, including her  father. She becomes Frank Braun’s lover and dies accidentally.

Luckily, Joe Bandel has been translating Ewers’ work and Alraune is available as an eBook from Amazon.co.uk and .com, as well as Lulu.com and Smashwords. He has a blog for the translation with excerpts, so you can get a taster.

Jess Nevins’ latest piece at io9 looks at the badass women of pulp, how can you resist?

As always there are some great examples that make you wish you could read them (even though you secretly suspect they’d be disappointing) but one I wanted to flag up is Hans Heinz Ewers' Alraune. His links with the Nazi party during the 1930s have meant that his books have been overlooked by a modern audience, but he did fall afoul of them which might redeem him slightly and his fiction, written long before this period, still stand up today. The greatest of these is Alraune, a very strange story of a more occult Frankenstein:

1911: Hans Heinz Ewers (1871-1943) was a German actor and writer who is best known now for his horror fiction and his association with the Nazi party. His most famous creation was the Nietzschean übermensch Frank Braun, but Ewers also created the femme fatale Alraune, who appeared in Alraune: Die Geschichte eines lebenden Wesens (1911), and then later in films, starting with Alraune, die Henkerstochter (1918). In medieval German myth the semen of hanged men, collected from the dirt beneath their bodies, would produce the Mandrake root, which had various magical properties. In Ewers’ novel the mad scientist Dr. Ten Brinken scrapes the ground beneath a freshly hanged man and uses the semen gathered thereby to impregnate a prostitute. The prostitute gives birth to a daughter, Alraune, who grows up to be “uncannily beautiful.” However, when Alraune discovers her origin she turns to evil and becomes a heartless, depraved, “somnambulant vamp” who uses her occult and possibly vampiric powers of seduction on everyone, including her father. She becomes Frank Braun’s lover and dies accidentally.

Luckily, Joe Bandel has been translating Ewers’ work and Alraune is available as an eBook from Amazon.co.uk and .com, as well as Lulu.com and Smashwords. He has a blog for the translation with excerpts, so you can get a taster.

Sci-Fi History: Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas

technoccult:

Technovelgy has an impressive timeline listing the introduction of various concepts in science fiction. Here’s a taste:

1634 Weightlessness (Kepler) (from Somnium (The Dream) by Johannes Kepler)
1638 Weightlessness (Godwin) - first discovery of concept (from The Man in the Moone by Francis Godwin)
1657 Moon Machine - very early description (from A Voyage to the Moon by Cyrano de Bergerac)
1726 Bio-Energy - produce electricity from organic material (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)
1726 Laputa - a floating island (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)
1726 Knowledge Engine - machine-made expertise (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)
1726 Geometric Modeling - eighteenth century NURBS (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)
1828 Stage Balloon (from The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century by Henry Loudon)
1828 Steam-Propelled Moving Houses (from The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century by Henry Loudon)
1828 Barrels of Air (from The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century by Henry Loudon)
1828 Mail-Post Letter-Ball (from The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century by Henry Loudon)
1866 Paper Steel (from Robur-the-Conqueror by Jules Verne)

Technovelgy: Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas

(via Boing Boing)

See also: Map of the History of Fantasy and Science Fiction, From Gilgamesh to Battlestar Gallactica

Amazing how many of these concepts go back to Jules Verne.

News emerges of a book casting Area 51 in a very different light:

The so-called Roswell Incident of 1947 spawned conspiracy theories by the    score.
But now, sadly for UFO spotters, a new book offers an entirely man-made – and some would say even    more bizarre – explanation, featuring two of the greatest villains of 20th    century history: the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and the infamous Nazi    “Angel of Death” Dr Joseph Mengele.
…
Area 51, the new book by Annie Jacobsen, is based on interviews with    scientists and engineers who worked in Area 51, the top secret test base in    the Nevada desert.
It dismisses the alien story and puts forward the theory that Stalin was    inspired by Orson Wells’s famous radio adaptation of the HG Wells novel War    of the Worlds, which provoked hysteria across America when broadcast in    1938. According to the book, the plot started after the Soviet Union seized    from Germany at the end of the war the jet-propelled, single wing Horton Ho    229 – a fighter said to be the forerunner of the modern B2 stealth bomber.
This is where Mengele enters the story. The Nazi doctor, who experimented on    prisoners in Auschwitz and fled to South America after the war, was    supposedly enlisted to create a crew of “grotesque, child-size aviators” in    return for a eugenics laboratory.
The book says that the plane was filled with “alien-like” children, aged 12 or    13, who Stalin wanted to land in America and cause hysteria similar to the    1938 broadcast. But, the plane, remotely piloted by another aircraft,    crashed and the Americans hushed up the incident.
Jacobsen’s source, a retired engineer from the former defence company EG&G,    which handled the US government’s most sensitive projects, said he was put    on to the Roswell project in Area 51 in 1978.

Source (via)
This made me sit up and pay attention because it has some resonance with the research I’d been doing into the Philadelphia Project. There is no evidence this ever took place but at the time this was said to have been taking place at the Philadelphia Naval Yard it was also where Robert Heinlein and other science fiction authors were working. He had been given a free hand to recruit his team (effectively bringing the Manana Literary Society together on the east coast) and they had been tasked with coming up with wild ideas that might help win the war. Could it be the concept they came up with wasn’t for advanced technology, but for an idea so big and plausible the enemy thought it was real - the Philadelphia Experiment was what they came up with, but too late as the war ended before they could deploy it. However, decades later Heinlein would be associated with another “Big Con” - the Star Wars Project that helped bring the world back from the brink of nuclear Armageddon despite being a big idea, with some impressively expensive set dressing.
What hadn’t occurred to me is that the Russians might have come up with a similar idea, one that the Golden Age of Science Fiction (ironically led by Heinlein, along with Asimov and Clarke) had prepared the ground for. I had read suggestions before that the Modern Dawn of UFOs was created by science fiction authors in a bid to help bring the world back from the brink of war, with the “aliens” messages of concern about a possible atomic apocalypse helping convince people of the seriousness of the situation. The Soviets would also have a similar incentive to push for this - after all the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki wasn’t the last move of WWII, it was the first move of the Cold War, a shot across Russia’s bows to let them know that their enemy for the next few decades would take any necessary steps. It would also explain why the US intelligence agencies were so interested in Ufology and infiltrated and monitored what most people thought were pretty harmless groups of, at worst, cranks and kooks.
So this is well worth further examination.
Unfortunately, there are problems with this book. We know what Mengele did after the war, for example. Also the author has been caught talking rubbish before, which makes her rather unreliable. A New York Times review is actually quite complimentary about the bulk of the book but seems less impressed with the critical part:

Although this connect-the-dots U.F.O. thesis is only a hasty-sounding  addendum to an otherwise straightforward investigative book about  aviation and military history, it makes an indelible impression. “Area  51” is liable to become best known for sci-fi provocation.

The whole Roswell story is fishy from the rapidly retracted initial announcement of a saucer crash to its emergence from years of obscurity thanks to Charles Berlitz and William Moore, a team that split up because Berlitz wasn’t beyond letting the truth spoil a good story  (Moore is hardly a reliable figure himself, he would later make a career out of  spreading disinformation on UFOs for airforce intelligence). This might be a new useful angle to investigate, even if the details seem to unravel rather quickly on examination, and one to keep an eye on over the next few years.
Oh and if it sounds a bit like science fiction then… well here is a review of Adam Robert’s Yellow Blue Tibia:

It’s 1945. Stalin calls together a group of science fiction writers and orders them to produce a scenario of alien invasion; he perceives the American threat to be on the wane, and the Soviet state needs an enemy against which to rally. No sooner have the writers developed a scenario than Stalin demands they forget the idea on pain of death.

News emerges of a book casting Area 51 in a very different light:

The so-called Roswell Incident of 1947 spawned conspiracy theories by the score.

But now, sadly for UFO spotters, a new book offers an entirely man-made – and some would say even more bizarre – explanation, featuring two of the greatest villains of 20th century history: the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and the infamous Nazi “Angel of Death” Dr Joseph Mengele.

Area 51, the new book by Annie Jacobsen, is based on interviews with scientists and engineers who worked in Area 51, the top secret test base in the Nevada desert.

It dismisses the alien story and puts forward the theory that Stalin was inspired by Orson Wells’s famous radio adaptation of the HG Wells novel War of the Worlds, which provoked hysteria across America when broadcast in 1938. According to the book, the plot started after the Soviet Union seized from Germany at the end of the war the jet-propelled, single wing Horton Ho 229 – a fighter said to be the forerunner of the modern B2 stealth bomber.

This is where Mengele enters the story. The Nazi doctor, who experimented on prisoners in Auschwitz and fled to South America after the war, was supposedly enlisted to create a crew of “grotesque, child-size aviators” in return for a eugenics laboratory.

The book says that the plane was filled with “alien-like” children, aged 12 or 13, who Stalin wanted to land in America and cause hysteria similar to the 1938 broadcast. But, the plane, remotely piloted by another aircraft, crashed and the Americans hushed up the incident.

Jacobsen’s source, a retired engineer from the former defence company EG&G, which handled the US government’s most sensitive projects, said he was put on to the Roswell project in Area 51 in 1978.

Source (via)

This made me sit up and pay attention because it has some resonance with the research I’d been doing into the Philadelphia Project. There is no evidence this ever took place but at the time this was said to have been taking place at the Philadelphia Naval Yard it was also where Robert Heinlein and other science fiction authors were working. He had been given a free hand to recruit his team (effectively bringing the Manana Literary Society together on the east coast) and they had been tasked with coming up with wild ideas that might help win the war. Could it be the concept they came up with wasn’t for advanced technology, but for an idea so big and plausible the enemy thought it was real - the Philadelphia Experiment was what they came up with, but too late as the war ended before they could deploy it. However, decades later Heinlein would be associated with another “Big Con” - the Star Wars Project that helped bring the world back from the brink of nuclear Armageddon despite being a big idea, with some impressively expensive set dressing.

What hadn’t occurred to me is that the Russians might have come up with a similar idea, one that the Golden Age of Science Fiction (ironically led by Heinlein, along with Asimov and Clarke) had prepared the ground for. I had read suggestions before that the Modern Dawn of UFOs was created by science fiction authors in a bid to help bring the world back from the brink of war, with the “aliens” messages of concern about a possible atomic apocalypse helping convince people of the seriousness of the situation. The Soviets would also have a similar incentive to push for this - after all the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki wasn’t the last move of WWII, it was the first move of the Cold War, a shot across Russia’s bows to let them know that their enemy for the next few decades would take any necessary steps. It would also explain why the US intelligence agencies were so interested in Ufology and infiltrated and monitored what most people thought were pretty harmless groups of, at worst, cranks and kooks.

So this is well worth further examination.

Unfortunately, there are problems with this book. We know what Mengele did after the war, for example. Also the author has been caught talking rubbish before, which makes her rather unreliable. A New York Times review is actually quite complimentary about the bulk of the book but seems less impressed with the critical part:

Although this connect-the-dots U.F.O. thesis is only a hasty-sounding addendum to an otherwise straightforward investigative book about aviation and military history, it makes an indelible impression. “Area 51” is liable to become best known for sci-fi provocation.

The whole Roswell story is fishy from the rapidly retracted initial announcement of a saucer crash to its emergence from years of obscurity thanks to Charles Berlitz and William Moore, a team that split up because Berlitz wasn’t beyond letting the truth spoil a good story (Moore is hardly a reliable figure himself, he would later make a career out of spreading disinformation on UFOs for airforce intelligence). This might be a new useful angle to investigate, even if the details seem to unravel rather quickly on examination, and one to keep an eye on over the next few years.

Oh and if it sounds a bit like science fiction then… well here is a review of Adam Robert’s Yellow Blue Tibia:

It’s 1945. Stalin calls together a group of science fiction writers and orders them to produce a scenario of alien invasion; he perceives the American threat to be on the wane, and the Soviet state needs an enemy against which to rally. No sooner have the writers developed a scenario than Stalin demands they forget the idea on pain of death.

Jess Nevins looks at Dr Livingstone, his strange disappearances and the weird stories it generated:

So from 1866 to 1871 Great Britain, newly hungry for information thanks to the advent of the telegraph network and the development of modern journalism, had next to no word about Livingstone’s whereabouts or fate. Inevitably, rumors began to spread about what had happened to him.

Rumors and the Media

What wasn’t so inevitable about the rumors is the increasingly sensational tone that they took. In January, 1866, the rumor in London was that Livingstone had expired of an unnamed disease. By April, 1867, British newspapers were printing reports (from supposedly reliable sources) that he had been murdered by a “Mafite savage.” (The Mafites were thought to be an unusually violent sub-group of the Zulus; decades later, they were described as a “cult”).

In May, 1867, the British newspapers printed a long, detailed account of Livingstone’s death in battle. His party had been attacked by Zulus, and he died fighting, a revolver in hand, having killed three Zulus by himself. In November, 1869, the newspapers were reporting that Livingstone was held prisoner by a “native king,” though the newspapers do not say why. And in February, 1870, the newspapers report that Livingstone has been “burned as a wizard” by a native tribe whose king died of mysterious circumstances soon after Livingstone met him.

By the beginning of 1871 curiosity about Livingstone’s true fate was reaching new heights, both in Great Britain and in the United States, and James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the editor of the New York Herald, saw the potential for a story which would sell great numbers of papers. So Bennett sent Henry Stanley, who at the time was working for the Herald as an overseas correspondent, to Africa to find Livingstone, and advertised the fact of Stanley’s expedition enough to whip audience interest to its utmost.

Stanley found Livingstone in October, 1871, stayed with him for five months, and left in March, 1872, carrying with him Livingstone’s journals.

Stanley was not forthcoming with details-he was saving those for his book, How I Found Livingstone which was published later in 1872. One detail he did mention: that among Livingstone’s letters was an account of the discovery of an underground city. Livingstone had claimed this once before. In a letter published late in 1869, Livingstone referred to “Rua,” in what is now Mozambique:

tribes live in underground houses in Rua. Some excavations are said to be thirty miles long, and have running rills in them-a whole district can stand a siege in them. The ’ writings’ therein, I have been told by some of the people, are drawings of animals, and not letters, otherwise I should have gone to see them. People very dark, well made, and outer angle of eyes slanting inwards.

And:

there is a large tribe of Troglodytes in Rua, with excavations thirty miles in length, and a running rill passing along the entire street. They ascribe these rock-dwellings to the hand of the Deity. The writings in them are drawings of animals; if they had been letters, I must have gone to see them. People very black, strong, and outer angles of eyes upwards.

This letter attracted a lot of attention in the United States, and the 1872 mention of an underground city, arriving not long after the publication of Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race, excited the imagination of many writers.

Which is as much explanation as any for the following article, which appeared in the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune on June 15, 1872:

An Awful Prospect

It seems we are to have some wonderful revelations from the long-lost African traveler, Dr. Livingstone, who has at last been discovered, far in the interior of Africa, by the enterprising correspondent of the New York Herald. There is a report, for example, that the dispatches he has sent by the correspondent contain, among other strange things, an account of the discovery, somewhere in the African continent, of a giant underground city, inhabited by an extraordinary people, whose ways are not as our ways.

The ancients also told of the underground cities in Africa, of which we now hear again, and they related many marvelous things of the inhabitants and their way of life.

Now, what if Dr. LIVINGSTONE should actually furnish proof of the verity of these strange African stories which have been current in what we call the civilized world for the last two or three thousand years, and which, though often derided or laughed at, have turned up again and again through the ages, and have been repeated by travelers who attempted to penetrate the African mystery? What if the subterranean city which Dr. LIVINGSTONE is said to have discovered, should stretch far into the bowels of the earth, like the city described in that curious volume entitled “The Coming Race”? What if the inhabitants of the vast city should be fashioned like the Troglodytes, or like the Anthropophagi, whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders; or should be of gigantic stature with one eye in the middle of the head, or in the back of the head; or should have wings like the singular creatures described in “The Coming Race”?

We must be prepared for wonders. We can not tell of what kind they may be; but perhaps they will be such as the imagination could not possibly conceive.

No man who has ever penetrated the heart of Africa has come back to tell us what he saw, unless we believe the ancient and medieval stories to which we have referred. Is not this fact calculated to strike us with mysterious awe when we hear that Dr. LIVINGSTONE is still alive, and is the possessor of extraordinary news for mankind?

Perhaps for the last ten years he has been held prisoner by the monstrous creatures who inhabit the vast underground city of Africa. Perhaps he has a tale to tell like that of the Brobdignagians and the Lilliputians. Perhaps he has one vastly more surprising. Who knows? Perhaps our earthquakes and volcanoes are but the result of the antics or struggles or these monsters. Perhaps the “central fires” of which we hear so much are but the fires by which they warm themselves or cook their tremendous victuals.

Dr. LIVINGSTONE may have been compelled to tell them all about the little beings called men who swarm on the surface of this world. He may have had to tell them about the little houses we build on the earth, the little ships we sail on the seas, the little wars in which we kill each other, the little newspapers we print and read, and all such things. We can imagine their tremendous laughter as they listen to the queer tales of the little man about his fellow man.

There is one dreadful thought comes to our mind as we consider this subject. What if these monstrous creatures should take it into their heads after hearing LIVINGSTONE’S stories, to stalk forth from their vast subterranean city for the purpose of observing the curious things that exist on the surface of the earth? We can imagine them striding round from place to place, and striking mankind dumb with fear. If we brought our guns and cannon to bear on them, they would merely smile at the puny shots. If we stuck our swords and bayonets into them, they would not know what had happened. If we attempted to blow them up with nitro-glycerine, they would sneer at the attempt. If we called out the regular army and militia, they would trample them under their foot. This leads us to the opinion that, if they make their appearance, they will come well armed. What horrid weapons they may wield, we can’t imagine; but probably they will be such as to enable them to annihilate several thousand little men at every blow.

The prospect grows alarming. Who cares about GRANT or GREELEY in the presence of such perils? We may yet rue the day on which LIVINGSTONE set his foot on Africa, and blast the hour in which he entered the mysterious subterranean city.

Wow. Could you imagine reading that in the newspaper of the time? A time when the readership was less jaded and cynical than we are today. Of course, it is reports like this that eventually wore us down to our current state.

jessnevins:

From the Straits Times of Singapore, 29 March 1952.
Now why hasn’t anyone made more of this? American geeks endlessly wank about the panic caused by Orson Welles’ 1938 radio version of War of the Worlds. This one is much cooler than that.

jessnevins:

From the Straits Times of Singapore, 29 March 1952.

Now why hasn’t anyone made more of this? American geeks endlessly wank about the panic caused by Orson Welles’ 1938 radio version of War of the Worlds. This one is much cooler than that.

jessnevins:

I can not believe I didn’t catch this. Peter Goodrich, summarizing Robert Plank’s The Emotional Significance of Imaginary Beings:

His analysis also stresses that The Tempest contains a romance motif frequently associated with the mad scientist of contemporary popular culture: namely, his…