Review: The Engineer von Satanas, edited and trans. Brian Stableford, 2015.
“That slut Science!”
Some novels have memorable taglines. That’s the one for the centerpiece of this collection, Albert Robida’s The Engineer von Satanas.
I doubt that Robida, writing in 1919, seriously thought that World War One would start up again in 1920.
But I don’t doubt the sincerity of this amazing work of vitriol and bitterness.
When wartime censorship was lifted, Robida poured his despair out in a work unremarked upon and unreprinted until this translation by Brian Stableford. It is, as Stableford argues, the pioneering work of all those science fiction stories of survivors existing in the rubble of civilization, heirs not to the ruins of natural disaster and cosmic randomness but human action, of the terribleness of modern war. It was a vein that entered British science fiction a few years later in Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins (1920) and Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage (1922) and into American science fiction after Hiroshima.
It wasn’t always that way. Continue reading