A Study of the Hollow Earth

Exploring forgotten realms of literature

Archive for the tag “early science fiction”

Echoes: Literary and Historical Mars in the New Narrative

“We could cast our imaginations wider, to those who have tried to speak for all of Mars. To the astronomers looking at it with their telescopes, measuring all the qualities of light reflected from its surface, seeing seasons and imagining civilizations. Or to the writers inspired by those astronomical visions: H.G. Wells and Stanley Weinbaum, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and Alexander Bogdanov and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Their imaginations took a point of light and turned it into a world of experience.” Oliver Morton, Mapping Mars, p. 3.

Despite the possibility of alien civilisations on Mars ground underfoot in the relentless stream of new information about the planet, the literary and exploratory history of Mars still influences contemporary authors writing under the new paradigm. The works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury are the most prominently featured old literature about Mars, and the tropes of Martian life and survival in a hostile environment are still influencing plotlines. Life is the ultimate litmus test of planetary exploration in the minds of both scientists and authors. Not one of these novels (or most others published in the last two decades) skips the discovery of some form of life or fossilised evidence of its past presence. These older literary ideas are tied into historical retrospectives about Percival Lowell’s observations and NASA’s Mariner, Viking, and (later on) Pathfinder missions. In other words, there is ‘Nostalgia for an imagined Martian past and speculation about an imagined future,’ as a ‘dialectal responses to the ambiguities that Mars represents after 1972.’[1] This Martian mega-text (to borrow from Damien Broderick’s view of science fiction’s ‘interlocking web of fictive worlds’[2]) is built upon years of speculative fiction and science constantly being reinterpreted and updated, old tropes being assimilated by newer ones. Gregory Benford has noted that hard SF writers ‘hold in common the internationalist idealism of scientific bodies, and in their free trading of ideas often behave like scientists.’[3] This helps to understand the prevalent use not just of classical works, but the commonly shared sources of information, as these proposed soon-to-be-histories are written with a common historical/ literary background. Zubrin’s historian cum astronaut character is blatant in articulating the conflict between past, present, and envisioned future:

Edgar Rice Burroughs already told us about this place. Once there were canals here, and cities, capitals of mighty empires that had names like Helium, Ptarth, and Manator. […]

Ah, Barsoom, you were destroyed by the Mariner probes, which banished you into mere fiction. But now we are here to make amends. Once again, there are people on Mars[4]

It is a rather ridiculous statement to makes; Burroughs knew next to nothing about Mars (only what was gleaned from Lowell’s fuzzy observations), he merely gave it the foundations of a fictive state to exist in. But the sentiment is meant to appeal to those who are familiar with Barsoom’s influence on literary Mars. In adapting to changing perceptions of the planet, these authors are attempting to make Mars interesting again, not with fantasy, but with the facts as they are known by presenting the visage of an adventurous, dangerous new world to explore. The past literary and scientific elements are called upon to invoke a popular nostalgia, and be reconciled with the new Mars, ‘to make amends’ for the years between Viking and the mid-1980s when authors finally began to write about the Red Planet again. They also revel in the early scientific speculation and unmanned expeditions to Mars, reiterating the great efforts leading up to this point in history and the significance Mars has held in the human imagination. These novels are about modifying the mega-text of Martian literature, turning what had become fantasy into the viable, realistic mode of prediction science fiction is often perceived to be, ignoring the extent to which it comments on the present.[5] In order to reshape Martian iconography, these narratives must be woven into the scientific and literary past. Just as latter revelations in both religion and science must take prevalence over those edicts and theories which preceded them, the more recent novels of Mars establish their authority over Burroughs and Bradbury by reminding readers of the fallacious bygone, while presenting the latest NASA findings. This also requires authors to take a planet redefined in less terrestrial terms, and humanise it again with more subtle metaphors; a vision of the Grand Canyon National Park rather than a medieval palace. It is acceptable to be inspired by past literature and scientific deeds, but the ‘new’ must be embraced, or as Gwyneth Jones put it, ‘In the hierarchy of sf plausibility, technophile extrapolation from the here-and-now takes precedence.’[6] This creates a cyclical relationship between the scientists making discoveries, the SF authors incorporating these discoveries into the plots, adding their own speculation, and providing stories of inspiration for a new generation.

Many authors and scientists were influenced by these tales of Mars, and ‘No matter how whimsical the Mars of Bradbury, or Lowell, or Burroughs, the scientists who now study the planet grew up under the influence of these visionaries. Some modern scientists, like Carl Sagan, have freely admitted their debt; others function in a culture conditioned by them.’[7] They were provided with the wonderland of a living Mars. In acknowledging the influences of these works, authors are demonstrating a hope that their own stories will inspire the future. Discovering life on Mars is fictionalised wish fulfilment, whether to merely alleviate the feeling of being alone in the universe, or to prove Mars a worthwhile destination deserving of further development. The dream of colonising Mars with shining domed-cities is not (completely) dead, but has been replaced with the more realistic near-future structures of buried brick vaults and domes of rip-stop Kevlar and Plexiglas.[8] Now there is simply more science to influence the settlement plan and those writing the narratives. ‘Good science fiction works […] Largely by retaining some contact with the real world,’[9] thus, by the authors maintaining parity with the known past while incorporating newer work, it helps to maintain the verisimilitude, allowing readers to relate more fully to the idea that this is the very near future.

The historical science references, from Lowell to Pathfinder, are meant to keep the reader in the present and aware that this is not intended to be an alternative universe with an alternate history (excluding Stephen Baxter’s Voyage in 1997 which deals with an alternate history and a Mars expedition in the 1980s). Bova makes reference to the first geologist on the moon since Apollo 17 and the use of Mir 5 space station,[10] establishing a continuation of known space programmes. However, as can happen when writing in the near future, the latter element is now a dated assumption considering the destruction of the original Mir and its substitution with the International Space Station (which Landis makes use of in his novel for training the astronauts, along with the fictional Mirusha, ‘“little Mir’- a tribute to the earlier Mir space station’[11]). But it is the Viking missions of 1976 which are more frequently brought up, the first American craft to touch down on the planet and conduct basic experiments, which revealed ‘that there was unusual chemical activity in the Martian soil’ raising the question ‘Could life exist in that soil, if there was liquid water available?’[12] The scientific history raises possibilities for the authors to explore and answer, and it offers a chance for the authors to pay homage to old scientists and explores who helped to shape the new Mars. In the novel, an excursion is made out to the Viking 1 Lander (renamed the Mutch Memorial station after the death of Thomas A. Mutch in 1980) to place a plaque in honour of the geologist who headed up the team which examined the Viking photographs.


The plaque was unveiled by NASA in 1981, and is still waiting for a team of explorers to go to Mars and place it with the Mutch Memorial Station.[14] Bova is fulfilling the desire of many NASA scientists, if only in fiction, and adding another thread of reality to the inter-textual web.

A significant source of history that contributes to the plot later on in Return to Mars was the historic Pathfinder mission of 1997, when NASA finally succeeded in returning to Mars after Viking. Bova’s questionably enterprising character Dexter Thumball is determined to scavenge the Sojourner rover from the Sagan site in Ares Vallis to auction off on Earth. Upon retrieval ‘they photographed the area for comparison with the catalogue imagery from the Pathfinder itself three decades earlier.’[15] Instead of a simulacrum stand-in as SF so often must do for their plots, Bova is free to utilise these real artefacts of history as part of the action. Thumball the elder later decided to trek to Mars to check on his investments, citing that ‘older men than I have gone into space, starting with Senator Glenn nearly forty years ago’[16] in reference to Senator John Glenn of Ohio setting the record for oldest astronaut in space.[17] Statements such as this are superfluous to the plot action, but contribute to the verisimilitude of a potential near-future expedition.  NASA is a civilian branch of the US government, and in a (theoretically) transparent democracy, their activities are therefore part of the public domain, and free to be assimilated into the iconography of Mars. An invented NASA mission (for that matter, a fictitious space agency) would be a distraction for readers versed in space travel history, and so it is easier for Bova, and others, to appease the informed and inform the uninitiated.

Gregory Benford utilises more scientific history than perhaps any other author during this decade, planting his work firmly in the realm of near-future. The Martian Race brings up the 1989 proposal by NASA for a $450 billion budget to reach Mars[18] and the subsequent development of the Mars Direct scenario as a more economic proposal. The history of self-contained environments, from Mir to Skylab to the International Space Station and the Biosphere II experiment (including why it failed) are all brought up, and how self-contained environments still have not been perfected.[19] One of the Viking experiments is recreated, and the scientist confirms that ‘Viking and all the other probes had fund only chemistry after all, no evidence of life.’[20] The 1997 Sojourner rover is reflected upon by one of the astronauts as ‘its plucky nosing around had got Julia started on her Mars fixation’[21] – a statement that may prove true for future scientists. Benford is keeping his narrative firmly rooted in this world, as it were, allowing space exploration history to provide a large part of the context. Besides utilising the inspirations of The Case for Mars, Zubrin himself became a background figure assisting the private enterprise as the ‘Mars guru’, and is joined at a wedding by several more real life individuals[22] (all the scientists who assisted Benford in his research, many of them former member of the Mars Underground) and the base that the astronauts establish on Gusev crater is also named after him. This is a fascinating surreality of art imitating life, as Benford attempts to make his novel as realistic as possible. Zubrin’s work and personality have become part of the new Mars mega-text.

Robert Zubrin’s First Landing is a form of self- contained mega-text as it is self-referential of the author’s professional work; its a story centred on Zubrin’s own previously published theoretical approach to Mars, and Zubrin’s characters cite The Case for Mars and the Mars Society within the narrative. As discussed in the previous chapter, Zubrin is writing with specific agenda of proselytising and recruitment. NASA is the organisation behind the expedition, and the Viking missions’ experiments mentioned (pages 33 and 43). Even Michael Carr’s book The Surface of Mars is quoted (page 184) on a trip to Valles Marineris, as is Percival Lowell’s view on the Martian need to find water (page 111). Nearly a century apart in publication, yet both considered relevant to Mars today. It appears that the Mars Society, The Surface of Mars and The Case for Mars have joined with their predecessors to become part of the mega-text about Martian exploration, as ‘most science-fiction novelists in the 1990s have jumped on the Mars Direct Bandwagon […] and a detailed secondary literature has begun to be developed’,[23] such as Expedition Mars (2004) and Marswalk One: First Step on a New Planet (2005) both of which detail the science and engineering of landing on Mars. This is significant because it means an expanding range of resources for SF writers to draw from, a growth of the secondary mega-text to Mars literature. It means, though, that writers referencing these works will continue to structure their narratives under a set of pre-determined scientific parameters. Science must invariably dictate at least a portion of the plot, which could be argued as true for all so-called hard SF.

Two novels that do not spend many words on the scientific history of Mars are Beachhead and Mars Crossing. The former merited only mentioning the Viking Landers (p. 71) and Mariner 9 probe (p. 113) one time each. While it is indeed the author’s prerogative to ignore a literary and scientific history when writing SF, Williamson (and/or his editor) misdate Asaph Hall’s discovery of the moons of Mars, marking it as 1977[24] instead of 1877. This contributes to the sense of Beachhead as being rather disconnected from the present world. NASA is not even mentioned, but instead an imagined multi-national ‘Mars Authority’ coordinates the mission. Landis at least acknowledges NASA as a force behind Mars exploration (in addition to setting some of the training on the International Space Station) and dedicates three pages of part six to looking around the Pathfinder’s landing site of Ares Vallis, one astronaut recalling that ‘As a kid, he’d spent whole days downloading the pictures of this place from the internet; it was when he’d first become interested in Mars.’[25] However, that is the extent of Landis’s reflections up actual history. He references Lowell only once, when an instructor on Earth claims to be ‘a heretic, an old-fashioned Percival Lowell who just refuses to see the evidence’[26] when he claims there has to have been life on Mars once. It is difficult to decide whether Lowell should even be categorised with the scientific or literary history of Mars, simply because his ideas were a fiction based upon blurry observations, and his greatest contribution was perhaps to the inspiration of science fiction writers for the next half century. Old literary Mars is difficult for these authors to detach themselves from, and continues to influence modern narratives.

Bova’s characters may not reflect so much upon the literary history in Mars, but the author himself acknowledges his thanks to Burroughs, Weinbaum and Bradbury; ‘The different versions of Mars that they wrote about exist only in the imagination – but that is more than enough.’[27] Bova dwells the least upon literary Mars when compared to his contemporaries, as if trying to distance himself and his more serious work from whimsical Barsoom. Lowell, though, is given a little more credit in Return to Mars when the astronauts are discussing microbes living within water-bearing boulders, which are slowly drying out: ‘It’s just like Lowell said – this planet is dying.’ Lowell having been largely discredited for his canal theory, the character qualifies this hypothesis a few sentences later: ‘Lowell’s canals were mostly eyestrain and optical illusion. But his basic idea was that Mars was losing its air and water, the whole planet was dying’.[28] To say that a planet is dying is indicative of the belief that Mars was once alive, an assumption still unverified at this point in history. Lowell’s pseudo-scientific theories have remained fixed within the Mars mega-text because his ideas were so prevalent in the founding texts, and he has not been proved entirely wrong in his ideas thus far.

Williamson utilised very little in the way of literary references. His main character comments that when he was young he read ‘Heinlein[…]. A story about the red planet. I wanted to go there’[29] which provides a realistic motivator, and upon finally reaching the planet, he greets it ‘Hello Barsoom!’[30] (With no explanation for this comment, this indicates an assumption by Williamson that his readers would already be familiar with the works of Burroughs.) But there is no further reflection upon the literary Mars, and John Clute comments that although Beachhead ‘describes an expedition to a Mars according to contemporary knowledge, […] the plot itself is redolent of a much earlier era.’[31] This is an interesting observation, because it indicates an assumption that new tales of Mars must have a narrative updated from more classical tropes, and yet the older fictions continue to shape some of the narrative despite the new scientific data. Beachhead fits less securely into the mega-text of new Mars exploration than any of the other novels from this period, because it is entirely too mired in the Barsoom-ish vision of a great Mars with ‘crystal city domes shining in the dark.’[32] Writer who followed Williamson employed less poetically imperial visages in an attempt to maintain the scientific verisimilitude, but the literature still plays an influential intertextual role.

Ray Bradbury’s work is not commonly mentioned among these texts, but in The Martian Race the astronauts ‘talked about Ray Bradbury’s sand ships, tried to imagine skimming over the undulating landscape.’[33] They even watch the film version of The Martian Chronicles, along with several other Hollywood productions such as Mars Attacks! And Mission to Mars, described as ‘good for laughs’,[34] which keeps readers aware of the more sordid film history of Mars. Later there is a fear of Martian microbes reaching Earth, spurring a less-than logical response; ‘They cited Ray Bradbury, whose fictional Martians died from earthly diseases. That it was fiction was a fine point they didn’t appreciate.’[35] (This is followed by references to ‘The Andromeda strain, the Triffids, various evolved Martians, and lots of squishy aliens’.[36]) Reflecting an interesting dichotomy, they reference inspirational science fiction, to reinforce the ambitions of newer science fiction to push for an expedition to Mars, while at the same time using a derisive tone when SF is employed to argue against the expansion of scientific exploration. To borrow from another science fiction author, as there is no more succinct term, this is an interesting case of ‘double-think.’

Burroughs is quoted most often in First Landing, as if Zubrin is single-handedly trying to resurrect the Barsoom series, and credits Lowell with spawning the field of Mars literature and exploration. Copies of the Barsoom books are brought along, and two of the characters address each other as ‘My princess’ and ‘My chieftain’[37] in direct reference to Burroughs’s novels. The historian cum astronaut (rather banally) testifies

A century ago one dreamer who led us to Mars was Percival Lowell, a scientist who thought he saw canals spanning this planet, brining water from its poles to a thirsty civilization.
Perhaps in the future some John Carter from Earth will come here to find love in the eyes of a Dejah Thoris, his beautiful Martian princess. […]
Thank you Lowell, and Burroughs, for bringing us here; thanks to all the dreamers. Humanity owes its new world to you.[38]

It is not a soliloquy that will go down in the annals of literary memory, but it drives home the belief that current (and future) Mars narratives and exploration are derivative of the contributions from Lowell and Burroughs. This novel, and the others, is not intended as a pastiche of Burroughs’s work, but the constant referencing creates an obvious simulacrum of characters and situations, attempting to balance the fiction with the overwhelming science. Instead of gradually moving away from the unscientific portrayals of Mars, from Bova to Zubrin there is a marked increase of invocation of historical texts.

The echo of Lowell and Burroughs which resonates most profoundly in all of these novels is the ‘discovery’ of life on Mars. Every novel uncovers life from the microbial to the arboreal, and evidence from fossils to abandoned ancient cities. The perception is a consensus that life simply has to have evolved on Mars at some point in the last four billion years; even historically ‘As the canal builders retreated into science fiction, the idea of “primitive” life on Mars persisted’.[39] In the simple terms of Zubrin’s biologist upon discovering coccoid bacteria fossils, ‘There was life here once! […] That’s all that counts.’[40] This sentiment is echoed by the other authors/ narratives; in Mars, when the comment is made that the scientists who discover a simple lichen will win the Nobel prize, one responds ‘But what does that matter? Nothing matters now. We have found what we came for! Whatever happens from now on, it does not matter.’[41] The authors cannot conceive of a mission to Mars that does not include the discovery of some evidence of life, as if a Mars devoid of life cannot be interesting or worthwhile in itself. Life is the ultimate justification for reaching out to another planet, and as these authors are pursing an agenda not just to entertain, but to inform and perhaps even influence, they must pass this litmus test in their own fiction.

Though the appearance of Mars in fiction over the last century may have changed from crystal palaces to arid volcano peaks, from egg-laying princesses to coccoid bacteria, the sentiment remains; Mars is the closest planet to Earth that may harbour life. In concocting new narratives of this place, there is a common web of scientific history and information that invariably shapes the environmental setting and even the plot itself is not free from textual history. Authors will read the work of both their forbearers and their contemporaries, and though they reference their common literary past, they do not reference each other’s work, as if it would tarnish their own literary/scientific/political goals. They are all writing alternative (supposedly viable) futures of Mars exploration for the opening decades of the Twenty-first century, crafted by the mega-text of previous scientific and literary aspirations. Time will determine their successful integration into and influence upon the Mars mega-text.


[1] Markley, Dying Planet, p. 270.

[2] Damien Broderick, Reading by Starlight, p. 48.

[3] Gregory Benford, ‘Real Science, Imaginary Worlds’, in The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF, ed. by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (London: Orbit, 1994), p. 15.

[4] Zubrin, First Landing, p. 24.

[5] For evidence of this, just look at such titles as Robert Bly’s The Science in Science Fiction: 83 SF Predictions That Became Scientific Reality; this notes the speculation that formaldehyde detected in Mars’s atmosphere is evidence of methane producing bacteria, thus, proof of life on Mars.

[6] Gwyneth Jones, ‘The icons of science fiction’, in The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, ed. by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 169.

[7] Bergreen, The Quest for Mars, pp. 185-6.

[8] Zubrin, The Case for Mars, pp.175-8.

[9] Lambourne, et. al., Close Encounters, p. 113.

[10] Bova, Mars, p.47

[11] Landis, Mars Crossing, p.144.

[12] Bova, Mars, p. 125.

[13] Bova, Mars, p. 287.

[14] Malin Space Science System website. Mars Global Surveyor – Mutch Crater. <http://www.msss.com/mars_images/moc/2006/08/27/&gt;. Accessed 29 June 2008.

[15] Bova, Return to Mars, p. 355.

[16] Bova, Return to Mars, p. 504.

[17] Senator Glenn was 77 years old, aboard the space shuttle Discovery, mission STS-95 (October 29 – November 7, 1998).

[18] Benford, The Martian Race, p. 20.

[19] Benford, The Martian Race, pp. 181-2.

[20] Benford, The Martian Race, p. 259-60.

[21] Benford, The Martian Race, p. 17.

[22] Benford, The Martian Race, p. 54.

[23] Markley, Dying Planet, p. 349.

[24] Williamson, Beachhead, p. 121.

[25] Landis, Mars Crossing, p. 287.

[26] Landis, Mars Crossing, p. 77.

[27] Bova, Mars, p. i.

[28] Bova, Return to Mars, p. 159.

[29] Williamson, Beachhead, p. 24.

[30] Williamson, Beachhead, p. 134.

[31] Clute and Nicholls, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, p. 1330.

[32] Williamson, Beachhead, p. 181.

[33] Benford, The Martian Race, p. 30-1.

[34] Benford, The Martian Race, p. 325.

[35] Benford, The Martian Race, p. 109.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Zubrin, First Landing, p. 222.

[38] Zubrin, First Landing, p. 38.

[39] Markley, Dying Planet, p. 150.

[40] Zubrin, First Landing, p. 64.

[41] Bova, Mars, p. 429.

“Mr. Oseba’s Last Discovery”, or, Symzonia Down Under

Though written and published in New Zealand, Mr. Oseba’s Last Discovery (1904) is by the American George W. Bell, who the US Consul to Australia for seven years. It is a terra cava narrative that mixes American social and political philosophies with New Zealand’s environs, which Bleiler calls a ‘piece of real estate promotion’.[1] Throughout the text there are photographs from around New Zealand (identified in the caption, so there is no attempt to pretend these are images from the interior of the earth), which the Index clearly states ‘do not conform strictly to the text’ (p. viii).

‘The Author’ offers ‘A Note’ about his visit to New Zealand in 1903, a colony ‘submerged with socialism’ among other attributes: “I found in the Press, a broad independence; in the people, a sturdy self-reliance; and in the statesmen, a feeling that they were the chosen servants of the public’.[2] Intrigued by what he found in New Zealand (and Bell even dedicates the novel to its people), he sets out to express his Anglo-Saxon pride ‘in a garb of fiction, that I might wrest from the reader the memories of the daily struggle with stubborn facts’ (p. vi). This ‘garb of fiction’ implies a façade for truth in the narrative, and Bells claims to have ‘adopted a style that…would be appreciated for its audacious novelty’ (p. vi), though in reality, Bell is trotting on well worm literary grounds.

The narrative is framed around the posthumously read manuscript of Leo Bergin (a Virginian by birth), bequeathed to Sir Marmaduke, the secondary narrator/editor. Marmaduke opens by saying

This, being a true story, with the slight deviations necessary to the preservation of a due sense of proportion, it is deemed proper to casually introduce the characters on whom we must chiefly rely for the truthfulness or otherwise, of a most romantic adventure. (p. 1)

In other words, the truth of the narrative rests in the judgement of the reader, but the Editor cannot say one way or another if Bergin’s tale is true. Having a past acquaintanceship, the dying Bergin leaves his dying declaration of his visit to “Symmes’ Hole’ (p. 13) to Sir Marmaduke, who declares that ‘Leo Bergin was no dreamer’ (p. 16), and thus his tale must be truth. There are frequent interludes from Marmaduke throughout the text, playing Devil’s advocate and the reader’s own internal monologue as he reflects upon Bergin’s own narrative, speaking at times in the present tense: ‘Let us see what follows, for this is more interesting far, than a courtship’ (p. 28). In other instances Marmaduke abridges portions of the text: ‘Here is a lot of interesting details – interesting if life were not so short – but I’ll have to “boil it down,” for “spice” is the word’ (p. 40).

Mr. Amoora Oseba is Bergin’s cabin mate, ‘the finest type of manly beauty… ever beheld’ (p. 22), but also more than a little strange, claiming to come from the city of Eurania in the country of Cavitorus, inhabited by a people called Shadowas (p. 23). In only a few pages Oseba explains the structure of the world, verifying Symmes’s theory and chastising those who did not believe in Symmes. While using Symmes’s theory of the earth’s formation, Oseba cites more recent Arctic exploration for evidence, including the observations of Lt. Adolphus Greely of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition (1881-1884) and the diary of Captain George Tyson, survivor of the Polaris Expedition (p.30). Oseba’s lessons in geography are the most didactic seen since Seaborn’s in Symzonia. After years of mingling among the ‘Outeroos’ (residents of the outer earth) Oseba is returning to report to his people, and decides to take Bergin with him. Bergin calls upon Shakespeare’s Hamlet to give credence to his own doubts about Oseba and the Shadowas: ‘There are more things in heaven, and earth, Horatio / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy’ (p. 36). Symmes’s theory is validated once again during Oseba’s presentation of his travels, displaying a true model’ of the earth, complete with a Symmes Hole in the north (p. 56). Mr. Oseba’s Last Discovery is among the last of the terra cava narratives (excepting the next section to follow, The Smoky God) to actually employ Symmes’s geography. By the early years of the twentieth century, enough explorers had ventured past Symmes’s proposed latitude of opening that alternative ideas of the hollow earth had to be utilised.

The Shadowas have resided in Cavitorus for 21,000 years (p. 57), exiles from a hostile takeover of their old kingdom on the surface of the world who floated on an iceberg to the interior, finding a fertile – and uninhabited – country to provide new succour (p. 35). This rich land soon led to an over-abundance of population, and controlling measures were put in place. Eugenics plays a significant part in Shadowas culture, where the state is the ‘universal mother’ controlling all procreation (p. 37) so as to turn out ‘the finest type of people mentally, morally and physically, that ever inhabited this planet’ (p. 38). The utopian trope of a perfect people is hereby fulfilled; Bergin describes them on first sight as ‘over-tall and very symmetrical in form, and they move as gracefully as trained actors’ (p. 43). Interestingly, though, they are not white, but ‘slightly bronzed’; though their non-Anglo heritage is not a detriment. What the Shadowas lack, though, are any extremes in emotions, neither ‘gravity’ nor ‘hilarity’ as ‘all passion of the animal has gone’, leaving only serene intellect (p. 43). Marmaduke does not seem to be as enamoured by these cool intellectuals as Bergin, saying that ‘it makes me crawl’ (p. 57). This perception may be influenced by Bulwer-Lytton’s Vril-ya, when the narrator first encounters one of that race: ‘a nameless something in the aspect, tranquil though the expression, and beauteous though the features, roused that instinct of danger which the sight of a tiger or serpent arouses.’[3]

Next to the beautiful people there is the beautiful city with its ‘statues of gold, and other eye-ravishing objects’ (p. 42), and besides the rich apparel of silks, ‘gold was too common, cheap and vulgar’ (p. 44). There is more gold than iron, more platinum than silver, and the gems shine brighter ‘owing to the peculiarities of the light’ (p. 48). Marmaduke only ever mentions in passing that Bergin does indeed go into scientific explanations for many of the phenomena in Cavitorus, but never elaborates on those passages from the narrative.

Bell appears to have borrowed liberally from the Māori in crafting the customs and practices of the Shadowas. This practice of being adopted by the State might be compared to the Māori adoption custom of whāngai, taken to the extreme of recognising the Shadowas as a single family unit. Rather than Christianity, they embrace a polytheism that demonstrates ‘not only hope for the future, but appreciation for the blessings of to-day’ (p. 52). In a moment of ‘conversation’ between author and editor, Bergin says ‘These people evidently made their Gods, for they admit it. I wonder if we made ours?’, to which Marmaduke replies ‘Careful Leo!’ (p. 52). Herbert Spencer is referenced by Marmaduke (pp. 43-4) when the latter is considering a society in which family bonds do not exist, musing on the differences between the perception of what is ‘natural’ and what is ‘custom’. This comes from Spencer’s Man Versus the State.

There is actually a strong anti-imperialism in Bell’s novel. The missionaries to China are heavily criticised for their conceited approach, while the Chinese are praised for being ‘industrious and frugal’ (p. 63). When asked if they are ‘and inferior race’, Oseba responds that they are only ‘different’ (p. 68). Bell’s experiences around the globe, and his involvement in international politics lent to him a broader perspective of the world than his home-bound contemporaries. The achievements of continental Europe are attributed to its geography, ‘a garden and nursery for the most active, sturdy, intelligent, and emotional of all peoples on the globe’ (p. 67), who are prone to warring with each other over pretensions of superiority. The hypocrisy of European armies and European Christianity – ‘Thou shalt not kill’ – is highlighted in Oseba’s presentation to his people, to the great consternation of the audience (p. 69). The British Isles are hailed as ‘he best suited for the development of the ideal man…. And, having been peopled by sturdy tribes, all the suggestive hopes of Nature have been realised’ (p. 72). Though discounting on one page the idea of superiority and inferiority among race, on the next Bell still champions the Anglo-Saxon, beneficiary of good geography. Despite Bell’s message of anti-imperialism and sympathy for China and Japan, he champions Great Britain for its ‘conquests in the arts of peace’ (p. 73), planting the great colonies of America, Canada, “Australasia”, and “saving” India and Africa from themselves (p. 76). As for the United States, it is ‘the noblest country ever given by God to his children’ (p. 87) according to Oseba. This invocation of ‘God’ stands in direct contrast to the earlier statements about the Shadowas being polytheistic. For all the praise heaped upon America, Oseba also highlights its flaws, quoting Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem ‘The Cry of the Children’ (p. 91). Labelled as ‘scenes’, ‘First “Discovery”’, ‘The British Isles Discovered’, ‘America “Discovered”’, and ‘Australasia Discovered’, these chapters quote population figures, land mass, industry, and their perceived traits of these regions. Bell writes reportage like the diplomat that he was. This large portion of the narrative is given over not to an examination of Cavitorus and its utopia, but the supposed ‘alien’ perspective of the earth; Mr. Oseba is an alter ego for Bell.

It turns out that Oseba has been touring the earth’s surface looking for a place where the Shadowas might establish a colony. China is rejected for its lack of ‘varieties’, Japan for its lack of space, Europe for its militarism, Britain for being nothing more than ‘a park for her nobles’, Africa for having ‘the black plague’, America for being ‘owned by the trusts’ and controlled by ‘party bosses’, and Australia for joining the Commonwealth (pp. 106-7). What does this leave for the Shadowas? New Zealand. Or, ‘Zelania’ in the Shadowas language (p. 107), and this is Oseba’s ‘last discovery’. How wonderful is New Zealand? Marmaduke relates the entire eight-page poem Bergin wrote in tribute. Oseba’s relation of New Zealand’s wonders fills the next 117 pages, or, the rest of the narrative. The true utopia, then, is not Cavatorus, but New Zealand/Zelania:

The State gives nothing. There is humiliating charity nowhere, but elevating justice everywhere. The State puts a man on a farm, loans him money, helps him uphill, and then demands that he pay the Hercules. It will loan him a spade – not to lean upon or to pawn, but to dig with – and he must keep it bright and pay for its use.

The idea in Zelania, my children, is to have no lords and no paupers – that all men shall be producers, and not vagrants; tax-payers, and not tax-eaters – and that every citizen shall become a sturdy democrat, who will honorably strive as a stock-holder in a paying concern. (p. 155)

The Māori are described as ‘a fine race of romantic savages’ (p. 130) who are ‘intellectually… superior to any other tames savage’ (p. 131), thus making them seem, to readers, rather pleasant native neighbours to have, who won’t kill you and eat your family. Bell even includes a picture of a ‘Maori Beauty’ to entice his male audience should words not suffice. New Zealand’s ‘Lands for Settlement Act’ (footnoted on page 153) is seen as a great achievement in ‘State landlordism’ that results in ‘few grievances and fewer scandals’ (p. 154).

A short history of women, and women’s rights, makes it into Mr. Oseba’s address to his people, from the wooing of women ‘with a bludgeon’ (p. 182) to the growth of civilisation via ‘the emancipation of women’: ‘How can a mother, with the feeling of inferiority, a feeling of subdued dependence, with no courage nor conscious individuality, bring forth brave, independent, high-minded offspring? Only by emancipated mothers can full-statured men be reared’ (p. 184). Women in New Zealand were granted voting rights in the 1893 Electoral Bill (though they would not be eligible for legislative seats for decades), the first country to do so in the British Empire or America. Bell makes this part of his tribute to the country: ‘in Zelania, women are “people”… and liberty and social rights are not limited to any particular cut of the garments’ (p. 185).

New Zealand’s labour history and other footnotes – presumably added by Marmaduke as editor – fill out the ‘evidence’ of New Zealand’s utopic existence. They benefit from speaking English, which grew in usage throughout the nineteenth century as ‘the “polite” language of the “civilised” world’ (p. 194), and benevolently teach this to Māori (p. 194). The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1900 is referenced (p. 203), as is the Employment Liability Act (1882), The Workers Compensation for Accident, 1900, Act (p. 204), the Government Accident Insurance Act of 1899 (p. 205), and the Old Age Pension act of 1898 (p. 212), all making New Zealand seem a worker’s paradise for any man. If any such thing exists in Cavitorus, Mr. Oseba never mentions it.

There is no closing to the narrative from Marmaduke, no conclusion. He relates Bergin’s own relations of Oseba’s speech up until the last page. How the Shadowas act upon Oseba’s report is never revealed; how Bergin returns to the surface world, or what he did in Cavitorus, is never elaborated upon; Marmaduke never offers further commentary on what he learns in Bergin’s manuscript. The existence of a lost race living in the hollow earth, accessible from the Poles, is of little consequence in comparison to the existence of New Zealand. The abrupt conclusion makes it seem as if Bell was operating under a word constraint from the publisher, or perhaps instruction to offer no deviation from the glories of New Zealand in the latter half of the text.

[1] Bleiler, Science Fiction, p. 48.

[2] George W. Bell, Mr. Oseba’s Last Discovery (Wellington, NZ: The New Zealand Times Co., 1904), p. v. All other references cited in text from this edition.

[3] Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race, p. 12.

Scholars of the Terra Cava

In the nineteenth century, one would be hard pressed to find a scholarly article on the hollow earth, such things left to the amateur natural philosopher, spiritualist, and dreamer; the twentieth century – benefiting from the perspective of a known world distinctly lacking access to the terra cava – gave rise to the literary and historical scholar writing about the products of hollow earth theory. Different scholars have differing ideas about the meaning of the underground in literature. The historian Rosalind Williams proposes that ‘narratives about underground worlds have provided a prophetic view into our environmental future. Subterranean surroundings, whether real or imaginary, furnish a model of an artificial environment from which nature has been effectively banished.’[1] Few individuals have attempted to analyse the hollow earth, and many of the works are either incredibly broad or non-academic: Walter Kafton-Minkel did one of the first surveys in 1989 with Subterranean Worlds: 100,000 Years of Dragons, Dwarfs, the Dead, Lost Races & UFOs from Inside the Earth; Everett F. Bleiler’s science fiction catalogue, Science Fiction: The Early Years (1990), provides a more extensive summary of the known terra cava fictions and includes a few words about his thoughts on the story; Peter Fitting published an anthology with excerpts from several works, Subterranean Worlds: A Critical Anthology (2004); and David Standish wrote the decidedly non-academic survey, Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastic Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth’s Surface in 2006, only briefly summarising a few of the many terra cava narratives from the fin de siècle. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011) in its latest edition (available only online) also provides some information about hollow earth novels, but not extensive analysis, and some entries are incomplete or erroneous; such as ‘Orcutt, Emma Louise’, which identifies the inhabitants as all living underground in ‘Susepnded Animation’; the underground portions of the world are petrified remains of the dead, and the surface population very much alive.[2] The enrty for ‘Moore, M. Louise’ identifies the land visitied in Al-Modad as Al-Modad, which is actually the name of the protragonist.[3] In 2012 an edited collection of essays about the hollow earth, Between Science and Fiction: The Hollow Earth as Concept and Conceit, was published in Berlin, but this focuses almost entirely on European terra cava narratives, less in number compared to their American counterparts. No one has conducted a thorough examination of the dozens of hollow earth writings published in the United States in the nineteenth century and what they reveal about American culture, religion, and politics at that time.

Consider the following, from a newspaper ninety years after Symmes’s announcement, from a society formed to prove the earth is hollow:

‘It is time for action – not a time for mere talking. But the earth is hollow and our investigations will soon prove it. The poles so long sought are but phantoms. There are openings at the northern and southern extremities. In the interior of the earth are vast continents, oceans, mountains and rivers. Vegetables and animal life is evident in this new world, and it is possibly peopled by races yet unknown to the dwellers upon the earth’s exterior.’[4]

Though there are no scientific papers supporting Symmes’s theory, this newspaper article is an example of popular science in the United States influencing public thought and cultural products. Support for Symmes’s model of the earth isn’t to be found in searches of scientific journals, but in newspapers, independently published tracts by non-scientists, and fictional narratives.

Symzona, A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, The Goddess of Atvatabar and more, when they appear in an academic analysis, are often referred to in terms that remove the story from realist connotations and examine them in satiric terms. While many of them employ some form of social commentary or political view meant to reflect back on the reader, that does not automatically make them parodies. Parodies tend to emerge later in a genre’s existence, after its tropes have been established. The pre-nineteenth century terra cava narratives were immersed in social satire, and this is where so many literary theorists misstep in their assessment of nineteenth century terra cava; just because the most well-known hollow earth books before this period were written in the vein of Swift and Voltaire does not mean that those which came later were intended to be interpreted in the same way; American authors tended to take a different narrative approach. Because the idea of a hollow or porous world being inhabited appears to be a ridiculous premise in the twenty-first century, it is easier to paint these novels with the wide brush of parody rather than to enter into the mind-set of contemporary writers and readers who viewed portions of the world as still unknown, and holding the possibility of rich surprises.

[1] Rosalind Williams, Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the Imagination (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), p. 4.

[2] John Clute, ‘Orcutt, Emma Louise’, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction <http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/orcutt_emma_louise&gt; Accessed 10/11/2014.

[3] John Clute, ‘Moore, M Louise’, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction <http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/moore_m_louise>  Accessed 10/11/2014.

[4] Anon., ‘Going to Look for a Big Hole at the Top of the World’, Marion Daily Mirror, Vol. XVI, No. 229 (25 April 1908), p. 9.

Nineteenth Century Anglophone Literary Worlds: The American Terra Cava versus the British Terra Amissa

In terms of the nineteenth century novel that went in search of terra incognita in a world whose maps were rapidly losing their blank spaces, an interesting distinction presents itself between the American and the British plot; while many American authors took up the pen in favour of a hollow world, British authors preferred the idea of a lost world. The differences extend far beyond geography, though, and are deeply reflective of cultural perception.

The British Empire, covering one-fifth of the world’s landmass, was unchallenged for supremacy, and this is reflected in the literature. Despite having the best maps in the world, plucky adventurers and lost sailors always seemed to find a hidden island or jungle plateau that revealed a heretofore unknown bounty of plant and animal life, along with primitive, hostile natives. Why? Because that is what centuries of British travel literature told readers to expect when they arrive in an uncharted territory. In keeping with post-Darwinian perceptions of racial hierarchy the Anglo-Saxon man was the pinnacle of evolution, and in literature proved this repeatedly by besting the primitive races he found in the corners of Africa and the Amazon.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel The Lost World bequeathed its name to this subgenre of literature, following a plucky young journalist to a unexplored plateau in the Amazon jungle, home of primitive, ape-like natives and a few surviving dinosaurs. Rider Haggard was one of the most successful craftsmen of the undiscovered country, from the primitive Amahaggar of She (1887) in Africa to the ancient Mesoamericans hidden in the mountains in Heart of the World (1895). These discovered pockets of primitive life (be it in the form of Ice Age fauna or troglodytes) usually experience a small apocalypse at the end of the narrative (floods, earthquakes, and volcanos are perennial favourites) explaining why they have not been incorporate into the British Empire. But even though these literary British adventurers were not always enriched materially by their experience, they did prove their masculine, British superiority by surviving.

The rapidly expanding American Empire of the nineteenth century took a completely different view of their place in the world. Americans feared running of space, exhausting their frontiers. A hollow world provided them with new continents, not just islands and mesas. And what writers found more often than not in these new worlds below ground were civilisations that far outstripped America’s. Only when America’s economic and technological capabilities began to outstrip Europe’s did their literary explorers did the primitive begin to appear in America’s hollow realms.

In 1820 Symzona appeared in the U.S., transporting readers through an Antarctic opening into a hollow world populated by a race of pure white utopianists. Less than one hundred years later Edgar Rice Burroughs sent his American adventurers into Pellucidar, a hollow world that resembled Doyle’s, filled with primitive races and saurian beasts, ready to be reformed by American ingenuity. The intervening years saw terra cava narratives meant to instruct Americans in spiritual, technological, and political improvement. Lane’s Mizora (1880) directed surface dwellers to better educate their children and liberate women; Welcome’s From Earth’s Center (1894) demonstrated the superiority of the single-tax economic theory in bringing about universal prosperity; Adams’s Nequa (1900) was a technotopia of sexual equality. American progressives saw room for improvement (lots of improvement) in nearly every aspect of their lives, and the creation of advanced civilisations inside the earth provided a didactic outlet for such yearning. America was not yet to the level of Great Britain, but with such reforms as those suggested in these narratives, they might easily surpass them.

The few British forays into nineteenth century hollow worlds starkly contrast with their American counterparts. None of them embrace the Symmes theory, but a Vernian semi-porous earth. Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race features an advanced civilisation, but one that does not encourage the improvements of humanity; the Vril-ya are a threat, and set to supplant the surface dwellers. Bulwer-Lytton’s use of an America protagonist expresses the British fear of being displaced by an ascendant American continent. Cutcliffe Hyne’s Beneath Your Very Boots (1889) also features an advanced civilisation residing in caverns beneath the British Isles, but they are not a separate race. Rather, the Nrada are descendant of the original inhabitants of the Britain who moved below ground to escape the worries of the world and form a more perfect society. Fawcett’s Swallowed by an Earthquake (1894) more closely follows its Lost World predecessors, following the adventures of two British students on holiday in Italy who are swallowed by an earthquake and encounter a primitive civilisation that is subsequently destroyed by further seismic activity.

The elimination of the Earth’s blank spaces and the discovery that there was no hollow earth pushed storytellers out into the stars, to find whatever advanced or primitive race they saw fit.

“From Earth’s Center”, The Repackaging of History and Economics

S. Byron Welcome’s novel From Earth’s Center (1895), subtitled ‘A Polar Gateway Message’, is a terra cava utopia set up with the found/delivered manuscript frame. Welcome was a resident of Los Angeles and opened the novel in the same city with the arrival of a messenger from inside the earth. Though one might mistake Welcome for being the ‘I’ in the Prologue, it is actually a character introduced by the primary narrator later, a Frank Hutchens who was meant to be on the expedition to the Arctic but dropped out at the last minute. The expedition was planned by Hutchens’s close friend (and the primary narrator) Ralph Spencer, described as ‘young, energetic and very ambitious’, a man who ‘loved America’s free institutions, and gloried in the nation’s liberality and prosperity’.[1] From the outset, this is to be a patriotic narrative of American potential. Spencer sends the proof of his discovery and authenticates his manuscript via the messenger, Mr. Reubin, who claims to hail from ‘the inner world’ (p. 4), marvels at sunsets as ‘remarkable phenomenon’ and brings with him a fortune in silver and diamonds (p. 7). Reubin takes Spencer to the airship he used to transport – or ‘smuggle’, to paraphrase Spencer (p. 8) – these goods that would normally have been subjected to a tariff to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars; but Spencer assures readers that ‘this man belonged to a nation too far advanced in the arts to be hampered by a protective tariff’ (p. 7). This barb is directly aimed at the American Custom House and the taxes they extract from created wealth. Hutchens decides to publish Spencer’s unedited “Message” as a book, rather than broadcasting the new of his discovery to the world, and assures the reader that he can ‘vouch for his [Spencer’s] absolute veracity’ (p. 9).

Spencer, in the company of two friends, Ricardo Flemming and Owen Redcliffe, commission and ship to go explore the Arctic in 1890 in a quest for glory and to ease their own ennui, as well as to test ‘Professor Symmes’ theory’ (p. 17), which proves quite correct when they are pulled through a Symmes Hole and into Centralia. To their great fortune, English is the native language and Christianity the only religion, both brought by a ship of English explorers in the fourteenth century (p. 30). More than anything, Centralia has perfected their technology and political systems to create an enviable utopia of perfect people in a setting that seamlessly merges the industrial and the pastoral. Nothing emphasises this point more than the gardens with their every-blooming flowers, coated in a special varnish: ‘It is in a sense artificial, being a combined product of man’s ingenuity and nature’s bounty – a triumph in the science of cultivation’ (p. 32). While in many ways Centralia is similar to the United States, it is their economy, based upon the theories of Henry George, which allows them to surpass the former. George’s proposals, and the French Physiocrat political-economists of the eighteenth century, influence a great deal of the narrative. The Physiocrats espoused the belief that the wealth of a nature was derived from the value of its land and agriculture rather than gold and trade, which Adam Smith later countered with his Wealth of Nations (1776).

The most prominent feature of Welcome’s narrative is that it’s hardly a narrative at all, but a treatise on the political ideology of Henry George and his proposal for a single tax system on land use. George published Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth: The Remedy in 1879, attempting to explain the cyclical nature of industrial markets and the perpetuation of poverty despite technological development and the wealth created by the industrial revolution. He was particularly concerned with land values, and how land speculation rose prices faster than wage labour could compensate for, thus depressing the economy and the serve of that land:

Take…some hard-headed business man, who has no theories, but knows how to make money. Say to him: “Here is a little village; in ten years it will be a great city – in ten years the railroad will have taken the place of the stage coach, the electric light of the candle; it will abound with all the machinery and improvements that so enormously multiply the effective power of labor…”
And if, under such circumstance, you take his advice, you need do nothing more. You may sit down and smoke your pipe… you may go up in a balloon, or down a hole in the ground; and without doing one stroke of work, without adding one iota to the wealth of the community, in ten years you will be rich! In the new city you may have a luxurious mansion; but among its public buildings will be an almshouse.[2]


George’s solution to this scenario is to introduce a single tax on the value of privately held land, a tax high enough to abolish all other taxes. The purpose is to force the land holders to use their property in the most productive way possible, offering jobs and creating wealth. All of George’s proposals are put to the gedankenexperiment that is Welcome’s novel. In discussing this novel, it is necessary to leave out a great deal of the long passages about taxes and land-use, which often overpower the narrative, but the following, from a member of the inner world, reads quite similarly to the quote from George:

If your parents own land in America, it is evident that private ownership in land is there recognized; and where that institution exists, land rents are higher than they would be under a natural order of things; and, since rent, interest and wages must all be aid out of production, the more there is paid out in rent, the less there is left with which to pay interest and wages. So, you see, labor and capital are robbed by the landlord system in two ways; first, rents are unnaturally high; and, second, the rent proper is taken by the landlord – a drone – instead of all the people. (p. 222)

This is nearly the whole of George’s argument, distilled down into one illuminating paragraph for readers, though George himself is never given any credit. Perhaps it was meant to prevent any prejudice on the reader’s part from influencing their view of the narrative. But the very last line of the novel calls America ‘the land of “progress and poverty!”’ (p. 274), reinforcing George’s thesis.

Only a very good historian would be able to identify the myriad of names used in the narrative as a variety of historical figures. The purpose of these borrowings is to highlight the potential of economic speculations; rather than providing an index or post-script, Welcome builds his list of sources and information into the characters. Ralph Spencer’s own name is likely taken from the British polymath Herbert Spencer, who famously said of government, ‘the interference of man in external nature often destroys the just balance, and produces greater evils than those to be remedied, so the attempt to regulate all the actions of a community by legislation, will entail little else but misery and confusion.’[3] Spencer almost mentions that his ‘twice-removed grandfather…was a great student of political economy’ (p. 18), Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727-1781) one of the prominent Physiocrats of the age. Spencer’s friend Ricardo Fleming derives his name from the British economist David Ricardo (1772-1823). The third American, Owen Redcliffe, described by Spencer as ‘a philosopher’ (p. 13) may have derived his name from the Welsh social reformer and utopianist Robert Owen. The great Centralian economist that formed the basis of their society, Quesney, was inspired by the Physiocrat François Quesnay (1694-1774). Identifying the origin of Spencer’s love interest, Celia Lathrop, is also purely speculative, but she may have been inspired by American social reformer Julia Lathrop (1858-1932), who worked at Hull House in Chicago in the 1890s. The Centralian father of ‘Universal Evolution’, Decanto (p. 86), is an obvious parallel to Darwin. A Centralian inventor, ‘Rufus Gilchrist’, introduced direct coal-to-electricity that removed the steam engine process (p. 98), and name possibly derived from the British Gilchrist cousins, who developed a method to remove phosphorous from iron for the manufacture of steel.

Records reveal Welcome was active in promoting George’s ideas in and around Los Angeles and knew the man personally; Welcome’s only other written contributions seems to be newspaper articles arguing for a single tax system, From Earth’s Center being his only foray into fiction.


[1] S. Byron Welcome, From Earth’s Center; A Polar Gateway Message (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1895), p. 5. All other references cited in text from this edition.

[2] George Henry, Progress and Poverty: And Inquiry Into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth, Fiftieth Anniversary Edition (New York: Robert Schalenbach Foundation, 1935), pp. 293-4.

[3] Herbert Spencer, The Proper Sphere of Government: A Reprint of a Series of Letters, Originally Published in “The Nonconformist” (London: W. Brittain, 1843), p. 5.

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