The Hollow Earth series concludes with a retro review from August 21, 2011.
Review: Lost Continents & the Hollow Earth: I Remember Lemuria & the Shaver Mystery, Richard Shaver and David Hatcher Childress, 1988.
Ever since I heard about the Shaver Mysteries in The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, I’ve wanted to read them. Deranged robots, “deros”, hanging around in Earth’s caverns using degenerate tech from an old civilization to corrupt a modern world? Sign me up!
Well, the experience of actually reading two of Richard Shaver’s “true” accounts of life in the past proved less exciting.
The dullness of most of “I Remember Lemuria” — seemingly, according to Childress’ rather sketchy details in his accompanying essay “The Shaver Mystery“, a 1948 book reprint of the first Shaver story “I Remember Lemuria!” from the March 1945 issue of Amazing Stories — reminds me of the typical utopian novel. Our narrator, one Mutan Mion, who inscribed his stories on metal plates for Richard Shaver to find, is a not very talented artist sent to Tean City for better education. Mutan is an ordinary man living in Sub-Atlan which is in the hollow earth beneath Atlantis. There he not only meets the love of his life, the “variform” Arl of purple fur, a tail, and cloven hoofs, but encounters an atmosphere of paranoia and fear as one of the Titans – humans unpoisoned by the sun and who continually grow in body and brain, wisdom and intelligence, throughout their life – is killed and another hints at a plot to overthrow the government. (Shaver ignores most of the consequences of this biological peculiarity of continual growth, but he does note that this world’s buildings have no roofs.)
Soon Mutan and Arl are on the run to the Nortans, a planet of giants, including the 80 foot tall Vanue who bonds men to her with irresistible sexual attraction. And there is a return to Earth to battle for the soul of civilization and the revelation of the evil doings of the deros in caverns near the surface and their evil, degenerate master.
Now this is a lot less interesting than it sounds because the editor of Amazing Stories, Ray Palmer, expanded Shaver’s original 10,000 word story into a mini-epic of 31,000 – mostly with a lot of footnotes which purport to show how the story’s events fit in with certain mythologies or refute the understanding of modern physics or more clearly explain the notion that our aging sun’s radiation is now an age-producing poison that also affects the mind. And there is a whole lot of talk about Mantong. That’s the notion, proposed by Shaver in a 1943 letter to Amazing Stories, that all 26 letters of our alphabet represent concepts, and that every English word could be decoded to show what it represents in that most ancient of humanity’s languages. Bogus etymologies don’t interest me much though we did get the cool word “deros”. As a story, things don’t get interesting until about three-fourths of the way through, but, as an example of a bizarre mixture of anxiety about the Atomic Age, hollow earth theories, Lemuria, the idea that man has degenerated from ancient physical perfection, proto-von Daniken ancient astronauts, the perils of centralized government, and technosex, it is weirdly compelling.
Things are a lot more interesting and enjoyable, in a pulpy sort of way, in “The Return of Sathanas” – and, no, it’s not at all coincidental that Sathanas sounds like Satan. Our narrator Mutan is back. It’s thousands of years later, and now he’s a member of the Nor Patrol of the Nor Empire and out to bring back that Titan gone bad, his mind poisoned by the sun, Sathanas. In the pursuit, Mutan gets involved in a war between the human Aesir and the giant Jotans (yes, Norse mythology is discussed). Sathans captures Mutan and Arl and wants to perversely use growth rays on the beautiful Arl – famous for her expert use of pleasure enhancing stim rays – to turn her into the supreme example of the sex slaves he traffics in. The footnotes explicitly reference Charles Fort a number of times and often suggest the use of technology by deros to produce horrors in our surface world including the rather tasteless suggestion, for a 1946 story, that Nazi concentration camp guards were influenced by deros in order to get a little flesh for the latter’s cannibalistic needs.
The rest of the book is the usual “alternative history” you get in books like this which is to say some interesting details if not believable conclusions. Childress repeats himself sometimes but provides a look at the history of the hollow earth idea – though not as good as the one in Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief. We are told of underground structures in Central Asia and South America and given some pretty fabulous traveler’s tales of other structures and vast tunnel systems by people like Nicholas Roerich and Ferdinand Ossendowski.
And there really aren’t any robots, deranged or otherwise.
Reviews of non-fiction are indexed here.