Not Recommended Reading

Eliot Weinberger

The Whirling Eye (1920) by Thomas W. Benson and Charles S. Wolfe
   A psychiatrist, visiting an insane asylum, discovers his old friend Professor Mehlman, who declares that he has been unjustly incarcerated merely because he is in love with a Venusian. Mehlman had constructed a giant telescope in the Andes to observe life on Venus. In the course of his studies, he had become smitten by the sight of a beautiful Venusian female, whom he kept watching.

A Weird Appointment (1901) by Harry S. Tedrow
   At the local diner, a waitress tells the narrator that a Martian has moved into town. Going by the name of Miss Dora Wolf, she is part of a team studying human institutions. Miss Wolf’s particular interest is the post office.

The Thought Girl (1920) by Ray Cummings
   Guy Bates, since childhood, has been in telepathic rapport with a girl who lives in the Realm of Unthought Things. That world contains all the inventions that have not yet been invented in this world. When they are invented here, they disappear there. Guy enlists the aid of Thomas Edison to travel to the other world and bring the girl back.

The Storm of London (1904) by F. Dickberry
   Young Lord Somerville wakes to find all his clothes missing. In fact, all clothing has vanished from England. After the initial shock, life resumes in the nude. People learn they must take better care of their bodies and become healthier. Class distinctions, once marked by outward trappings, vanish. As the police are no longer recognisable, everyone polices themselves and there is no longer crime. Somerville and his fiancée decide to live together without marriage; the arts flourish; and the people construct an enormous Palace of Happiness.

Solarion (1889) by Edgar Fawcett
   Kindly Dayton and egotistical Stafford are both in love with Celia Effingham. Stafford steals the work of the dying Professor Klotz of Strasbourg, who has been stimulating the brain with electricity. He experiments on a puppy, which becomes an extremely intelligent, psychologically astute talking dog, Solarion. Stafford, afraid that Celia will run off with Dayton, gives her Solarion to spy on her and report back, but Solarion falls in love with Celia and betrays him. Stafford kills Solarion, and Celia and Dayton marry.

The Shingling of Jupiter (1924) by Ewan Agnew
   Patricia Dickens, a bored flapper, meets a handsome but dull man, who turns out to be an officer of the Jupiter Air Force, come to gather intelligence about Earth. She returns with him to Jupiter, but finds it’s just as boring as Earth. The women of Jupiter, however, copy Patricia’s shingle hairstyle and it becomes the rage.

The Secret of Japan (1906) by George W. Draper
   Takasuma, a Japanese-American scientist, invents a machine that makes people invisible. His friend Fowler accidentally steps in front of the ray. Fowler is extremely unhappy being invisible, and Mrs Fowler is not pleased. Takasuma promises to restore him, but can’t be found. Fowler eventually tracks him down in Japan, where the scientist has been creating invisible soldiers to fight in the Russo-Japanese war. Takasuma apologises for abandoning his friend, but says that his nation came first.

The Second Fall (1920) by S.B.H. Hurst
   Occultists from India are taking over the world through mass hypnosis. Wherever the Indians go, people suddenly believe they are sheep. They lose their memories, take off their clothes and try to eat grass. Most of humanity starves to death.

Safe and Sane (1918) by Tod Robbins
   In the year 1950, young people are addicted to twirling: spinning around on electric slippers until they’re dizzy and pass out. Meanwhile, in an underground vault beneath the Central Park Zoo, the United Millionaires of America are secretly meeting. They are tired of being lampooned by writers and artists and are conspiring to kill all the so-called geniuses in New York City. Their first victim is a policeman who writes poetry.

The Purple Death (1895) by William Livingston Alden
   Professor Schmidt, a bacteriologist, believes that the way to bring about economic equality is not by assassinating the capitalists, who are easily replaced, but by eliminating millions of workers, thereby creating a labour shortage that would increase wages. To this end, he concocts a deadly plague, the Purple Death, but dies before it can be set loose in the world.

A Psychical Experiment (1887) by B.F. Cresswell
   Mark Darrell cannot decide which of two sisters to marry. One is beautiful but not bright, the other brilliant but plain. His scientist friend Ernest Marshall has invented a technique for transferring personalities and offers to experiment on the sisters. It is a success, but the super-sister he creates – beautiful and brilliant – rejects Mark, having decided to devote her life to entomology. He marries the now plain and not bright sister.

The Promoters: A Novel without a Woman (1904) by William Hawley Smith
   Tycoons have a plan to tilt the world’s axis, creating a real estate boom in Antarctica, by firing off a hundred thousand cannons in Nebraska.

Other Eyes than Mine (1926) by Ronald Arbuthnott
   Two Latin scholars, an Englishman and a German, bitter rivals, simultaneously publish biographies of the poet Persius that completely contradict each other. An Italian scholar publishes an article definitively proving that the Englishman was correct, but World War One has broken out and there is no way for the Englishman to find out if the German has admitted defeat. The German dies in the war. Years later, the Englishman still wonders if his triumph was ever acknowledged. With the help of a medium, he contacts the spirit of the German, but in the afterlife his rival says he doesn’t remember anyone named Persius.

The Man who Met Himself (1919) by Donovan Bayley
   Richard Panton falls down the stairs and is separated from his subliminal self, which takes the form of a midget. With this loss, Panton himself shrinks and becomes an identical midget. They argue. The midget Panton beats the subliminal midget to death and regains his usual size. Fortunately, Mrs Panton has been away the whole time. When she returns, everything is normal.

The Light in the Sky (1929) by Herbert Clock and Eric Boetzel
   Throughout his life, the unnamed narrator has glimpsed a beautiful woman, who vanishes when he approaches her. Finally, after the war, they meet in Paris; they dance; and she stabs him with a poisoned ring. He wakes in a vast underground city, populated by Aztecs who escaped the Conquest and have learned the secret of immortality. The woman is Montezuma’s daughter, and she explains that they have been watching the narrator since his birth, for he is the direct descendant of Cortés. Sacrificing him to the god Tezcatlipoca will launch the Aztec reconquest of Mexico.

The Immortals (1924) by Harold E. Scarborough
   Dr Brusilov, who worked with Pasteur, has discovered that ageing is caused by a bacillus, which he names Senectutis brusilovis. He plans to manufacture and distribute a vaccine for it. But at a lecture promoting his miracle drug, he is interrupted by the Wandering Jew, who has been roaming the world for two thousand years, and who tells the audience it is miserable to be immortal.

A Hand from the Deep (1924) by Rombo Poole
   Simon Glaze has lost his arm in an accident and is being treated by Dr Whitby. Now he is acting strangely, suddenly curling up or leaping back. Something is growing out of his stump and his head is changing shape. Dr Whitby, assuming the regenerative abilities of lower life forms, has injected Simon with lobster extract, and Simon is turning into a lobster.

The Flying Death (1902) by Samuel Hopkins Adams
   Dr Richard Colton, vacationing in Montauk, stumbles across a series of seemingly impossible murders. He deduces that some of them are the work of an insane knife-thrower from the circus. Other deaths, however, cannot be explained until he comes across curious footprints on the beach. An earthquake has released a pteradon, a prehistoric flying reptile, from an underground cavern.

The Elixir of Hate (1911) by George Allan England
   Granville Dennison, who is terminally ill, rushes to the French villa of Dr Pagani, ‘Il Vecchio’, who has invented an elixir of life. Dennison steals the elixir. His health is restored, but he finds himself growing increasingly younger. He falls in love with Il Vecchio’s niece, but is soon too young for her. Exploring the villa, he discovers that the scientist has murdered scores of people for his experiments. He vows revenge, but must kill Il Vecchio before he turns into a baby.

The Dimension Terror (1928) by Edmond Hamilton
   Harron is relaxing in Battery Park when suddenly the entire New York skyline collapses, killing millions. All of the iron and steel on earth has disappeared. The cause is a foolish young scientist, Harlan Graham, who has begun communicating with the inhabitants of a parallel universe. Following their instructions, he constructs a channel between their world and ours. Streams of giant cockroaches pour through the channel.

A Corner in Sleep (1900) by E.E. Kellett
   The scientist Adolphus J. Vallancy’s morphometer has revealed that sleep is a kind of energy, and its amount is limited. Thus, one person’s deep sleep causes insomnia in another. Vallancy worries about the impending overpopulation of the world: too many people sleeping will cause a plague of sleeplessness.

Christ in Chicago (1926) by T.S. Stribling
   A faith healer in future Chicago, who works among the poor, reveals that the desire to have children is not innate, but rather impelled by an outside force: the souls of the dead are eager to be reincarnated.

The Autobiography of a Malaria Germ (1900) by Theodore Waters
   A malaria germ tells its life story, thrillingly borne aloft by a mosquito, settling comfortably in a human body, then struggling against adversity in the form of quinine.