Joshua Glenn

Joshua Glenn is a consulting semiotician and editor of the websites HiLobrow and Semiovox. The first to describe 1900–1935 as science fiction's “Radium Age,” he is editor of the MIT Press's series of reissued proto-sf stories from that period. He is coauthor and coeditor of various books including the family activities guide Unbored (2012), The Adventurer's Glossary (2021), and Lost Objects (2022). In the 1990s, he published the indie intellectual journal Hermenaut.

  • Voices from the Radium Age

    Voices from the Radium Age

    Joshua Glenn

    A collection of science fiction stories from the early twentieth century by authors ranging from Arthur Conan Doyle to W. E. B. Du Bois.

    This collection of science fiction stories from the early twentieth century features work by the famous (Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes), the no-longer famous (“weird fiction" pioneer William Hope Hodgson), and the should-be-more famous (Bengali feminist Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain). It offers stories by writers known for concerns other than science fiction (W. E. B. Du Bois, author of The Souls of Black Folk) and by writers known only for pulp science fiction (the prolific Neil R. Jones). These stories represent what volume and series editor Joshua Glenn has dubbed “the Radium Age”—the period when science fiction as we know it emerged as a genre. The collection shows that nascent science fiction from this era was prescient, provocative, and well written.

    Readers will discover, among other delights, a feminist utopia predating Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland by a decade in Hossain's story “Sultana's Dream”; a world in which the human population has retreated underground, in E. M. Forster's “The Machine Stops”; an early entry in the Afrofuturist subgenre in Du Bois's last-man-on-Earth tale “The Comet”; and the first appearance of Jones's cryopreserved Professor Jameson, who despairs at Earth's wreckage but perseveres—in a metal body—to appear in thirty-odd more stories.

    Contents

    Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, “Sultana's Dream” (1905)William Hope Hodgson, “The Voice in the Night” (1907)E. M. Forster, “The Machine Stops” (1909)Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Horror of the Heights” (1913)Jack London, “The Red One” (1918)W. E. B. Du Bois, “The Comet” (1920)Neil R. Jones, “The Jameson Satellite” (1931)

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Contributor

  • The Lost World and The Poison Belt

    The Lost World and The Poison Belt

    Arthur Conan Doyle

    A heart-stopping adventure tale featuring a brilliant scientist—as insufferably pompous as Doyle's most famous character—and his unlikely trio, and its apocalyptic sequel.

    In 1912, the creator of Sherlock Holmes introduced his readers to yet another genius adventurer, Professor Challenger, who in his very first outing would journey to South America in search of... an isolated plateau crawling with iguanodons and ape-men! A smash hit, Doyle's proto-science fiction thriller would be adapted twice by Hollywood filmmakers, and it would go on to influence everything from Jurassic Park to the TV show Land of the Lost. Its 1913 sequel, The Poison Belt, finds Challenger and his dino-hunting comrades trapped in an oxygenated chamber as the entire planet passes through a lethal ether cloud.

    Joshua Glenn is a consulting semiotician and editor of the websites HiLobrow and Semiovox. The first to describe 1900–1935 as science fiction's “Radium Age,” he is editor of the MIT Press's series of reissued proto-sf stories from that period. He is coauthor and coeditor of various books including the family activities guide Unbored (2012), The Adventurer's Glossary (2021), and Lost Objects (2022). In the 1990s, he published the indie intellectual journal Hermenaut.

    Conor Reid is a podcaster and writer from Ireland. He has published widely on popular fiction and science, including The Science and Fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs (2018). He is the Head of Podcasts at HeadStuff Media as well as the host and producer of his own critically acclaimed literature podcast, Words to That Effect. The podcast, which has been performed live in both Ireland and the United Kingdom, tells stories of the fiction that shapes popular culture.

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  • Theodore Savage

    Theodore Savage

    Cicely Hamilton

    From one of the earliest feminist science fiction writers, a novel that envisions the fall of civilization—and the plight of the modern woman in a post-apocalyptic wilderness.

    When war breaks out in Europe, British civilization collapses overnight. The ironically named protagonist must learn to survive by his wits in a new Britain. When we first meet Savage, he is a complacent civil servant, primarily concerned with romancing his girlfriend. During the brief war, in which both sides use population displacement as a terrible strategic weapon, Savage must battle his fellow countrymen. He shacks up with an ignorant young woman in a forest hut—a kind of inverse Garden of Eden, where no one is happy. Eventually, he sets off in search of other survivors . . . only to discover a primitive society where science and technology have come to be regarded with superstitious awe and terror. A pioneering feminist, Hamilton offers a warning about the degraded state of modern women, who—being “unhandy, unresourceful, superficial”—would suffer a particularly sad fate in a postapocalyptic social order.

    Susan R. Grayzel is Professor of History at Utah State University, where she researches and teaches about modern European history, women's and gender history, the history of the world wars, and war and culture. Her publications in these areas include Women's Identities at War (1999) and At Home and Under Fire (2012). Her latest book is The Age of the Gas Mask: How British Civilians Faced the Terrors of Total War (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

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  • What Not

    What Not

    Rose Macaulay

    An early novel by Rose Macaulay about a government program of compulsory selective breeding in a dystopian future England.

    In a near-future England, a new government entity—the Ministry of Brains—attempts to stave off idiocracy through a program of compulsory selective breeding. Kitty Grammont, who shares the author's own ambivalent attitude to life, gets involved in the Ministry's propaganda efforts, which are detailed with an entertaining thoroughness. However, when Kitty falls in love with the Minister for Brains, a man whose genetic shortcomings make a union with her impossible, their illicit affair threatens to topple the government. Because it ridiculed wartime bureaucracy, the planned 1918 publication of What Not, whose alphabetical caste system would directly influence Aldous Huxley's 1932 dystopia Brave New World, was delayed until after the end of World War I.

    Matthew De Abaitua is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Essex. His debut science fiction novel The Red Men (2007) was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and adapted into a short film, Dr. Easy. His science fiction novels IF THEN (2015) and The Destructives (2016) complete the loose trilogy. His book Self & I: A Memoir of Literary Ambition (2018) was shortlisted for the New Angle Prize for Literature.

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  • Nordenholt's Million

    Nordenholt's Million

    J. J. Connington

    As a bacteria threatens to wipe out humankind, a plutocrat sets himself up as the benignant dictator of a survivalist colony.

    In this novel originally published in 1923, as denitrifying bacteria inimical to plant growth spreads around the world, toppling civilizations and threatening to wipe out humankind, the British plutocrat Nordenholt sets himself up as the benignant dictator of a ruthlessly efficient, entirely undemocratic, survivalist colony established in Scotland's Clyde Valley. Discovering just how far their employer is willing to go in his effort to spare one million lives, Jack Flint, the colony's director of operations, and Elsa Huntingtower, Nordenholt's personal assistant, are forced to grapple with the question of whether a noble end justifies dastardly means.

    Matthew Battles is the author of Library: An Unquiet History, Palimpsest, and Tree, as well as the story collection The Sovereignties of Invention. His writing on the cultural dimensions of science, technology, and the natural world have appeared in the Atlantic, the Boston Globe, and Orion. For Harvard''s metaLAB, he develops research into the dark abundance of collections, cultural and technology, and conditions of experience in the context of deep time.

    Evan Hepler-Smith teaches the history of science and technology and environmental history at Duke University. He has a special interest in the history of chemicals and chemistry, information technology, and environmental regulation. His book in progress is entitled Compound Words: Chemical Information and the Molecular World. His writing has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time.com, and Public Books.

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  • Of One Blood

    Of One Blood

    Pauline Hopkins

    A mixed-race Harvard medical student stumbles upon a hidden Ethiopian city, the inhabitants of which possess both advanced technologies and mystical powers.

    Long before Marvel Comics gave us Wakanda, a high-tech African country that has never been colonized, this 1903 novel gave readers Reuel Briggs—a mixed-race Harvard medical student, passing as white, who stumbles upon Telassar. In this long-hidden Ethiopian city, whose wise, peaceful inhabitants possess both advanced technologies and mystical powers, Reuel discovers the incredible secret of his own birth. Now, he must decide whether to return to the life he's built, and the woman he loves, back in America—or play a role in helping Telassar take its rightful place on the world stage. Considered one of the earliest articulations of Black internationalism, Of One Blood takes as its theme the notion that race is a social construct perpetuated by racists.

    Minister Faust is best known as author of The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad (2004) and 2007's Kindred Award-winning From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain (retitled Shrinking the Heroes, it also received the Philip K. Dick Award Special Citation). An award-winning journalist, community organizer, teacher, and workshop designer, Faust is also a former television host and producer, radio broadcaster, and podcaster. His 2011 TEDx talk, “The Cure For Death by Smalltalk,” has been viewed more than 840,000 times.

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  • The World Set Free

    The World Set Free

    H. G. Wells

    In a novel written on the eve of World War I, H. G. Wells imagines a war “to end all wars” that begins in atomic apocalypse but ends in an enlightened utopia.

    Writing in 1913, on the eve of World War I's mass slaughter and long before World War II's mushroom cloud finale, H. G. Wells imagined a war that begins in atomic apocalypse but ends in a utopia of enlightened world government. Set in the 1950s, Wells's neglected novel The World Set Free describes a conflict so horrific that it actually is the war that ends war.

    Wells—the first to imagine a “uranium-based bomb”—offers a prescient description of atomic warfare that renders cities unlivable for years: “Whole blocks of buildings were alight and burning fiercely, the trembling, ragged flames looking pale and ghastly and attenuated in comparison with the full-bodied crimson glare beyond.” Drawing on discoveries by physicists and chemists of the time, Wells foresees both a world powered by clean, plentiful atomic energy—and the destructive force of the neutron chain reaction.

    With a cast of characters including Marcus Karenin, the moral center of the narrative; Firmin, a proto-Brexiteer; and Egbert, the visionary young British monarch, Wells dramatizes a world struggling for sanity. Wells's supposedly happy ending—a planetary government presided over by European men—may not appeal to contemporary readers, but his anguish at the world's self-destructive tendencies will strike a chord.

    Sarah Cole is the author of Inventing Tomorrow: H.G. Wells and The Twentieth Century (2019). The Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Dean of Humanities at Columbia University, she is the cofounder of the NYNJ Modernism Seminar and founder of the Humanities War and Peace Initiative at Columbia. She is also the author of Modernism, Male Friendship, and the First World War (2003) and At the Violet Hour: Modernism and Violence in England and Ireland (2012).

    Joshua Glenn, who was the first to describe the years 1900–1935 as science fiction's “Radium Age,” has helped popularize stories from the era for over a decade now. A former Boston Globe staffer and publisher of the indie intellectual journal Hermenaut, he is coauthor of The Idler's Glossary (2008), Significant Objects (2012), and the family activities guide UNBORED (2012). He is also cofounder of the brand consultancy Semiovox; and he publishes the blog HiLobrow.

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  • The Clockwork Man

    The Clockwork Man

    E. V. Odle

    In the first-ever novel about a cyborg, a machine-enhanced man from a multiverse of the far future visits 1920s England.

    In 1920s England, a strange being crashes a village cricket game. After some glitchy, jerky attempts to communicate, this creature reveals that he is a machine-enhanced human from a multiverse thousands of years in the future. The mechanism implanted in his skull has malfunctioned, sending him tumbling through time onto the green grass of the cricket field. Apparently in the future, at the behest of fed-up women, all men will be controlled by an embedded “clockwork,” camouflaged with hats and wigs. Published in 1923, The Clockwork Man—the first cyborg novel—tells the story of this odd time traveler's visit.

    Spending time with two village couples about to embark upon married life, the Clockwork Man warns that because men of the twentieth century are so violent, sexist, and selfish, in the not-too-distant future they will be banned from physical reality. They will inhabit instead a virtual world—what we'd now call the Singularity—in which their every need is met, but love is absent. Will the Clockwork Man's tale lead his new friends to reconsider technology, gender roles, sex, and free will?

    Overshadowed in its own time by Karel Čapek's sensational 1923 play R.U.R., about a robot uprising, The Clockwork Man is overdue for rediscovery.

    Annalee Newitz is the author of Four Lost Cities (2021), the novels The Future of Another Timeline (2019) and Autonomous (2017), which won the Lambda Award, and the novel The Terraformers (forthcoming). As a science journalist, they are a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and have a column in New Scientist. They are also the co-host of the Hugo Award-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Previously, they were the founder of io9, and served as the editor-in-chief of Gizmodo.

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  • A World of Women

    A World of Women

    J. D. Beresford

    When a plague wipes out most of the world's male population and civilization crumbles, women struggle to build an agrarian community in the English countryside.

    Imagine a plague that brings society to a standstill by killing off most of the men on Earth. The few men who survive descend into lechery and atavism. Meanwhile, a group of women (accompanied by one virtuous male survivor) leave the wreckage of London to start fresh, establishing a communally run agrarian outpost. But their sexist society hasn't permitted most of them to learn any useful skills—will the commune survive their first winter? This is the bleak world imagined in 1913 by English writer J. D. Beresford—one that has particular resonance for the planet's residents in the 2020s. This edition of A World of Women offers twenty-first-century readers a new look at a neglected classic.

    Beresford introduces us to the solidly bourgeois, prim and proper Gosling family. As once-bustling London shuts down—Parliament closes, factories grind to a halt, nature reclaims stone and steel—the paterfamilias Mr. Gosling adopts a life of libertinism while his daughters in the countryside struggle to achieve a radically transformed and improved egalitarian and feminist future.

    Astra Taylor is director of the philosophical documentaries Zizek! (2005), Examined Life (2008), and What Is Democracy? (2018). She is author of the American Book Award winner The People's Platform (2014) and Democracy May Not Exist, But We'll Miss It When It's Gone (2019), and coauthor of Can't Pay, Won't Pay: The Case for Economic Disobedience and Debt Abolition (2020). Her latest book is Remake the World: Essays, Reflections, Rebellions (2021).

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