“Old Pipes and the Dryad”

This week’s weird fiction is not very weird at all.

Occasionally, the Deep Ones discussion group over at LibraryThing will throw one of these up in the voting process.

Review: “Old Pipes and the Dryad”, Frank R. Stockton, 1885.

Frank R. Stockton’s name is probably familiar to very few readers younger than me, and he’s mostly remembered for one title: “The Lady or the Tiger?”. I have reviewed one story by him before, an early time travel paradox story called “The Philosophy of Relative Existences”.

“Old Pipes and the Dryad” has the cadence and setting of a fairy tale with moral lessons about duty.

In a mountain village, Old Pipes gets his name by playing his pipes and every evening calling home the cattle that have been grazing in the mountain pastures.

However, Old Pipes is getting old. He’s seventy years old and, in fact, his breath has failed to the point where the cattle no longer hear his pipes. However, in appreciation for all his work through the years, the villagers don’t tell him this. They keep paying his salary as always and quietly send three children out every evening to gather the cattle in. Old Pipes keeps up his routine and lives with his mother still. Continue reading

“Future Wars, 1890-1950”

The review series on Brian Stableford’s Opening Minds concludes.

Review: “Future Wars, 1890-1950”, Brian Stableford, 1983.Opening Minds

Interesting look, inspired by I. F. Clarke’s Voices Prophesying War 1763-1984 (I reviewed its second edition), at the history of British future war stories from “The Battle of Dorking” (1871) on with particular emphasis on the influence of World War One on inter-war science fiction. By doing this, he is addressing a weakness he perceives in Clarke’s survey.

The “jingoism” of the British stories was unique, but American future war stories shared “the myth of a war to end war”. It shows up in works like Frank R. Stockton’s The Great War Syndicate (1899) and Stanley Waterloo’s Armageddon (1898).

World War One, of course, turned out to be nothing like anything imagined.

As it did with so much, the war changed British science fiction and imbued it with a pessimism unfelt in the American science fiction pulps that started in the inter-war period. Continue reading

Scientific Romance

Being a fan of Stableford’s work, I immediately requested a review copy when I saw it on Netgallery.

Review: Scientific Romance: An International Anthology of Pioneering Science Fiction, ed. Brian Stableford, 1917.Scientific Romance

Before America colonized science fiction with its conquistador John Carter in 1912 and made it into a genre concerned with space and adventure, it was something different. It was, argues Stableford, a stream of literature interested in “the adoption of the scientific outlook and the attempt to employ the scientific imagination as a springboard for speculative fiction”.

Just as the Vikings colonized the New World before Columbus’s voyage, Francis Bacon and Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac discovered new frontiers for literature when they wrote scientific romances. And, just as the Viking colonization inspired no immediate imitators, no writers imitated Bacon and de Bergerac for a while. Bacon’s New Atlantis was unfinished and published posthumously in 1627. De Bergerac’s L’Autre Monde ou les Etats et Empires de la lune [The Other World] wasn’t published until the 1920s.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that authors in France, America, and England began producing work that was noticeably something different and that stuck in the public mind. These were stories about the drama to be made out of new scientific discoveries, new technologies, and the peculiar psychologies of inventors and scientists. Continue reading