A Study of the Hollow Earth

Exploring forgotten realms of literature

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Nequa, or, Narratorial Reliability in a Utopia

Published under the pseudonym Jack Adams (but copyrighted under the names Alcanoan A. Grigsby and Mary P. Lowe, who are presumed to be the true authors), Nequa, or, The Problem of the Ages was printed in Topeka, Kansas in 1900. Though fairly typical of other terra cava narratives concerned with exploration, spiritualism, and utopianism, there are a few unique features, not the least of which is a female narrator.

Deciphering the title and its meaning takes a little investigating. ‘Nequa’ is a feminised Latin form of ‘nequis’, or, nobody. Who this female nobody turns out to be is the author, Jack Adams, or, Cassie VanNess as s/he was born. (Cassie disguised herself as ‘Jack Adams’ in order to sail the world in search of a former lover.) There two interesting paratextual statements, though, that spins the question of authorship into further Gordian knots. First is the Dedication: ‘To all lovers of humanity, wherever found who believe that the application of the Golden Rule in human affairs would remove all the burdens that ignorance and greed have imposed upon the masses of mankind, this volume is respectfully dedicated by The Author’ (p. iii).  But who is ‘The Author’? Is this from the true author, or another piece of characterisation? There is then the Explanatory, with this mysterious message:

The undersigned [Jack Adams] claims no credit for the concept of an “inner World” in which the great economic problems which now confront the people had been solved in the interest of humanity and ideal conditions established for all. This was the leading thought in a work by Dr. T.A.H. Lowe, deceased, which was placed in the hands of the writer by his widow, Mrs. Mary P. Lowe. It contains a glowing description of the ideal conditions which would prevail under the practical application of the principles of Freedom, Equity and Fraternity in human affairs but the author died before he had an opportunity to work out a practical system by which the masses of the people, situated as they now are, without even a clear understanding as to just what is the matter, could commence with existing conditions, and peacefully, effectually and speedily establish the much to be desired system of absolute justice in distribution which he described.[1]

So, is ‘Jack Adams’ not the author, but a Dr. Lowe? And is Mary P. Lowe, then, who is credited in the copyright, a real person or a character figment, further blending the boundaries of reality and fiction? By expressing the ‘Inner World’ as a ‘concept’, is this then a tacit acknowledgement that the hollow earth is a fiction, convenient for establishing a perfect society? Certainly the reader is led to expect the outline of an ‘ideal’ civilisation in the narrative to follow, and one that would be applicable to the contemporary world. Nequa’s framing raises more questions about authorship and authenticity than it answers. After ‘THE END’ on page 387 there is a notice:

EQUITY is a weekly paper devoted to the discussion of fundamental economics and the higher ethics of business, published at Topeka, Kansas.

NEQUA, the first volume of Equity Library series will be furnished at fifty cents in paper covers; one dollar in cloth; a liberal discount to the trade. Jack Adams, the author, will be a contributor to Equity and will answer correspondence addressed to the care of

                                                                                                EDITOR EQUITY,

                                                                                                Topeka, Kansas.

The pretence of Jack Adams being a real individual is carried on. Success seems to have eluded both ‘Jack Adams’ and Alcanoan Grigsby as there is no record of any further publications under either name, and nothing else to be found under ‘Equity Series’.

The first chapter down not even begin from the perspective of Jack Adams, but a one Dr. Tomas H. Day (a change in surname, but perhaps the Dr. T.A.H. Lowe of the Explanatory?) in Kansas City who receives a visitor, Leo Vincennes, bearing a message and manuscript from Jack Adams, a mutual acquaintance of them both. Vincennes tells Day that he encountered Jack at Cape Lisburne in Alaska, where Jack arrives in ‘a mechanical contrivance for navigating the air’ (p. 8). Jack proceeds to tell his old friend Vincennes about his travels ‘past the great ice barriers, and his discovery of a World of Truth beyond’ (p. 13) before presenting Vincennes with the manuscript to be taken to Dr. Day for publication, to be ‘broadcast over the world’ (p. 13). The letter included states, “In the name of civilization I ask that whoever may find this package shall place it in the hands of those who will publish the MS. Contained therein and have it scattered broadcast over the world, so that the discoveries recorded shall not be lost to humanity. Nequa” (p. 14). This is the same sort of appeal seen in many other terra cava frames, the record of exploration that needs to be heard by the entire world, not for any profit, but for purely philanthropic motives. Appearances of altruism are more likely to win the reader’s trust, and their reception of a utopian message. It is the latter that is so often couched in the hollow earth novel, providing a theoretical landscape for a theoretical social structure.

Day also addresses the reader directly at the end of the chapter: ‘And now, dear reader, I shall give you the contents of this remarkable manuscript, from the pen of my sailor comrade of years ago, Jack Adams, but known in his new home as Nequa, the teacher. Ponder well the lessons taught in these wonderful discoveries’ (p. 15). Once more the reader is being urged to treat the tale as one of moral and intellectual instruction, from a ‘Teacher’. Jack’s identity as a female is also not revealed at this point by Day, so, I will continue to refer to ‘Jack’ in the masculine. As a narrator, Jack is presumed to be reliable via the personal details provided, the demonstration of education, intelligence and morality. The narrative itself is more dialectic than diegetic; Jack does not summarise events for the readers so much as analysing them via long chapters of dialogue and debate. The whole of chapter XII (38 pages) is a lecture on the historical, moral, economic, and spiritual development of Altruria into a utopia, a place that has finally solved ‘the problem of the ages’: poverty.


[1] Jack Adams, Nequa, or, The Problem of the Ages (Equity Publishing Company: Topeka, Kansas, 1900), p. vi.

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Warning the Present to Preserve the Past: The Obliteration of History and Identity in Dystopian Literature

swastika-night-katherine-burdekin-cover“The fear of memory reached its height with him, and he gave us the logical and Teutonic remedy, destruction. All history, all psychology, all philosophy, all art except music, […] every book and picture and statue that could remind Germans of old times must be destroyed. A huge gulf was to be made which no one could ever cross again.”[1]

Thus explains the Knight von Hess to the Englishman Alfred in Katherine Burdekin’s Swastika Night. History, and the culture produced in that time, is a threat to the German Empire’s hold on the population; only ignorance and complete government control prevents rebellion. With no reliable history, people are deprived of the impetus to revolt because they do not know that life was ever any different, that the world might be a better place. Without a sense of identity, the characters are lost within the vast control of the state. This is an idea to be found in many dystopic novels besides Burdekin’s, including George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Another type of dystopia is the seeming ‘utopia,’ which exists under a lack of freedom and identity, and while some knowledge of the past is recognized, it is treated with scorn and contempt. Yevgeny Zemyatin’s We and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are examples of this style of uniformed, automaton-inhabited utopia. While dystopia may be more concerned with the present, the authors are offering a hyperbolic representation of the future, warning of things to come if the present situation remains unchanged: “The modern dystopia […] is as much an expression of contemporary fears and anxieties as it is a further refinement of generic conventions.’[2] Because these dystopias take place in the future, their dark, incomplete view of history is meant to represent our present and near future. The intent of this paper is to examine how the authors are warning their readers about the importance of history and identity to the freedom of thought and action. With the exception of Swastika Night (which has a rural setting and high rates of illiteracy to keep the populace ignorant) the other works are set in highly mechanized societies that encourage just about every other form of entertainment than reading, and there is a general shortage of books. Living in the in the turbulent climate of the early Twentieth century (two world wars, multiple revolutions and counter revolutions, social upheaval and unprecedented government power) impressed upon the authors the need to remind readers of what would come if present history was forgotten and too many personal freedoms were surrendered. Within the stories, few characters remember the past and besides the revolutionary protagonists, few in these nightmarish societies have any desire for the products of the past or inclination to reclaiming identity.  These dystopic worlds were the authors’ plea to their contemporaries to preserve history and cultural products, because their loss would leave the future populace subjected to totalitarian control in a world that is worse off, maybe not always materially, but certainly spiritually.

From Utopias to Dystopias

Firstly, it is necessary to understand the impulse behind writing a dystopia. Despite the direness of these dystopian stories, they were meant to serve a purpose, to inspire the reader to improve upon society, as utopias do. Utopias are considered science fiction because they do not often take place on Earth or in the present (some would merely call it pastoral if it did) and have existed free from a reliance on science to bring about its utopian paradise, starting with More’s Utopia. During the twentieth century, science and technology became a tool of the writer to demonstrate ways of improving the world, but in the wake of chemical weapons and new war machines, technical innovation came to be seen as a greater threat to humanity. Writers were worried about the loss of the human soul and common history in the face of science’s advancements paired with the political upheavals and totalitarian governments of the early Twentieth century. Carl Freedman notes, ‘Utopia can never be fixed in the perspective of the present, because it exists, to a considerable degree, in the dimension of futurity: not, however, in the future as the latter is imagined by bourgeois “progress,” but rather as the future is the objective of hope, of our deepest and most radical longings.’[3] If a writer creates a utopian society out of the humanitarian desire for a better world for mankind, then the act of creating a dystopia is inspired by the longing to prevent the world from descending down a perceived path of darkness by inspiring the public to improve their present society.

There are numerous influences for dystopian novels in the first half of the Twentieth century, from the World Wars to the many revolutions that toppled the old, traditional government and social structures. The crimes against humanity, the genocides and fascist governments, were real terrors that imprinted themselves on the common consciousness of readers.

The crushing of self by the system, the denial of individuality, is nowhere more savagely illustrated in our recent history than by the Second World War, especially by the concentration camps, […] We find in these records of historical experience many of the images which recur in post-war SF: the numbered inmates, the uniformed bodies, the suffocating routine, the omnivorous machinery of death.[4]

In the fictional worlds, the populations subjected to dehumanized, totalitarian rule are controlled through their ignorance of these past events. During the rise of Hitler, the world was bombarded with images of bonfires, the burning of books that offended Nazi sensibilities. From Russia came the Five Years Plans, organizing people and production according to numbers that benefited the state, regardless of consequences for the individual. The authors, familiar with historical events and their contemporary societies, are relying on the readers to recognize the parallels in the dystopian worlds (it would be difficult to find any critic who called dystopic fiction ‘subtle’) to remember the horrors of the past – or present – and fight their return.

It is this rebellion against controlling governments (by a single individual or larger group) and the reclamation of lost history and culture that dominates these novels. While authors are warning against the mechanization of society, it is the government’s control over and use of the technology that is the real threat. If the government controls the dissemination of information, then they can shape the past and present however they please. If the government controls you (possibly from your very conception) then it controls the person you may become, shaped as they please. John Clute explains, ‘animosity against specific political programmes was the most important force provoking early dystopian visions,’ which negates the utopians ‘generalized faith in the idea of progress, both social and technological.’[5] The Western world in the early Twentieth century saw the rise of eugenics and the crimes against humanity that ensued. People were reduced to numbers and figures, calculated and ordered like machines. They saw censorship, fascism and collectivization, all of which tried to erase or rewrite history, and those who watched from the outside were horrified.

To attempt to read the great dystopian works as merely predictors of the future lessens the value of the work’s message. As Freedman puts it, ‘the negative utopias of modern literature – We (1921), Brave New World (1932), Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) – are drained of much of their power if we attempt to read them as complexly critical estrangements of certain actual tendencies in Soviet and Anglo-American society, but instead as factual futurology, rating Zamyatin, Huxley, and Orwell as though they were contestants in a guessing game.’[6] The authors of these dystopias were trying desperately to warn against these negative social developments they perceived, and would have been horrified if any of their visions came to pass; it would have been a failure on their part to properly warn the public. It would have meant people had forgotten their history.

Zamyatin and We

Once a leader of post-revolutionary Russia’s writers, Zamyatin – who opposed the push towards total social unanimity – wrote against the grain of the party line, his works were banned and he was exiled from the country. For this, he himself fell victim to his own warnings: ‘Like the rebellious poet of We […] he was literally “liquidated” – reduced to nonbeing. His name was deleted from literary history’.[7] In We, ‘Zamyatin could turn for models of his dystopia to the early experiments in social engineering conducted by the Bolsheviks.’[8] As for metaphorical historical parallels, the Benefactor deity of the story is Lenin, while the Guardians are the USSR’s Cheka[9]. Zamyatin was extremely prescient about the world to come, and only in retrospect can We be truly appreciated for its warning about totalitarian government control. The characters are not given the benefit of names, only numbers; they don’t have families, are raised in groups, and copulation is only granted with pink coupons at an appointed hour. It is almost farcical, the degree to which the government controls society and has erased the uniqueness of individuals, but this was undoubtedly Zamyatin’s goal, meant to parody the Bolshevik’s revolutionary government.

The main character, D-503 tells the story through his journal (‘record’ as its referred to in the translation) which he believes to be his own sort of poetry, meant to praise the One State. There is a contradiction of facts disseminated by the government from a quoted proclamation on page one: ‘One thousand years ago your heroic ancestors subdued the entire terrestrial globe to the power of the One State.’[10] This cannot be the case, though, because outside the city’s green walls is an untamed forest inhabited by free men (considered hairy and atavistic by D-503), who join with rebel ‘numbers’ from the city and revolt against the Benefactor and the entropic order of the One State.

What does this society know of the past? As D-503 puts it, ‘it is clear that the entire history of mankind, insofar as we know it, is the history of transition from nomadic to increasingly settled forms of existence. […] People rushed about from one end of the earth to the other only in prehistoric times, when there were nations, wars, commerce, discoveries of all sorts of Americas.’[11] This is a rather narrow, incomplete history given to the One State’s inhabitants, propaganda meant to support the controlled, static environment in which they live. D-503 mentions their knowledge of the ancient ‘irrational’ Christian religion, and how the sacrifices (executions) carried out on behalf of the Benefactor are ‘a remembrance of the awesome time of trial, of the Two Hundred Years’ War, a grandiose celebration of the victory of all over one, of the sum over the individual.’[12] History has been utilized to justify and rationalize public executions of any dissident (in this case, a heretical poet) – to the point where even the condemned willingly go without the need to be restrained because they have been trained to accept this. The only literature (as it is) which has been passed down to them is “The Railway Guide” for its meticulous organization, influencing the Tables, which schedule out every hour of the numbers’ lives. Individuals have no unscheduled time, cannot deviate from the Tables, and have no say in the running of their government (beyond having to unanimously reelect the Benefactor occasionally). To stop the brewing revolt, the Benefactor orders a surgical procedure for everyone to remove the imagination, just as Zamyatin and his fellow writers were ordered by the Bolshevik government to censor their own imaginative works to benefit the state.

The end of the book seems to be a reflection of Zamyatin’s own hopes for history, that the revolution in Russian was not over yet, and that the forces of the individual would eventually triumph over the collectivism he so detested. We was a warning to his fellows of what Russia may become if the Bolshevik’s remained in power, pushing for a static, least-common-denominator society.

Huxley and Brave New World

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World stands apart from the other dystopias discussed here due to its dry, at times sarcastic, tone. The greatest warning of the book is ‘how far we must sacrifice our individuality in the face of proliferating technology, and how far we should push the quest for pleasure.’[13]Bernard Marx and his contemporaries are swallowed up and stifled by their society, which requires a uniformity of beliefs. But just as importantly, the novel puts forward Huxley’s views of the subjectivity of history, that it is used and abused to influence the masses.

The industrial revolution served to influence Huxley’s view of the potential for a society mechanized down to the individual, most especially the advancements made by Henry Ford in the automobile industry. ‘Ford’ has become a sort of deity to the World State, embracing Ford’s own words: ‘History is bunk,’ as the Controlled Mustapha Mond explained to a class of children;

He waved his hand; and it was as though, with a little feather wisk, he had brushed away a little dust, and the dust was Harappa, was Ur of the Chaldees; […] Whisk – and where was Odysseus and Gotama and Jesus? Whisk – and those specks of antique dirt called Athens and Rome, Jerusalem and the Middle Kingdom – all were gone.[14]

Mond is the aloof, powerful, all-knowing character, like the Knight Von Hess, who through his position is permitted to indulge in history and forgotten culture: ‘There were those strange rumours of old forbidden books hidden in a safe in the Controller’s study. Bibles, poetry – Ford knew what.’[15] In a society dominated by the pursuit of pleasure, the old stories of war, religion, struggle and strife (no matter their literary value) would serve only to upset the population and social balance, and thus they are banned – ‘pornographic’ as the Controller Mond calls them in his discussion with John.[16] Their entire civilization relies on individuals following in lock step; no innovative ideas, no self-sufficiency or philosophizing.

By controlling the education of every individual through the use of hypnopaedia and Pavlovian conditioning, every person in their class – from Alpha pluses to Epsilons – is conditioned with the same thoughts, denied real independent will. Children are taught to fear books by use of electric shock and loud sirens. Reading old books might give people the wrong ideas, ideas that conflict with the State. The Director notes happily, ‘the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind. […] But these suggestions are our suggestions! […] Suggestions from the State.”[17] Someone with this man’s power may be afforded some free will and thought, but not those lower in social ranking, who must be conditioned to accept the status they were born into (were created for). To break from conventional unity means therapy, a prescription for more soma, or possible exile to an island.

Personal past and identity are also discouraged, and when the Hatchery Director breaks this taboo to tell Bernard about his trip to the savage reservation, Bernard becomes uncomfortable. He knows the Director disapproves of discussion of the ‘remote past […] disapproved and yet had been betrayed into doing the forbidden thing.’[18] Not only is history denied and forgotten as detrimental to society, but even recalling personal history means asserting an individual identity and a real, certain history, a ‘forbidden thing’. There can be no past in a static world.

Huxley’s dystopia was based upon trends he detected during the inter-war period, including the rise of soviet Russia’s collectivization and forced unanimity, as well as Ford’s mechanized processes spreading to other industries. Because the World State ‘rejects everything, including literature, music, art and philosophy […] a state without a past’[19] there is nothing for the people to rally around and rebel against. It is a depressing ending because it offers no hope of change; the discontented are exiled and John the Savage commits suicide, unable to function in this world without history, literature or individuality.

Burdekin and Swastika Night

Katherine Burdekin’s Swastika Night is a frightening dystopia influenced by, and warning against, the Nazi propaganda of the 1930s. The loss of historical truths – and the rebellious nature of reclaiming them – in this world is central to the plot. The Nazis who have taken over the world have completely rewritten the past and eliminated literacy among the masses, because ‘information about the past and present is strictly controlled and manipulated by those in command. History, its knowledge, and memory are therefore dangerous elements that can give the dystopian citizens a potential instrument of resistance.’[20] Burdekin could only guess in 1937 about a coming war with Nazi Germany, but could no more predict its form and outcome any more than a military strategist. Swastika Night is not about alternative history, but an extrapolation of what a world ruled by Nazi party policy would look like.

Because personal identity is part of history, the conquered races have even had the practice of family names removed (Alfred’s ‘surname’ is E.W. 10762) so that there can be no filial memory or unity to encourage rebellion – this has been assisted, of course, by the relegation of women to the status of chattel. Burdekin was projecting from Hitler’s own views, as summarized by an OSS report on Hitler’s psychology: ‘His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.’[21] This ‘big lie’ is what the entire basis of Burdekin’s dystopia becomes; all of history before the supposed Twenty Year war, and much of the century afterwards is completely rewritten, and no one but Von Hess and Alfred know any differently. But a character such as Hermann, so thoroughly a part of the system, cannot accept ‘alternatives’ and is broken down by the history Von Hess reveals. The world seems beyond repair from this Big Lie.

Removing history requires removing its records, and Burdekin was undoubtedly influenced by the Nazi’s massive burning of supposedly degenerate (mostly Jewish and communist) books in May of 1933. The Knight Von Hess wrote his entire book from memory, because all other books were destroyed, and ‘He thought […] the time might come when men would again seek passionately for truth.’[22] Burdekin is making it very clear that for seven hundred years this German Empire has existed because of the propagation of lies and the deletion of history. ‘The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history.[23]’ Burdekin’s Nazi empire has removed the books, the architecture and cultural products of every other civilization under their influence, and without cultural progress, they are ‘dead’.[24]

Orwell and 1984

What is ‘memory’ in 1984? A hole, that leads to an incinerator. There is no memory or history but that which the Party approves of, and is changed on a daily basis to suit Party needs.  Indeed, one of the Party slogans is ‘Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.’[25] The protagonist, Winston Smith, struggles to recall his own history, to find some true history in the world. For this quest, and the actions it leads him to, Winston is captured, tortured and reprogrammed by the Ministry of Love. O’Brien informs Winston, ‘You will be lifted clean out from the stream of history. […] Nothing will remain of you; not a name in a register, not a memory in a living brain. You will be annihilated in the past as well as the future.’[26] The purpose of these measures is to prevent the general populace from being inspired by martyrs to rebel against the controlling powers. As history is rewritten, so are the people, all to conform to Party standards.

Winston Smith’s profession is to rewrite history so that is remains constant with the present. If the current Oceania conflict is with Eurasia, then it has always been so, and vice versa. As O’Brian explains during Winston’s interrogation, ‘Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which makes mistakes […] Whatever the party holds to be truth is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.’[27] Orwell’s Oceania is derived from the observations he made of totalitarianism in the Spanish Civil War and Stalinist Russia, including the purge trials in the USSR that rewrote history in order to convict old Bolshevik revolutionaries who had fallen out of favour. There are multiple historical parallels being utilized; Trotsky as Goldstien, the gulag as the Thought Police, the Hitler Youth as the Youth League and the Spies, but of course there is no history in Oceania before the party to be brought up.

The erasure of personal history is part of the removal of identity, so that individuals are absorbed into the party fold. Winston struggles to simultaneously remember and forget his own past: ‘He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been like this’[28] – a London that is decrepitly run down from constant war and deprivation. When starting his diary, Winston cannot even be sure if the year is actually 1984, cannot even pinpoint the actual year of his birth. The memory of his family is just as clouded. In this world, children are conditioned to turn in family members who appear disloyal, thought Winston sadly recalls his mother from an ‘ancient time […] when there was still privacy, love and friendship’ and she died for ‘a conception of loyalty that was private and unalterable.’[29] Orwell’s inclusion of this particular language describes the threat to the Party: citizens cannot be loyal to the family and to the government simultaneously, their loyalty must be completely to the Party. So memory of family, a sense of individuality and filial devotion, must be eliminated in favour of obedience to Big Brother.

Of the messages in 1984, Aldiss asks, ‘To whom is its warnings directed? To the voters? If so, then it is an anti-prophetic book, in that the less this fictional world becomes reality – even after the test date – the better Orwell will have succeeded in his purpose.’[30] This novel has perhaps had the most pervasive influence on society, with terms such as ‘doublethink’ and ‘Big Brother’ becoming synonymous with these warnings, keeping readers aware of Orwell’s message. As Fredric Jameson summarizes, ‘the most haunting feature of 1984 is the elegiac sense of the loss of the past, and the uncertainty of memory. The rewriting of political history in Oceania is assimilated to the personal dreams of a lost childhood.’[31] Orwell saw the totalitarian disintegration of states and was warning the reading public to not give in to censorship or rewritten history.

Bradbury and Fahrenheit 451

The last dystopia examined here is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a world where the pursuit of pleasure dominates the population, and the ignorance of history (under the guise of maintaining mental parity) is enforced by burning books. Contemporary issues heavily influenced Bradbury’s novel as ‘The censorship of books which dealt with socialism, eroticism, and sexuality in the early 1950s made the extension of Montag’s actions conceivable.’[32] The memory of Nazi book burning and the rise of television and other technological media impressed upon Bradbury the dangers of people losing themselves in fantasy worlds and willingly giving up knowledge and history.

Firemen themselves have a distorted history, and no books, no records, to correct the perversion of the world ‘fireman.’ The official story is that the firemen were ‘Established, 1790, to burn English-influenced books in the Colonies. First Fireman: Benjamin Franklin.’[33] (This is a doubly significant twisting of facts, as Benjamin Franklin did organize the first volunteer fire department in Philadelphia and founded the first public lending library.) There is no recollection of classic literature, philosophy and history beyond the rebellious Montag and Faber and the ‘books’ hidden in the woods, leaving a population of babbling children incapable of thinking beyond their own petty comforts in a world of starving people. Montag lays out the argument for the preservation of knowledge to his wife: ‘Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes!’[34] In the end, a nuclear explosion has wiped away the decadent city, and Granger laments, ‘We know all the damn silly things we’ve done for a thousand years, and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, some day we’ll stop making the goddam funeral pyres and jumping into the middle of them’[35]– in other words, Bradbury is hoping that the memory of the past (and in his case, present) will prevent further degradation of the world.

Another aspect of the erasure of individuality is the unproductiveness of the population. Mildred only plays with her make-believe ‘family’ on the wall screens, while Montag and the firemen only destroy literature and homes. Among juveniles, breaking windows and wrecking cars is considered a pastime. Education has become anything but, a babysitting service full of television programmes and exhausting physical activities, with no actual learning or critical analysis. Universal leisure dominates this society, precluding the development of the individual soul, and those like Clarisse who try fall victim to the demand for the least common denominator. Granger offers Bradbury’s moral at the end: ‘Everyone must leave something behind when he dies […] A child or a book or a painting […] Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die’.[36] Without a thinking, productive citizenry, without an honest history, this society seems to have no soul, no ability to learn from mistakes and stop the nuclear wars. Bradbury’s warning was directed at an America he perceived to be losing touch with its past and the world, too engrossed in television and movies.

Conclusion

The history being utilized in these dystopias is the present for the authors, their warning about the shape of things to come if the world does not change. Raffaella Baccolini best sums up the importance of history to dystopia: ‘history is central and necessary for the development of resistance and the maintenance of hope, even when it is a dystopian history that is remembered.’[37] Honesty about the past, so as not to forget both the triumphs and mistakes of old, is emphasized, along with personal honesty and identity. In these dystopias, those who see themselves as independent of the state and the static/ declining civilization are the rebels who seek after or possess information about the past. These authors are imploring their readers to keep the past alive, to keep their sense of self alive and to take stock of their present world, to ensure that the dire events being portrayed never come to pass.


[1] Katherine Burdekin, Swastika Night (New York: The Feminist Press, 1985), p. 79.

[2] Robert S. Baker, Brave New World: History, Science and Dystopia (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990), p.46.

[3] Carl Freedman, Critical Theory and Science Fiction (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 2000), p. 64.

[4] Scott Sanders, ‘Characterization in science fiction: Two approaches – 1. The disappearance of character’ in Science Fiction: A Critical Guide, ed. by Patrick Parrinder (London: Longman, 1979), p. 134.

[5] John Clute and Peter Nicholls, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (London: Orbit, 1999), p.361

[6] Freedman, Critical Theory and Science Fiction, p. 55.

[7] Mirra Ginsburg, ‘Introduction’ in We by Yevgeny Zemyatin (New York: Bantam, 1972), translated by Mirra Ginsburg. p. xx.

[8] Scott Sanders, ‘Characterization in science fiction: Two approaches – 1. The disappearance of character’ in Science Fiction: A Critical Guide, ed. by Patrick Parrinder (London: Longman, 1979), p. 134.

[9] The first police force formed after the October Revolution, the precursor to the KGB, they were the spies and enforcers of the Bolshevik’s doctrine during the turbulent Red Terror and civil war.

[10] Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, p. 1.

[11] Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, p. 11.

[12] Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, p. 46.

[13] Brian Aldiss, Trillion Year Spree (London: Paladin, 1988), p. 229.

[14] Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (New York: HarperPerennial, 1989), p. 34.

[15] Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, p. 34.

[16] Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, p. 237.

[17] Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, p. 28.

[18] Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, p. 96.

[19] Robert S. Baker, Brave New World: History, Science, and Dystopia, p. 91.

[20] Rafaella Baccolini, ‘”A useful knowledge of the present is rooted in the past”: Memory and Historical Reconciliation in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Telling’, in Dark Horizons, ed. by Tom Moylan and Rafaella Baccolini (New York and London: Routeldge, 2003). p. 155.

[21] Walter C. Langer. A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler: His Life and Legend. (Washington, DC: Office of Strategic Services), p. 51. <http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/h/hitler-adolf/oss-papers/text/oss-profile-03-02.html&gt;

[22] Katharine Burdekin, Swastika Night, p. 74.

[23] Milan Kundera quoted in “’A Useful knowledge of the present is rooted in the past” by Rafaelle Baccolini, p. 125

[24] Katherine Burdekin, Swastika Night, p. 121.

[25] George Orwell, 1984 (New York: Signet Classic, 1981), p. 204

[26] George Orwell, 1984, p. 210.

[27] George Orwell, 1984, p. 205.

[28] George Orwell, 1984, p. 7.

[29] George Orwell, 1984, p. 28.

[30] Brian Aldiss, The Trillion Year Spree, p. 303

[31] Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London: Verso, 2007), p. 200

[32] Jack Zipes, ‘Mass Degradation of Humanity and Massive Contradictions in Bradbury’s Vision of America in Fahrenheit 451’ in No Place Else: Explorations in Utopian and Dystopian Fiction, ed. by Eric S. Rabkin, et. al. (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983), p. 184.

[33] Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (London: Flamingo, 1993), p. 42.

[34] Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, p. 81.

[35] Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, p. 171.

[36] Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, p. 164.

[37] Rafaella Baccolini, ‘”A useful knowledge of the present is rooted in the past”: Memory and Historical Reconciliation in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Telling’, in Dark Horizons, ed. by Tom Moylan and Rafaella Baccolini (New York and London: Routeldge, 2003). p. 116.

CRSF 2013 CfP

CRSF 2013 CfP

Information about the up-coming Current Research in Speculative Fiction conference at the University of Liverpool, entering it’s third year: http://currentresearchinspeculativefiction.blogspot.co.uk/

The Smoky God; a hollow earth oddity

As The Smoky God (1908) was published late in the era of Hollow Earth stories, it has little to add in originality, but cansmoky god 1 the giants be praised for its compact retelling of the most common themes and contemporary elements of the ‘science’ of hollow earth theories. It utilized the common ‘framing’ narrative, of the author passing on a second hand story that may defy belief, but at the same time strains credibility in providing evidence that the original narrator may not be completely mad. As the civilizations to be found underground are never humanity’s equals, being always lesser or greater, Willis George Emerson chose to (briefly) develop the latter. What is most intriguing about The Smoky God is the effort put into the verisimilitude for the benefit of the reader.

There is an interesting dichotomy that exists between the ‘author’ and the ‘narrator’ in The Smoky God. From the outset, Emerson sets to distance himself from Olaf Jansen’s narrative, disclaiming any responsibility for this as his own wild tale, but at the same time, is the party responsible for also establishing the credit of the narrator for the reader. It is a two-fold approach, logos and ethos. Emerson builds up his scientific arguments with excerpts from the works of various explorers and hollow earth proponents of the day (among them William F. Warren, Sir John barrow and Robert E. Peary) while expounding upon Jansen as ‘no ordinary person, […] profound and learned to a remarkable degree’ (pg. 3).

Considering how short the story is, one might question why so much space is given to introducing Jansen, and Emerson’s ‘relationship’ with him, until it becomes apparent that Emerson is attempting to establish the contemporary ‘facts’ about hollow earth theory, and the apparent ‘credibility’ of Jansen’s story. It is interesting how in one breath, Emerson states that Jansen’s story may be seen as that of a ‘distorted intellect superinduced, possibly, by the glamour of unveiling a marvelous mystery, rather than a truthful record of unparalleled experiences related by one Olaf Jansen, whose eloquent madness so appealed to my imagination that all thought of an analytical criticism has been effectually dispelled.’ (pg. 1) But in the next, Emerson muses that ‘A hundred times I have asked myself whether it is possible that the world’s geography is incomplete, and that the startling narrative of Olaf Jansen is predicated upon demonstrable facts.’ (pg. 1)  As a good, honest narrator, though, Emerson also assures the reader that ‘My simple duty is to enlighten the world concerning a heretofore unknown portion of the universe, as it was seen and described by the old Norseman, Olaf Jansen.’ (pg. 1) In other words, the reader would not be out of line in possibly believing that the narrative is potentially true, but if the reader does not believe, well, Emerson should not be locked up as mentally deranged; it’s not his story, after all. Nor is Emerson the first to muse about the possibilities of a hollow earth.

Plato is the opening quote utilized by Emerson, placing God at the center of the earth, and noting a little later, ‘It may be that the true home of Apollo was not at Delphi, but in that older earth-center of which Plato speaks’ (pg. 1) As the ‘Smoky God’ is referring to the electric cloud at the earth’s core that provides illumination and is worshiped as a deity by the inner world inhabitants, Emerson  draws parallels for this with real world religion: ‘Ancient Hindoo, Japanese and Chinese writings, as well as the hieroglyphics of the extinct races of the North American continent, all speak of the custom on sun-worshipping, and it is possible […] that the people of the inner world’ migrated to the surface of the Earth, spawning humanity (pg. 6). To back up the theory of a central origin for humans, Emerson’s first footnote quotes M. le Marquis G. de Saporta’s “How the Earth was Peopled, II” from 1883. This is the foundation for Emerson’s continued framing of the story utilizing contemporary texts to back-up Jansen’s tale.

The character of Olaf Jansen himself is developed in some detail at the start of the second part, where he lays out his parents, his birth, rearing and education. He also explains away the long delay in his recounting of this story by his imprisonment in a mental ward for telling others what he found on his voyage. This mark of ‘innocent insanity’ is meant to foster sympathy from the reader, in the likes of Pandora never being believed. Jansen’s ‘deathbed confession’ is also apparently used to foster sympathy, as a dying man would never lie with his last breaths. Jansen is careful to rebuild his character, though, as that of an upstanding and successful citizen once he was released, lending further weight to the veracity of his tale. As Emerson states in the beginning, ‘truth is stranger than fiction’, so maybe, just maybe, the reader should invest a little belief in the story.

The voyage itself does not begin until almost a third of the way into the book, and the geography is carefully laid out; another attempt to provide verisimilitude, a map that the reader is capable of following. Jansen/Emerson is clear about the factors which made this voyage possible, from motivations both economic (the quests for ivory) and spiritual (the quest for the realm of Odin and Thor) to the size of the fishing boat (‘had our craft been other than small, we never could have gotten through’ – pg. 11). This establishment of the difficulty of the voyage is meant to lend credence as to why no other explorer has completed this voyage before. However, there is heavy citation of the observations of contemporary polar explorers, including ‘the dipping of the needle’ on the compass (pg. 12), the presence of fresh water (pg. 11), and the unmoving Pole Star. The arrival of Jansen and his father to the Inner World is where Emerson’s imagination takes full hold.

This imagination, however, is limited to merely making the features of the Inner World of immense size; the inhabitants, the rivers, the flora and fauna. In a way, this has a normalizing effect upon the text. Elephants and tortoises are readily identifiable, as are the grapes ‘large as an orange’ and the apples ‘larger than a man’s head’ (pg. 18). Size is a matter of status; these things which are larger must surely be superior to those things found on the surface of the earth. The size of the people of the Inner World is also meant to stand them in the eyes of readers as a superior to homo sapiens.

The inhabitants are an unnamed species, but other than their large appearance, Emerson has not distanced them far from humanity. They are ‘of gigantic stature’, have ‘full beards’, and ‘mild and beautiful faces, exceedingly fair, with ruddy complexions’ (pg. 16). As a refined, advanced race, these inhabitants demonstrate an ‘ease of manner which we deem a sign of good breeding’ (pg. 17) and throw around gold as a common metal, used for decoration rather than finance. In fact, Emerson/Jensen makes no notation about the economy of the Inner World, as if capitalism is beneath so refined a race. They are credited with speaking a form of Sanskrit (pg. 19) which is an indicator of how ancient this civilization is intended to be, Sanskrit being one of the oldest know languages when Emerson was writing. One must wonder if it was a slip of the pen when Emerson credits this civilization with a remarkable gift in the arts and sciences, including astronomy (pg. 20) – no indications of what form this ‘astronomy’ form the inside of the earth might take.

The technology of the Inner World is demonstrated without much explanation beyond the use of electricity, an advancement that was spreading in the Western world, though this fictional civilization is not dominated by their technology. This is still a pastoral society dedicated to agriculture and art, as demonstrated by the ‘temples of music’ (pg. 18) and the hillsides of vineyards and valleys of grain (pg. 18). There is a rather long passage on page 19 explaining the ‘monorail’ transport the characters use, with a science so muddled in inconsistency as to baffle the modern reader. The use of fly wheels, and the destruction of air pressure/gravity (as if the two were actually related) somehow relates to the high rate of speed at which the monorail car travels. This is the only instance, however, when Emerson attempts to delve into any sort of early SF ‘technobable’, choosing instead to focus on the nature of the Inner World. A single sentence also states that ‘they hold communication with one another between the most distant parts of the country, on air currents’ (pg. 21) a very early reference to the development of radio and telephones which were still much the marvel in 1908.

Despite the seeming advancement of this Inner World race, they still possess a ‘pagan’ religion of sun worship, of the electric cloud that emanates light for twelve hours of day, and is eclipsed for 12 hours of night, the ‘Smoky God’, the ‘throne of their Jehovah’ (pg. 18).  There is mention of a High Priest residing in a city called ‘Eden’ (pg. 19), though it is debatable whether Emerson was incapable of imagining a world free of these biblical references, or if he was attempting to utilize a language his readers would recognize. The rivers Euphrates, Pison, Gihon and Hiddekel are mentioned as emanating from this City of Eden, just as they did from the biblical Garden of Eden, further tying the narrative into western religious tradition and relying on those traditions to add credence to the plausibility of the tale. The longevity of the Inner World beings (six to eight hundred years) is indicative both of their superiority and harkens the reader back to the biblical references of Lazarus and the long lives of Old Testament figures. Emerson is mildly defensive of his biblical references at one point, when he mentions the gigantic trees, and how if ‘the Bible said there were trees towering over three hundred feet in height and over thirty feet in diameter, growing in the Garden of Eden, the Ingersolls, the Tom Paines and Voltaires would doubtless have pronounces  the statement a myth. Yet this is the description of the California sequoia gigantea’ (pg. 20). So if such large trees can be found on the western coast of America, maybe thousand foot tall trees at the centre of the earth is not such a far off statement for the faithful? Rather abruptly, though, this exploration ends and the Jensens decide to leave.

The voyage back to the ‘Outer World’ is as harrowing as the voyage in, this time exiting from the South Pole Symme’s Hole. Olaf Jensen is the only survivor, plucked from the ice by a passing whaling ship, and the narrative comes full circle to where Jensen was introduced. In part six, Jensen offers his concluding thoughts, which include another push for credibility: ‘I wish to state that I firmly believe science is yet in its infancy concerning the cosmology of the earth. There is so much that is unaccounted for by the world’s accepted knowledge of to-day’ (pg. 26). For contemporary readers, this would have been a difficult statement with which to disagree. He makes mention of S.A. Andree’s balloon expedition to the North Pole, speculating that he and his missing companions are merely being entertained by the Inner World – in truth, their bodies would be found in 1930. Emerson’s Afterword finishes off the framing with the assertion that ‘the original text has neither been added nor taken away from’ and that ‘It is impossible to express my opinion as to the value or reliability of the wonderful statements made by Olaf Jansen’ (pg. 28). The narrative seems to be more concerned with relaying a large amount of information regarding the possibilities of the hollow earth and arctic explorers, than Emerson actually attempting to develop Olaf Jensen as a character. Though I would not be the first to call this story without literary merit, it is an interesting summation of contemporary ideas and styles regarding the hollow earth.

Upcycling the American Pastoral: A New Perspective on Hollow Earth Utopias

Image[From a paper presented at the ASLE-UKI conference in September 2012]

With the disappearance of terra incognita from maps in the Nineteenth Century, writers of speculative fiction had to reach beyond lost continents and darkest Africa to find a new setting for their socio-political speculation. The hollow Earth, or terra cava, became one of the new imaginative destinations of fiction writers in the wake of John Symmes’s 1818 popular theory of polar openings leading to a hollow, habitable globe. More than just recycling traditional utopian tropes, these novels embraced a ‘technotopia’ approach, applying technology to the pastoral in an age of rapid urbanisation. The quest to reclaim America’s lost frontiers is combined with the perceived promises of technology to ease (and advance) life towards the utopian.

Nothing says literary compost like the Nineteenth century utopia that embraced new and old ideas of feminism, politics, economics, technology, and a dozen other topics. This paper aims to explore the tropes being ‘upcycled’ by early science fiction authors exploring the possibilities of socio-political improvement through the use of technology and return to the virginal frontier that shaped the American conscious. As opposed to the ‘low-tech’ lost-world/race novels that attempt to reclaim the ancient Garden, these fin de siècle hollow Earth narratives attempt to balance the benefits of urban technology with the desire to live in clean, open spaces, what Leo Marx called ‘The Machine in the Garden’. From power to food to goods production, these works articulate a Nineteenth century desire to create the new within a familiar, edenic environment – even if it were one that never really existed.

Several novels treated the terra cava as a genuine lost world awaiting discovery, a new American frontier, and their sublime descriptions were meant to entice readers’ imaginations as well as their inclination to support expeditions to the Poles. By setting techno-pastoral scenes in a seemingly plausible hollow world, American readers were absorbing the propaganda of both necessary imperialism and industrial integration with the desperately missed frontier. Significant unique differences, though, are to be found in the terra cava novel in America as opposed to other pastoral or imperialist novels. Three novels will present us with the scope of the fin du siècle’s hollow earth utopias, and how they addressed issues of urban and rural space, ecology, and technology and upcycled old literary tropes into a new pastoral technotopia inside the Earth: Mary Braley Lane’s Mizroa of 1880, Byron Welcome’s From Earth’s Center in 1894, and at the end of the terra cava literary tradition, Willis George Emerson’s The Smoky God from 1908.

The synthesis of urban and rural spaces into a harmonious until, upcycling tropes seen in other contemporary writers, is a significant feature of terra cava texts. Nineteenth century authors were undoubtedly familiar with works such as Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives, which used photography to expose the wretched tenement conditions in New York City, and reported such instances as ‘The death of a child in a tenement… registered at the Bureau of Vital Statistics as “plainly due to suffocation in the foul air of an unventilated apartment”.’ Or consider the Charles Folsom report made to the Massachusetts State Board of Health in 1877: ‘It is readily seen, that, except at the headwaters, the Nashua River is so polluted throughout its whole length that it would be unwise to use any part of it for a domestic water supply.’[1] Balance this with the Emerson-Thoreau view of American nature as the sublime. Spacious, well organised living conditions, built amidst luscious greenery and light, are the dream of these utopian writers.

In the feminist utopia Mizora, the narrator, Vera Zarovich, remarks upon her first site of ‘a mighty city…all the buildings were detached and surrounded by lawns and shade trees, their white marble and gray granite walls gleaming through the green foliage’ (16). Within the large cities, homes are built around large, verdant parks, and the same in suburban regions (40); there are no concrete towers or rough log cabins to which most Americans were accustomed. Zarovich observes that ‘The houses…all seem to have been designed with two special objects in view – beauty and comfort’ (40). This is a planned community, designed to suit both urban and rural need as well as appeal. ‘The walks were smoothly paved and shaded by trees of enormous size’ (41). Pavement and trees, the artificially produced and the natural, harmoniously combined. This is the essence of Bradley Lane’s work, attempting to demonstrate a world that had learned to smoothly incorporate its technological and industrial developments, more so than the US.

On a slightly different tack we have Welcome’s 1894 novel, From Earth’s Center: A Polar Gateway Message, is based upon the socio-political theories of the American Henry George, published a year after economic crisis swept the US. The organisation of urban and rural land is a central tenant of George’s reformist agenda. As one character in a large city explains, ‘There are people who prefer the advantages of a central location like this, while others prefer more seclusion and a separate home. Their tastes are in all cases gratified. You can live just as you please here, with nothing but your inclination to guide you.’ (36). But a non-central location is not necessarily detrimental to cultural enjoyments like the theatre, due to effective transportation and land organisation: ‘In this country there are few places so small that they cannot afford nearly all the luxuries we have in the large cities’. (39). Cities, towns, and villages are described as being close together and rapidly connected by an efficient train system, allowing people to live and work in different habitats (71), a modern luxury unknown in Welcome’s era. As one character describing land usage notes, ‘it is more economical… to live densely together, than to be scattered over the whole state, where all these public improvements and convenience we now enjoy would be impossible’ (219). But even this so-called dense living is not described as anything other than pleasant, not the sort of slum living found in major urban areas. The elimination of poverty and carefully controlled rents and land usages makes it easier for everyone to live in healthy conditions. The countryside and nature is easily available to all, not just the upper class.

At the closing of the terra cava literary era, we find one of the shortest and most unique stories, Willis George Emerson’s Smoky God of 1908. Written as the dying testament of one Olaf Jansen and then edited by Emerson, this longish short story finds a young Jansen and his father, Norwegian fishermen who sail through the Arctic and into a Symmes hole. Encountering a race of 12-foot tall giants who are beautiful and refined (because who else would occupy this Eden?) Jansen and his father spend the next ten pages offering not a narrative, but an overview of this ‘Land beyond the North Wind’ as their Norse myth calls it. The housing is described as large, beautiful and uniform without being the same, thus pleasing to the eye and not baring the marks of the haphazardly assemble mining and railroad towns that dotted the American West, or the urban slums of the East: ‘All buildings are erected with special regard to strength, durability, beauty and symmetry, and with a style of architecture vastly more attractive to the eye than any I have ever observed elsewhere’ (39) Jensen states, reinforcing the contemporary dissatisfaction with American construction technique and aesthetics. These pleasing dwellings are set among hillsides covered in vineyards and valleys devoted to growing grains (34). The urban and rural imagery are synthesised. Jensen and his father are given leave to visit the ‘colleges of music and art,… great fields, [and] wonderful forests of timber’ (37), a touristic synthesis of the rural and the municipal. In furtherance of this, the primary occupations of the inhabitants are said to be ‘architecture, agriculture, horticulture, the raising of vast herds of cattle, and the building of conveyances… for travel on land and water’ (39). Engineering and agrarian concerns are the vocational call of these civilised giants. The capital city is even called Eden, implying both a religious connection to human origins, and at metaphorical image of paradise brought into the present, and readily attainable.

The organisation of urban and rural greenery carries with it improvements upon the ecology of the surface world. Descriptions of verdant habitats in the interior world upcycle traditional elements of ecological description and travelogues of explorers with the integration of utopian ideals and environments modified to suite imagined hollow earth conditions. America was supposed to be the bright paradise of ‘beautiful…spacious skies…amber waves of grain…purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain! – this of course being derived from Katherine Lee Bates 1895 poem. But the progression of American settlement across the continent had despoiled much of this scenery in the opinion of many observers. Consider the declared closing of the American frontier with the results of the 1890 census, putting an end to the fifty year philosophy of manifest destiny. These novels are not about finding a new frontier; they are about finding lands of unspoiled and thriving nature, and how America might get back to this state of grace.

In Bradley Lane’s Mizora, the narrator observes upon her arrival ‘Birds of bright plumage flitt[ing] among the branches, anon breaking forth into wild and exultant melody, as if they rejoiced to be in so favoured a clime. And truly it seemed a land of enchantment. […] The languorous atmosphere… produced in me a feeling of contentment not easily described’ (14-5). The light reflected into the interior is described as ‘rapturous’ and ‘hangs like a veil of enchantment over the land of Mizora’ (25). There is no description here but that of heavenly perfection. The air itself is charged with a natural electric élan to rejuvenate the mind and body. There is no smoke or ash polluting the atmosphere, a benefit of a technologically advanced society that does not rely on fossil fuels.

From Earth’s Center decides to improve upon nature itself, chided the exterior’s natural forces for not being as efficient as the interior. Rather than rain dropped to the ground after being evaporated and condensed in clouds, the interior world of Centralia has ‘sweats’ in which water from beneath the surface rises to the top to moisten the soil and vegetation: ‘Is it not a much simpler process to come forth from the earth, where it is abundant, than for it to rise in a thin, invisible vapour form the same source?’ (84).There is no drought, no flooding. The amount of hydration is perfectly balanced via Welcome’s own interpretive science, involving electric currents moving in such a way as to draw the water up. Just as with Bradley Lane’s Mizora, electricity is perceived to be in the air itself, this new power emerging at the end of the Nineteenth century that was seen as a vitalistic force. The narrator comments that ‘Nature’s gifts have been bountiful;…the balmy air, the favourable surroundings’ (237) all working in a perfect society to produce a surplus of food and resources. The interior of the world suffers from none of the extremes of the exterior (from politics to poverty to temperature).

The inner world of The Smoky God is not just vitalising to Jensen and his father, it resurrects disappearing animal species, preserving what was being lost in America. Jensen remarks that ‘A writer in an article on this subjects says: “Almost every year sees the final extinction of one or more bird species.”[…] Is it not possible that these disappearing bird species quit their habitation without, and find asylum in the “within world”?’ (40). The hollow earth is a haven for the animals mistreated on the earth’s surface, hunted to extinction and pushed out of their habitat by humanity’s expanding population. Jensen goes on to states that ‘the strange conditions “within” are favourable not only for vast meadows or luxuriant grasses, forests of giant trees, and all manner of vegetable life, but wonderful animal life as well.’ (40). Jensen compares it to the Miocene age he read about as a child (40). Besides the native population averaging over twelve feet in height, the plant and animal life is also massive in size

The use of technology in these pastoral utopias is what makes them incredibly unique for their time, in addition to being set within the interior of the earth. The supposition of finding advanced races within, races that had not been ejected from the proverbial Garden, suggested to authors and readers alike a people who had found a way to smoothly integrated technology into their lives in a way that America had thus far failed to find. The advent of electricity yielded up the promise of, according to an 1891 article in The Saint Paul Daily Globe, ‘the solution of some profound problem by which the use of electricity can be made universal to the wants of man’ (28 Sep 1891 pg 5). Edward Bellamy discussed such utopian technological progress in Looking Backwards, but that was published seven years after Bradley Lane’s Mizora. Edward Bulwer-Lytton explored a technologically advanced society in The Coming Race, an early and popular terra cava novel, one of the first British lost-race stories that dealt with not a so-called primitive race, but a superior civilisation that would threaten Anglo-American superiority. All of these terra cava novels possess races with technological superiority that aides in their utopian status.

In Mizora, technology has freed women from the drudgery of domestic life known to the average woman of the Nineteenth century. A machine with brushes and sponges, and attached bottles of soap and water, scourers the floors, not a woman. Not that they are freed from all labour, but they pursue work in the fields of science, engineering, art, and education. Mizora is described as a ‘land of brain workers’ (45) where no menial labour exists, and those which we might consider menial (childrearing, cooking, or tending an orchard) are revered as the work of only the best educated, because of the technical work that goes into such tasks. Technology has afforded a healthier, easier way of procuring food in Mizora, which is chemically prepared (19), and thus free from the defects of naturally raised foods, or the diseases found in animal products: ‘Bread came from the laboratory, and not from the soil by the sweat of the brow.’ (21). The removal of impurities from food is apparently part of the cause of the women’s ‘suppleness and bloom of eternal youth’ (19). The population is freed from the tribulations of flood and drought resulting in famines, and reality even in America in the Nineteenth century. The scientific preparation of food makes it a respectable pursuit, betraying the author’s – and America’s – prejudice towards intellectual production over manual production.

Technological progress in Welcome’s fictional Centralia is never a negative, but an economic boon to this very capitalist nation. There are recording devices to disseminate speeches and concerts (62), synchronised clocks powered by that strange force electricity (64), electric street cars (71) for improved communication and goods transportation, and electric boats (97). This is accomplished by the conversion of coal directly into electricity, rather than a coal powered steam engine producing electricity (98). The inclusion of wires built into every home for conduction electricity is a foreshadowing of the modern development.

The Giants’ boat which picks up the Jensens is described as having silent but powerful machinery to propel it at speeds greater than any railroad in America, and Jensen describes this as ‘wonderful’ (33). The benefit of the railroad was its speed, but its drawbacks included the noise and pollution emitted by the engines. Jensen’s (or Emerson’s) metaphor of the train is refined to stifle the cacophony, increasing the power, and eliminating the foul by-products. An electric monorail is described as noiseless and running perfectly balanced on a single iron rail at a high rate of speed, carrying the Jensens ‘up hills and down dales, across valleys and again along the sides of maintains, without any apparent attempt having been made to level the earth as we do for railroad tracks’ (35). Mechanical transportation has been smoothly integrated into the lay of the land, rather than the scars set into mountains dynamited by railroad companies. Electricity, just becoming a widespread source of power in the US, provides quiet, invisible energy for the whole of the Inner world. Even the air is described as being electrically charged and a constant source of vitality for the Jensens as they breathe it. The atmosphere is not just unpolluted; this is an Eden whose very air is energising, a pastoral, electrified paradise: ‘Nature chanted a lullaby in the faint murmur of winds whose breath was sweet with the fragrance of bud and blossom’ (41).

Transportation is a significant feature of all of these novels, and none of them involve horses. At this point in time there were dire predictions of large cities like London and New York would be buried under the manure of hundreds of thousands of work horses. Electricity offered an alternative power for transportation of people and goods. Animals were enjoyed for their nature (though not for their consumption as these literary paradises were vegetarian) and freed by technology as much as the menial worker.

These novels are a taste of the larger canon of terra cava literature, which embrace many of these same upcycled cultural and literary tropes of the garden, technology and utopia. Without any more topographic white spaces in which an island paradise of perfect people, flawless government, and advanced civilisation might be lurking, the uncharted poles and theoretical hollow earth were one of the last earth-bound literary spaces in which writers could project their hopes and expectations for an American future that has technologically upgraded and ecologically integrated the living space of the population. The edenic pastoral literature of the era and the very real encroaching pollution of urbanisation and industrialisation lead to the composted result of hollow earth literature. Urban and pastoral landscapes in these proto-science fiction tales are ripe spaces for ecocritical scholarship.

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