Imperial Incunables
I’ve been having fun re-reading The Complete Nemesis the Warlock, Volume 1 and was interested to see a number of references to early science fiction/speculative fiction crop up in there, so I thought I might as well drop in some examples. The appearance of such details should be no great surprise as the writer, Pat Mills, is known for his meticulous research and this is no different.
They occur in “Book Four: The Gothic Empire”, which, according to the introduction, was the first part Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill worked on, before re-winding to start the story with Nemesis’ earlier adventures so they could build up to this story. The Gothic Empire involves an alien race so heavily influenced by early radio broadcasts from Earth that their civilisation is now a Neo-Victorian wonderland, which has a similar feel to the one shown in The Diamond Age, in that they use advanced technology to mimic or enhance a Victoria aesthetic (so they have anti-gravity Hansom cabs). The story is scattered with the kind of winks to period literature that readers enjoy in Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (OK with some help from a Nottingham writer called Alan Moore) all rendered in his wonderfully ornate style. Here is one of those stunning pages:

However, the examples we’ll see here don’t come from Mr O’Neill’s run, as he left the story after a handful of instalments. Luckily, he had a suitable replacement - Bryan Talbot. Talbot had already being deploying a similar aesthetic in his Luther Arkwright stories (and, more recently went fully steampunk in Grandeville), which seemed to draw on Michael Moorcock’s A Nomad of the Time Streams stories about Oswald Bastable (according to Talbot “The Oswald Bastable books, steampunk well before the genre definition, were a huge influence on me”), books that I’d imagine were an influence on The Gothic Empire too. See, for example, this panel where the lead character invokes the kind of alternate timeline Bastable’s adventures were set in:

Unfortunately, Moorcock incurred The Wrath of Mills for his letter to The Guardian slagging off 2000 AD - Mills was the creator of the title and its first editor, in addition he is a man you don’t cross (for the full story see here). Mills would later poked fun at Moorcock with a Olric character in Nemesis, and oddly the story also reminds me of Moorcock’s “The Stone Thing”, which is itself self-parody of his own work - perhaps Mike beat Pat to the punch, then. You are welcome to ask him, I won’t be.

Anyway, onwards.The image at the start of this post was the one that first caught my eye, as I’d only recently posted on Frank Reade Jr.’s tanks, specifically this one:

Which itself drew on The Steam Man of the Prairies (image source):


Later everyone climbs aboard the Star Tower, a structure that seems to combine a space elevator with Verne’s space gun in From The Earth to the Moon:

This then whisks them up to the “Brick Moon”, clearly drawing on Edward Everett Hale's The Brick Moon (1869), which rather beat Arthur C. Clarke to the punch in showing an artificial satellite:
They even manage to double up their references with a touch of Poe followed by more than a hint of Mary Shelley:

There are lots of other bits of history mentioned from PT Barnum to Thomas Edison, plus some scenes that could be based on classic images from the time or are so well done as to make you think they are, like this singalong:

There is also a premonition of the death of the queen, which recalls the London Illustrated News at the time of Queen Victoria’s death (although I’ve yet to find and exact match):

Coincidentally, Colin Smith has also been running a series on Nemesis  the Warlock, well worth checking out for a broader overview: a look at the… tone, a follow up on the differences with superhero comics and a look at the artistry at work.
The Gothic Empire is printed in the first volume of the Complete Nemesis the Warlock and the entire book is a classic from cover to cover, well worth a read. You can get it from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (the UK printing is getting a little scarce, but the US print, through Simon and Schuster, is pretty recent and should help with availability issues), if you live elsewhere in the world the Book Depository have free worldwide shipping and both the UK and US versions (to the best of my knowledge the only difference is that the covers have slightly different designs - one to watch out for if you appreciate a nice consistent set of spines on your bookshelf but hardly a dealbreaker for the rest of us).

I’ve been having fun re-reading The Complete Nemesis the Warlock, Volume 1 and was interested to see a number of references to early science fiction/speculative fiction crop up in there, so I thought I might as well drop in some examples. The appearance of such details should be no great surprise as the writer, Pat Mills, is known for his meticulous research and this is no different.

They occur in “Book Four: The Gothic Empire”, which, according to the introduction, was the first part Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill worked on, before re-winding to start the story with Nemesis’ earlier adventures so they could build up to this story. The Gothic Empire involves an alien race so heavily influenced by early radio broadcasts from Earth that their civilisation is now a Neo-Victorian wonderland, which has a similar feel to the one shown in The Diamond Age, in that they use advanced technology to mimic or enhance a Victoria aesthetic (so they have anti-gravity Hansom cabs). The story is scattered with the kind of winks to period literature that readers enjoy in Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (OK with some help from a Nottingham writer called Alan Moore) all rendered in his wonderfully ornate style. Here is one of those stunning pages:

However, the examples we’ll see here don’t come from Mr O’Neill’s run, as he left the story after a handful of instalments. Luckily, he had a suitable replacement - Bryan Talbot. Talbot had already being deploying a similar aesthetic in his Luther Arkwright stories (and, more recently went fully steampunk in Grandeville), which seemed to draw on Michael Moorcock’s A Nomad of the Time Streams stories about Oswald Bastable (according to Talbot “The Oswald Bastable books, steampunk well before the genre definition, were a huge influence on me”), books that I’d imagine were an influence on The Gothic Empire too. See, for example, this panel where the lead character invokes the kind of alternate timeline Bastable’s adventures were set in:

Unfortunately, Moorcock incurred The Wrath of Mills for his letter to The Guardian slagging off 2000 AD - Mills was the creator of the title and its first editor, in addition he is a man you don’t cross (for the full story see here). Mills would later poked fun at Moorcock with a Olric character in Nemesis, and oddly the story also reminds me of Moorcock’s “The Stone Thing”, which is itself self-parody of his own work - perhaps Mike beat Pat to the punch, then. You are welcome to ask him, I won’t be.

Anyway, onwards.

The image at the start of this post was the one that first caught my eye, as I’d only recently posted on Frank Reade Jr.’s tanks, specifically this one:

Which itself drew on The Steam Man of the Prairies (image source):

Later everyone climbs aboard the Star Tower, a structure that seems to combine a space elevator with Verne’s space gun in From The Earth to the Moon:

This then whisks them up to the “Brick Moon”, clearly drawing on Edward Everett Hale's The Brick Moon (1869), which rather beat Arthur C. Clarke to the punch in showing an artificial satellite:


They even manage to double up their references with a touch of Poe followed by more than a hint of Mary Shelley:

There are lots of other bits of history mentioned from PT Barnum to Thomas Edison, plus some scenes that could be based on classic images from the time or are so well done as to make you think they are, like this singalong:

There is also a premonition of the death of the queen, which recalls the London Illustrated News at the time of Queen Victoria’s death (although I’ve yet to find and exact match):

Coincidentally, Colin Smith has also been running a series on Nemesis the Warlock, well worth checking out for a broader overview: a look at the… tone, a follow up on the differences with superhero comics and a look at the artistry at work.

The Gothic Empire is printed in the first volume of the Complete Nemesis the Warlock and the entire book is a classic from cover to cover, well worth a read. You can get it from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (the UK printing is getting a little scarce, but the US print, through Simon and Schuster, is pretty recent and should help with availability issues), if you live elsewhere in the world the Book Depository have free worldwide shipping and both the UK and US versions (to the best of my knowledge the only difference is that the covers have slightly different designs - one to watch out for if you appreciate a nice consistent set of spines on your bookshelf but hardly a dealbreaker for the rest of us).

This originally came to my attention via Jess Nevins, who goes on to explain where this came from:

The poster to the tragically-unmade Hammer film Zeppelin v Pterodactyls.  (Ganked from Airminded,  which will be of minority interest to most of you, but of great interest to a  few).Airminded provides a link to  this plot summary:"The story was along the lines of THE LAND THAT TIME  FORGOT, with a German Zeppelin being blown off-course during a bombing raid on  London and winding up at a “lost continent”-type place."Zeppelin v  Pterodactyls would have been the Hammer version of David Allen's Raiders  of the Stone Rings, later called The Primevals.  Ah, what might have been. Of course, what we need now is the sfx  team behind Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to hire a good team of  writers and make Zeppelin v Pterodactyls.

I’d certainly be up for a story that used something like this as a springboard (so not just a “look it has Zeppelins and pterodactyls in it, type of affair you might get from the Syfy Channel”) - a Steampunk Valley of the Dinosaurs or some kind of period Hollow Earth tale and now I type that I realise I might have something in the pipeline that could set up something like this, just without the biplanes. Another one to ponder.

This originally came to my attention via Jess Nevins, who goes on to explain where this came from:

The poster to the tragically-unmade Hammer film Zeppelin v Pterodactyls.

(Ganked from Airminded, which will be of minority interest to most of you, but of great interest to a few).

Airminded provides a link to this plot summary:

"The story was along the lines of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, with a German Zeppelin being blown off-course during a bombing raid on London and winding up at a “lost continent”-type place."

Zeppelin v Pterodactyls would have been the Hammer version of David Allen's Raiders of the Stone Rings, later called The Primevals.

Ah, what might have been.

Of course, what we need now is the sfx team behind Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to hire a good team of writers and make Zeppelin v Pterodactyls.

I’d certainly be up for a story that used something like this as a springboard (so not just a “look it has Zeppelins and pterodactyls in it, type of affair you might get from the Syfy Channel”) - a Steampunk Valley of the Dinosaurs or some kind of period Hollow Earth tale and now I type that I realise I might have something in the pipeline that could set up something like this, just without the biplanes. Another one to ponder.

pandrewshaner:


1904: The pseudonymous Chinese writer “Huangjiang  Diaosou” wrote a year long serial, “Yueqiu Zhimindi Xiaoshuo” (Lunar  Colony), in the mainstream magazine Xiuxiang Xiaoshuo. “Lunar  Colony” was not the first piece of Chinese science fiction, but it has  become the best known of the early Chinese sf. In “Lunar Colony” the  Hunanese scholar Long Menghua is forced to flee Hunan after he murders a  government official who is harassing his in-laws. Long and his wife  flee the country, but along the way their ship is struck by a British  liner. Long’s wife disappears in the shipwreck, but Long is rescued by  Ōtarō Tama, a Japanese dirigible inventor, and the two team up to search  for Long’s wife. In Ōtarō’s dirigible, which is powered by electricity  and has a variety of advancd technology, Long and Ōtarō begin searching  for Long’s wife. Their search takes them across Southeast Asia, and  along the way they encounter a variety of different groups, including a  band of male and female martial artists who have vowed to bring an end  to the Qing dynasty by assassinating the leaders of the Chinese  government. After rescuing Long’s wife from bandits, Long, his wife,  Ōtarō, the martial artists, and the others Long has gathered around  himself decide that all the nations of the world are too corrupt, so the  group sets off to the moon in Ōtarō’s dirigible and establish a utopia  there.

From “Where did steampunk come from?” by Jess Nevins
This proves that steampunk doesn’t just have origins in the West :D

Might as well reblog this, I mentioned other parts of this article earlier but I love the sound of this one too. If anyone knows of an English translation be sure to let me know.

pandrewshaner:

1904: The pseudonymous Chinese writer “Huangjiang Diaosou” wrote a year long serial, “Yueqiu Zhimindi Xiaoshuo” (Lunar Colony), in the mainstream magazine Xiuxiang Xiaoshuo. “Lunar Colony” was not the first piece of Chinese science fiction, but it has become the best known of the early Chinese sf. In “Lunar Colony” the Hunanese scholar Long Menghua is forced to flee Hunan after he murders a government official who is harassing his in-laws. Long and his wife flee the country, but along the way their ship is struck by a British liner. Long’s wife disappears in the shipwreck, but Long is rescued by Ōtarō Tama, a Japanese dirigible inventor, and the two team up to search for Long’s wife. In Ōtarō’s dirigible, which is powered by electricity and has a variety of advancd technology, Long and Ōtarō begin searching for Long’s wife. Their search takes them across Southeast Asia, and along the way they encounter a variety of different groups, including a band of male and female martial artists who have vowed to bring an end to the Qing dynasty by assassinating the leaders of the Chinese government. After rescuing Long’s wife from bandits, Long, his wife, Ōtarō, the martial artists, and the others Long has gathered around himself decide that all the nations of the world are too corrupt, so the group sets off to the moon in Ōtarō’s dirigible and establish a utopia there.

From “Where did steampunk come from?” by Jess Nevins

This proves that steampunk doesn’t just have origins in the West :D

Might as well reblog this, I mentioned other parts of this article earlier but I love the sound of this one too. If anyone knows of an English translation be sure to let me know.

Jess Nevins is on a roll over on io9. He Follows his two articles about pulp (which I recently covered) with one looking at the kind of early science-fiction that could be seen as proto-Steampunk (back when Steampunk seemed like the future). As always, he looks at the classics like Verne, but then digs deeper, dealing with those cashing-in on Verne’s success, and then sprinkles all this with some lesser-known gems.
I was especially struck by this early example, which touches on a few things I’m working on (without the dwarves and flying cows):

1902: In the early pulp Argosy Park Winthrop  wrote a six-month-long serial, “The Land of the Central Sun.” Two  American couples are on a pleasure cruise to South America when their  yacht is blown off-course to Antarctica and trapped in the ice. The  couples are rescued from certain death by an enormous zeppelin, the  Meteor, which is owned by the suave and friendly Baron Montavo and  operated by a crew of telepathic and telekinetic big-headed dwarf  geniuses. Montavo takes the Americans to the center of Antarctica, where  there is a tunnel leading into the Hollow Earth. Inside the Hollow  Earth is the civilization of the telepathic dwarfs who crew the Meteor  and a variety of strange animals, including winged cows and flying  crocodiles. The dwarfs have an advanced civilization, with high  technology (including a variety of zeppelins), and Montavo advises their  king, but their oppressed under-class leads a rebellion, and the  Americans barely escape.

I’d love to read it, but like a lot of the more obscure stories from this era (especially those serialised in the early pulps but not collected in book form) they are difficult to come by, even though they are public domain, so could be made available for everyone to enjoy, and crop up in overviews of the history of genre writing - TLotCS appears in histories of hollow earth literature, pulps and early science fiction.
I am drawing up a wishlist of public domain books that I want to read which are not currently out there as free eBooks, so I’ll post that at some point in the future in the hope it stirs someone to get scanning.
Anyway, enough of that, back to Mr Nevins:

1908: Louis Boussenard, known in his lifetime as the  “French H. Rider Haggard,” wrote a serial “Les Gratteurs de Ciel” (The  Sky Scrapers) in the magazine Journal des Voyages – Aventures de Terre et de Mer. “The Sky Scrapers” is about what happens when the teenaged journalist  Dicky, known as the “king of the reporters,” discovers that foreign  (non-French) powers are building a fleets of war-zeppelins. Dicky  tangles with foreign spies and the French air fleet of super-fast atomic  powered war-zeppelins fights the enemy fleets in the skies over Paris.  Dicky aids the effort with “nuclear grenades.”
…
1928: Under the pseudonym of “Don Crosby,” pulp writer J. Allan Dunn wrote a series of six stories in the pulp Air Trails about the “young and intrepid inventor and pilot” Ace Ainsworth. In his  laboratory on the outskirts of Cosmopolis, Ainsworth creates a variety  of technologically-advanced vehicles and weapons. His two main  inventions are both air vehicles named Falcon, one a helicopter and one a  zeppelin. They are powered by “mysterious magnetic currents that flow  between the poles and are cause by the rotation of the earth,” and are  armed with “rapid-fire guns of light but efficient caliber.” Ainsworth  also carries an “electro-pistol” and while flying wears a pair of  goggles whose prisms allow him to see invisible airships. Ainsworth uses  the Falcons to fight air pirates, explore the “city of the clouds,”  fight high-tech cattle rustlers, and to loot Aztec gold in a remote city  inhabited by Lost Race Aztecs.
1931: Pulp writer David H. Keller is best known for his  series characters Cecil of Cornwall (a swords-and-sorcery character in  Dark Ages Britain) and Taine (a detective with the “San Francisco Secret  Service”). One of Taine’s enemies is the evil surgeon and Yellow Peril  Wing Loo. In “The Steam Shovel” (Amazing Stories, Sept. 1931)  Wing, having fled to Burma, hires out to a local rajah. The rajah is  having difficulties getting his slaves to work for him, and is in fact  facing a rebellion, so Wing decides to solve this problem for the rajah  by transplanting an elephant’s brain into a steam shovel. If it works,  huge numbers of artificial slaves could be created. Unfortunately, the  operation backfires. The steam shovel kills the rajah and flees into the  forest.

I have to say, I love the sound of this:


1931: Francis Van Wyck Mason is better known as a  detective and thriller writer; his most famous character was the  proto-James Bond Colonel Hugh North, who appeared in 26 novels from 1930  to 1968. Less well known is Mason’s stories for the science fiction  pulps. In 1931 he wrote a two-parter for Astounding Stories,  “Phalanxes of Atlans.” In the story two America explorers crash-land in  the Arctic. One disappears, and the other, while searching for him,  comes upon a hidden land kept warm by volcanic activity. The land has  two races: the blond and red-headed descendants of the Atlanteans, and  the Jarmuthians, who are the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel  and who are portrayed in anti-Semitic terms. Both races, who are hostile  toward each other, use the volcanic heat of the land to create steam,  which powers their technology, including steam tube-cars (which reach  300 miles per hour), steam airships, and guns which shoot compressed  steam. Both races also have a variety of dinosaurs, from Tyrannosaurus  Rex to pterodactyls, which are used as everything from beasts of burden  to war animals. Eventually the Atlanteans and the Jarmuthians fight and  the two American explorers, and the Atlantean princess who loves one,  escape on the princess’ pet pterodactyl.

And, as luck would have it, I find out I actually already own the story as I downloaded all the Astounding Stories eBooks that Manybooks has and the story is in two parts amongst those available: February and March 1931 - enjoy (Wildside Press offer a paper version, if you are so inclined). Manybooks also have some early copies of Argosy, so there is hope that someone will get around to the later issues.

Jess Nevins is on a roll over on io9. He Follows his two articles about pulp (which I recently covered) with one looking at the kind of early science-fiction that could be seen as proto-Steampunk (back when Steampunk seemed like the future). As always, he looks at the classics like Verne, but then digs deeper, dealing with those cashing-in on Verne’s success, and then sprinkles all this with some lesser-known gems.

I was especially struck by this early example, which touches on a few things I’m working on (without the dwarves and flying cows):

1902: In the early pulp Argosy Park Winthrop wrote a six-month-long serial, “The Land of the Central Sun.” Two American couples are on a pleasure cruise to South America when their yacht is blown off-course to Antarctica and trapped in the ice. The couples are rescued from certain death by an enormous zeppelin, the Meteor, which is owned by the suave and friendly Baron Montavo and operated by a crew of telepathic and telekinetic big-headed dwarf geniuses. Montavo takes the Americans to the center of Antarctica, where there is a tunnel leading into the Hollow Earth. Inside the Hollow Earth is the civilization of the telepathic dwarfs who crew the Meteor and a variety of strange animals, including winged cows and flying crocodiles. The dwarfs have an advanced civilization, with high technology (including a variety of zeppelins), and Montavo advises their king, but their oppressed under-class leads a rebellion, and the Americans barely escape.

I’d love to read it, but like a lot of the more obscure stories from this era (especially those serialised in the early pulps but not collected in book form) they are difficult to come by, even though they are public domain, so could be made available for everyone to enjoy, and crop up in overviews of the history of genre writing - TLotCS appears in histories of hollow earth literature, pulps and early science fiction.

I am drawing up a wishlist of public domain books that I want to read which are not currently out there as free eBooks, so I’ll post that at some point in the future in the hope it stirs someone to get scanning.

Anyway, enough of that, back to Mr Nevins:

1908: Louis Boussenard, known in his lifetime as the “French H. Rider Haggard,” wrote a serial “Les Gratteurs de Ciel” (The Sky Scrapers) in the magazine Journal des Voyages – Aventures de Terre et de Mer. “The Sky Scrapers” is about what happens when the teenaged journalist Dicky, known as the “king of the reporters,” discovers that foreign (non-French) powers are building a fleets of war-zeppelins. Dicky tangles with foreign spies and the French air fleet of super-fast atomic powered war-zeppelins fights the enemy fleets in the skies over Paris. Dicky aids the effort with “nuclear grenades.”

1928: Under the pseudonym of “Don Crosby,” pulp writer J. Allan Dunn wrote a series of six stories in the pulp Air Trails about the “young and intrepid inventor and pilot” Ace Ainsworth. In his laboratory on the outskirts of Cosmopolis, Ainsworth creates a variety of technologically-advanced vehicles and weapons. His two main inventions are both air vehicles named Falcon, one a helicopter and one a zeppelin. They are powered by “mysterious magnetic currents that flow between the poles and are cause by the rotation of the earth,” and are armed with “rapid-fire guns of light but efficient caliber.” Ainsworth also carries an “electro-pistol” and while flying wears a pair of goggles whose prisms allow him to see invisible airships. Ainsworth uses the Falcons to fight air pirates, explore the “city of the clouds,” fight high-tech cattle rustlers, and to loot Aztec gold in a remote city inhabited by Lost Race Aztecs.

1931: Pulp writer David H. Keller is best known for his series characters Cecil of Cornwall (a swords-and-sorcery character in Dark Ages Britain) and Taine (a detective with the “San Francisco Secret Service”). One of Taine’s enemies is the evil surgeon and Yellow Peril Wing Loo. In “The Steam Shovel” (Amazing Stories, Sept. 1931) Wing, having fled to Burma, hires out to a local rajah. The rajah is having difficulties getting his slaves to work for him, and is in fact facing a rebellion, so Wing decides to solve this problem for the rajah by transplanting an elephant’s brain into a steam shovel. If it works, huge numbers of artificial slaves could be created. Unfortunately, the operation backfires. The steam shovel kills the rajah and flees into the forest.

I have to say, I love the sound of this:

1931: Francis Van Wyck Mason is better known as a detective and thriller writer; his most famous character was the proto-James Bond Colonel Hugh North, who appeared in 26 novels from 1930 to 1968. Less well known is Mason’s stories for the science fiction pulps. In 1931 he wrote a two-parter for Astounding Stories, “Phalanxes of Atlans.” In the story two America explorers crash-land in the Arctic. One disappears, and the other, while searching for him, comes upon a hidden land kept warm by volcanic activity. The land has two races: the blond and red-headed descendants of the Atlanteans, and the Jarmuthians, who are the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel and who are portrayed in anti-Semitic terms. Both races, who are hostile toward each other, use the volcanic heat of the land to create steam, which powers their technology, including steam tube-cars (which reach 300 miles per hour), steam airships, and guns which shoot compressed steam. Both races also have a variety of dinosaurs, from Tyrannosaurus Rex to pterodactyls, which are used as everything from beasts of burden to war animals. Eventually the Atlanteans and the Jarmuthians fight and the two American explorers, and the Atlantean princess who loves one, escape on the princess’ pet pterodactyl.

And, as luck would have it, I find out I actually already own the story as I downloaded all the Astounding Stories eBooks that Manybooks has and the story is in two parts amongst those available: February and March 1931 - enjoy (Wildside Press offer a paper version, if you are so inclined). Manybooks also have some early copies of Argosy, so there is hope that someone will get around to the later issues.

"Lemurian novels"

Lemuria has cropped up many times in fiction* but while nosing around the topic of The Last Lemurian I stumbled on an excellent piece on “Lemurian novels.” These books form a peculiar sub-genre of early science fiction that picked up Theosophy’s suggestion that Australia was a last vestige of Lemuria and ran with it, mixing in the famously lost explorer Ludwig Leichhardt (although being famous for getting lost isn’t a good thing for an explorer, but your disappearance is always a mystery people can’t help but try and solve) along with ideas of a lost race, to make an odd concoction with some fairly dark and unpleasant overtones connected to the idea of Australia as terra nullius. Here is an excerpt:

Leichhardt is one of the two most important white male heroes who figure in Australian fiction. The other one is arguably Ned Kelly. I am just going to compare them for a moment.

Leichhardt particularly populates the fiction and imagination of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, while Kelly seems to appear more in the latter half of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. Much of the fiction and poetry about Leichhardt represents him as a national heroic figure, contrary perhaps to his representation in Voss although not entirely. A lost and controversial explorer might not initially seem particularly promising as a choice for such celebration. However, like Ned Kelly, he has frequently been identified strongly as ‘other’ to a mainstream English, middle class, Anglican society and culture. Leichhardt, as you know, was a German national with an accent, regarded as an arrogant foreigner by some of his contemporaries and represented as a psychotic megalomaniac in some histories - most notoriously Chisholm’s. His class status was somewhat insecure, and his sexuality is ambiguous.

Where the two characters do diverge in their fictionalisation and other memorialisation is in the ways that the culture has invested in their bodies. Leichhardt is a figure increasingly disembodied in the fiction in which he appears, a figure written into Lemurian novels as a trace, a cipher, an always just missed sight. Ned Kelly, by contrast, is very much an embodied figure, memorialised and represented through and in material objects like the armour. While today we are celebrating a Leichhardt material object, the fiction doesn’t tend to do that.



This was followed by a series of Lemurian novels which speculated more graphically and imaginatively on his possible end. The term ‘Lemurian’ is taken from George Firth Scott’s novel The Last Lemurian  of 1898. It refers to a spate of imperial gothic adventure novels published from the 1880s onward and imitating successful fiction such as Rider Haggard’s immensely popular King Solomon’s Mines of 1885.

Traces of Leichhardt are found in JF Hogan’s The Lost Explorer from 1890, W Carlton Dawe’s novel The Golden Lake from 1894 and Ernest Favenc’s, The Secret of the Australian Desert from 1895. In Rosa Praed’s Queensland novels from the same period the Australian state of Queensland is renamed ‘Leichhardtsland’ so that Leichhardt is everywhere but arguably also nowhere.

In The Golden Lake, for example:

In that novel Leichhardt is a haunting absence. Their premonitions do come true, however. As it is a Lemurian novel they do discover evidence of a lost race, a lost white maiden with golden hair, treasure and a volcano, although not quite the magical white city that they had been looking for - that turns out to be a kind of rock formation of white quartz. No further sign of Leichhardt is encountered.

And others:

In Favenc’s Secret of the Australian Desert the unattractive heroes Morton, Brown and Charlie, with an Aboriginal man called Billy, go exploring in the interior. As is often the case, they discover a different race of Aboriginal people - a stock plot element, as I said - as is the volcanic activity they encounter. As they progress into the outback they find traces, marks on bodies, on trees - as in The Golden Lake - and on the earth, which they interpret as signs of white presence.

Eventually they find an elderly white man, Murphy, who they identify as a member of Leichhardt’s party. Unfortunately when they attack in order to liberate him, he manages to say only, ‘Yes, Englishman! White man!’ and then die. There are some relics of the Leichhardt expedition in the cavern where they find this man, but it quite rapidly collapses on the Aboriginal tribe and a set of Aboriginal captives that they have. They rescue a pocket book which offers a handy textual account of the fate of Leichhardt’s party and three survivors, Murphy, Kelly and Stuart. They speculate on whether Stuart can have survived with the friendlier tribe to the north, captives from which were about to be eaten when the cavern collapsed. Their conclusion about this is about the traces and marks that a white man will leave on the country:

    I think if he was still alive he would have trained his tribe up to fight these cannibals, and probably have wiped them out before now and rescued his comrade.



A fire passes through the area behind them shortly after they have left him and is assumed to have obliterated all trace of him as well as all trace of the expedition, materials, and horses and so on. The explorer protagonists of the novel continue and find traces from the remaining Leichhardt party member Stuart and the rest of his journal, as well as evidence - as in Fugitive Anne and The Golden Lake - of a ‘superior’ race of people once resident in the interior. As with The Golden Lake, although artefacts and even the account of Leichhardt’s death are found, Leichhardt is not.

In Favenc’s novel, as in Francis Webb’s poem Leichhardt in Theatre from 1947 and in Voss, Leichhardt’s absence is the thing that guarantees white presence and belonging in Australia. The Lemurian novels cement this by having Leichhardt somehow transcend and outlast more transient Aboriginal homes and occupation. His disembodiment - uncertain traces, bodies of his companions, accounts of him, scattered over the desert like Voss’s letters - make him ineffaceable.

Robert Dixon sees the Lemurian novels as rehearsing anxieties about ‘racial and cultural degeneration’ threatening ‘the unformed identity of white Australia’. Leichhardt’s status as permanent but elusive trace in these fictions transcends the dangers and degradations attributed to some members of his party, the ‘found’ explorers. He might be seen even in the Secret of the Australian Desert as a guarantee of ownership of the landscape.

I actually had an idea for a pulpy/fantastical 19th Century adventure story set in Australia, which starts off using Ned Kelly as a springboard to something strange. So it makes sense to also riff on the Lemurian novels (it fits perfectly with some of the out-of-place oddities I was going to work in) but the rather more disturbing aspects of the “Lemurian novel” make me wary. Fortunately, knowing about the nastier implications of the sub-genre means it should be possible to subvert them. At the very least, I am not stumbling into this minefield unaware of the problems, which should mean it is going to be easier to find a way through to the other side.

I am still interested in an electronic copy of The Last Lemurian if anyone is up for scanning it in and releasing it to the world for all to see, in its finery and its suspiciously soiled undergarments.

* If you are looking for some of the more way-out examples I don’t think you can do much better than A Dweller on Two Planets, as well as Richard Sharpe Shavers' I Remember Lemuria. Both are free to read online thanks to the hard work of the folks at Sacred Texts. They also have some similarities - they are presented as being “real” (Shaver almost definitely thought his were, even if some now suggest they were the ramblings of s schizophrenic) but can largely be treated as fiction (Shaver’s stories were polished and greatly expanded on by Ray Palmer and his team of ghost writers, it was Palmer who came up with the more evocative title), although, despite that, they were wildly popular and massively influential - ADOTP was used as the basis for a religion (or con in the eyes of the law) and Shavers’ work set the letters pages alight with people reporting similar stories and would have considerable influence on later developments in the emerging flying saucer phenomena.

Interesting book review on Victorian murder:

"Scratch John Bull and you find the ancient Briton who revels in blood, who loves to dip  deep into a murder, and devours the details of a hanging.” So said the Pall Mall Gazette in 1887. Its immediate justification was the success of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,  which had been published the previous year and had already sold 40,000  copies. But it would be just as easy to prove the same point at any time  during the last couple of centuries. And in our own time as well, as  every bestseller list and TV schedule reminds us. Murder is as much a  British preoccupation as football or the weather.
Especially 19th-century murder – both because it’s the template for  modern crimes and punishment, and because its stories exist at a  distance that allows them to seem shocking but safe. Or better than  safe: romantic. Poeticised by dripping shrubberies, curling mist and the  echo of footsteps in gas-lit alleys.
…
It has a handy way with facts, as well. Murder in pre-Victorian Britain  was a pretty rare event. In 1810, when the population of England and  Wales was almost 10 million, only 15 people were reported dead by this  means – that’s 0.15 per 100,000. (Compare that with 62 per 100,000,  which were the figures for Cape Town in 2007-08.) Forty-odd years later  the picture had changed somewhat – there were 20,000 unexplained or  suspicious deaths. And so on: the figures rise as the century  progresses, and alongside them grows the means of policing and  detection. The Met, which was founded in 1829, was 3,000-strong to start with and 12,000-strong by 1886.
These are all significant increases, of course, and they help to explain  the swelling fascination with murder during the Victorian era. Some of  this fascination depended on simple human curiosity. But as Flanders  shows, it also stemmed from genuine anxiety and from the efforts of a  large supporting industry which stood to benefit from the original crime  in various ways.

Of course, all this focus on murder shouldn’t distract us from the incredible depth and diversity in crime during that period, my personal favourite guide to this field is Chesney’s Victorian Underworld. (another one of those “saw this thought of you” gifts, like the book on Fred West I got. I don’t want to give too much thought about what that says about me). While Googling it I was pleased to find William Gibson is also a fan and it was a his guide not just for The Difference Engine but also Neuromancer and others. It helps to underline my opinion that it is sources like this that could be mined for useful Steampunk stories that also better address the social situation than toffs on steam tricycles.

Interesting book review on Victorian murder:

"Scratch John Bull and you find the ancient Briton who revels in blood, who loves to dip deep into a murder, and devours the details of a hanging.” So said the Pall Mall Gazette in 1887. Its immediate justification was the success of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which had been published the previous year and had already sold 40,000 copies. But it would be just as easy to prove the same point at any time during the last couple of centuries. And in our own time as well, as every bestseller list and TV schedule reminds us. Murder is as much a British preoccupation as football or the weather.

Especially 19th-century murder – both because it’s the template for modern crimes and punishment, and because its stories exist at a distance that allows them to seem shocking but safe. Or better than safe: romantic. Poeticised by dripping shrubberies, curling mist and the echo of footsteps in gas-lit alleys.

It has a handy way with facts, as well. Murder in pre-Victorian Britain was a pretty rare event. In 1810, when the population of England and Wales was almost 10 million, only 15 people were reported dead by this means – that’s 0.15 per 100,000. (Compare that with 62 per 100,000, which were the figures for Cape Town in 2007-08.) Forty-odd years later the picture had changed somewhat – there were 20,000 unexplained or suspicious deaths. And so on: the figures rise as the century progresses, and alongside them grows the means of policing and detection. The Met, which was founded in 1829, was 3,000-strong to start with and 12,000-strong by 1886.

These are all significant increases, of course, and they help to explain the swelling fascination with murder during the Victorian era. Some of this fascination depended on simple human curiosity. But as Flanders shows, it also stemmed from genuine anxiety and from the efforts of a large supporting industry which stood to benefit from the original crime in various ways.

Of course, all this focus on murder shouldn’t distract us from the incredible depth and diversity in crime during that period, my personal favourite guide to this field is Chesney’s Victorian Underworld. (another one of those “saw this thought of you” gifts, like the book on Fred West I got. I don’t want to give too much thought about what that says about me). While Googling it I was pleased to find William Gibson is also a fan and it was a his guide not just for The Difference Engine but also Neuromancer and others. It helps to underline my opinion that it is sources like this that could be mined for useful Steampunk stories that also better address the social situation than toffs on steam tricycles.

Tank-time

If human thought is a growth, like all other growths, its logic is without foundation of its own, and is only the adjusting constructiveness of all other growing things. A tree can not find out, as it were, how to blossom, until comes blossom-time. A social growth cannot find out the use of steam engines, until comes steam-engine-time.


Charles Fort Lo!

Last time, we looked at the early fictional tanks but the actual evolution and appearance of the tank itself is interesting. I was largely pondering how far you could plausibly push technology and it still seem feasible - bringing early 20th Century technology into the 19th Century without the need to get too fantastical (granted it is for an Invasion Literature/zombie mash-up but already required the suspension of disbelief in a couple of areas, so I wanted to keep the technology itself realistic, just move progress forward a few decades in response to the threat). I have given a lot of thought to the 1896/1897 airship flap in the past, so largely had that angle boxed of, but what about tanks?

I have had my eye on steam-driven tanks for a while, with a thought to deploying them at some point, as I didn’t want to take the easy route and simply time-shift a standard tank.

The American steam tank from 1918 is pretty much the classic British lozenge-shaped tanks with a kerosene engine, which just seemed to easy (and it wouldn’t make sense story-wise because we are really just adapting a successful design to run on steam):



However, the Steam Wheel Tank (from some time around 1916 and 1917) is much more interesting, it stems from the period when the design of tanks was still very much in flux and one failed branch were the big wheel designs (leading to some of a large number of strange tanks):



The same kind of thinking led to the Treffas-Wagen:



What caught my interest was the fact that they are, essentially, armoured traction engines or steamrollers, which seems like a route you might take if you had to improvise a tank-like vehicle. So the design I’m leaning towards (although the artist has yet to be consulted and he might bring more ideas into the mix) is a traction engine/steam roller with armour around the base and perhaps a lighter Frank Reade style shooting platform on top (as the threat is not going to be armed and living men, you just need something to keep the living dead from getting jammed in the workings and provide a more open area for the troops, with some wire mesh to keep back any of the rotters that can climb).

However, I did wonder how much we could push it and if there was anything in the pre-history of tanks that would help. There are early pre-cursors to the tank like Da Vinci’s famous sketch (used in Defoe):



As well as this fighting unicorn, apparently:



However, it was this nugget that clinched it for me:

The caterpillar track, upon which the tank travelled, was designed in its crudest form in 1770 by Richard Edgeworth.  The Crimean War saw a relatively small number of steam powered tractors developed using the caterpillar track to manoeuvre around the battlefield’s muddy terrain.

Thus even in the 1850s the development of the tank seemed tantalisingly close - except that its development dimmed until the turn of the century.


So, like Hero of Alexandria’s aeolipile, it was a solution looking for the right problem - when it is tank-time, you get tanks.

Tanks had their most famous early science fiction outing in Well’s “The Land Ironclads" (1903). So it is fitting that a report on the first tanks not only refers back to sci-fi but some of the first appearances of tank-like vehicles dating back to 1892 (like the one above from the very first story featuring Frank Reade jr.), as discussed by Jess Nevins:

From the North-China Herald, 18 November 1916, in which the author is describing the debut of the tank during World War One:

The  land-ship—it heaves and rolls like a ship—sailed on into the  village  and made the way easy—or at any rate much easier for an assault  with  the bayonet. You may judge of its weight and power from the fact  that  it “charged” and brought to ruin a house loop-holed and occupied by  the  enemy. It sounds rather like “Frank Reade’s” famous invention—a  great  steel car speeding across the wildest west demolishing cities and   brushing away tribes of Indians like so many flies.

The “Frank Reade” referred to here is the Edisonade Frank Reade, Jr., who used a armored “landrover” in the story in question.
What’s  most of interest to me here is the article writer’s use of a  fictional  sf creation to describe an actual piece of technology.

Frank Reade Jr.’s “landrover” was a theme he’d return to a number of times, becoming more tank-like (this, from “Frank Reade, Jr., With His New Steam Man in Texas: or, Chasing the Trainrobbers,”, also dates to 1892):

His “Electric Van” from “Frank Reade, Jr.’s new electric van, or, Hunting wild animals in the jungles of India" (1893), seems like a development of this and a very practical tiger hunting platform:

Tanks had their most famous early science fiction outing in Well’s “The Land Ironclads" (1903). So it is fitting that a report on the first tanks not only refers back to sci-fi but some of the first appearances of tank-like vehicles dating back to 1892 (like the one above from the very first story featuring Frank Reade jr.), as discussed by Jess Nevins:

From the North-China Herald, 18 November 1916, in which the author is describing the debut of the tank during World War One:

The land-ship—it heaves and rolls like a ship—sailed on into the village and made the way easy—or at any rate much easier for an assault with the bayonet. You may judge of its weight and power from the fact that it “charged” and brought to ruin a house loop-holed and occupied by the enemy. It sounds rather like “Frank Reade’s” famous invention—a great steel car speeding across the wildest west demolishing cities and brushing away tribes of Indians like so many flies.

The “Frank Reade” referred to here is the Edisonade Frank Reade, Jr., who used a armored “landrover” in the story in question.

What’s most of interest to me here is the article writer’s use of a fictional sf creation to describe an actual piece of technology.

Frank Reade Jr.’s “landrover” was a theme he’d return to a number of times, becoming more tank-like (this, from “Frank Reade, Jr., With His New Steam Man in Texas: or, Chasing the Trainrobbers,”, also dates to 1892):

His “Electric Van” fromFrank Reade, Jr.’s new electric van, or, Hunting wild animals in the jungles of India" (1893), seems like a development of this and a very practical tiger hunting platform: