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Literature of the Future

Verne and Wells get a great deal of the attention but of course there were others writing speculative fiction in the 19th century. Occasionally I see a reference to such a story and while it isn’t always great writing its interesting to see how they envisioned the future.

The latest is “A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future” by John Jacob Astor, published in 1894 – an account of life in the year 2000 and a space flight adventure to Jupiter and Saturn.


I tend to think of anti-gravity as a modern idea but it has been around for some time now. In this story, the spaceship Callisto is propelled by Apergy, a fictitious form of anti-gravitational energy. A later version of the idea is Cavorite in Mr. Wells 1901 story “The First Men in the Moon”.  Anti-gravity is such an attractive idea.  Alas, reality is much more difficult.

I’ve only read bits and pieces and haven’t settled down to read the story in full, but a couple of things which stand out are:

*  Jupiter as a jungle world, as Venus was imagined to be in later years, with flesh-eating plants, giant snakes, flying lizards, and other exciting forms of wildlife.

*  Large-scale engineering projects such as the one to adjust the tilt of the Earth in order to create a more stable global climate. The elimination of the seasons brought to you by “The Terrestrial Axis Straightening Company”.  Have they really thought this through?


I decided to build a model of spaceship Callisto and see what it looked like in person.

The design could use some work. The pointy bits would sink into the ground, but then that might have been intended for stability – or maybe the artist just liked it that way.


Still, it has a Babbagy look to it. 

The book is available in various forms here:


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  1. Arconus Arkright Arconus Arkright May 2, 2012

    My recent Victorian literary find was Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy about a man who falls asleep in 1887 and awakens in the far-flung year 2000. Amongst his many prognostications, Bellamy predicts sidewalks that automatically cover themselves when it rains will replace umbrellas.

  2. Osric Worbridge Osric Worbridge May 2, 2012

    I was researching this book, at work, the other day.

    I have not read it yet.

    “The Coming Race” 1871 

    Edward Bulwer Lytton

    The Coming Race tells the story of a young American man, who discovers the thriving world of a highly advanced race, living deep beneath the earth.

    You can get eBook and audiobook links here


  3. Glaubrius Valeska Glaubrius Valeska May 2, 2012
    CLOTHING – Blue serge suit; blue handkerchief with “A.V.”;
    belt with gold buckle; brown boots with red rubber soles; brown flannel
    shirt; “J.J.A.” on back of collar.
    EFFECTS – Gold watch; cuff links, gold with diamond; diamond
    ring with three stones; £225 in English notes; $2440 in notes; £5 in
    gold; 7s. in silver; 5 ten franc pieces; gold pencil; pocketbook.

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