Saturday, July 23, 2011

Free Fiction: The Second Deluge

(UPDATE 7/25/11: OpenDrive, where I'm keeping my files these days, has been having a little difficulty lately, and is up and down with little rhyme or reason.  So if there are question marks below instead of thumbnails, try again later.)

A man predicts environmental disaster for the Earth. The polar caps will melt. The coastal cities will be inundated. People laugh at him. Politicians dismiss him. Press and entertainers make a laughingstock of him.

Sounds familiar, somehow. Hmm. Can't quite put my finger on it.

Today, we clean the closets here at Thrilling Wonder Stories.

As I said Thursday, we're not publishing anything right now. (This may change, however, and our five releases to date remain in print.) Here's something prepared just before that became the case.

You see, this was going to be Thrilling Wonder Stories Origins Series #3, following up When the Sleeper Wakes and Between Worlds, but frankly, the sales on those two were such that I realized I was probably going to lose money just setting this third one up with the print-on-demand service.

So now, 18 months or so later, let my "to hell with it" be your gain, and enjoy, absolutely free of cost on your end (and loss on mine) The Second Deluge, by Garrett P. Serviss. Originally appearing as a seven-part serial in The Cavalier in July 1911 through January 1912, it quickly (March 1912) saw book publication by McBride, Nast, and Company. It's from a ratty but proud copy of that edition that I scanned the illustrations.

Garrett P. Serviss was a popular speaker and writer on astronomical and scientific topics, as well as a pioneering writer of what Hugo Gernsback would later lastingly call science fiction. Serviss's first novel was Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898), an unauthorized sequel to H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. He wrote five other novels and a short story.

My favorite aspect of the novel is its occasional satirical edge, especially in how Serviss shows what's going on in the wider society before the deluge. I especially enjoy the sequence on pages 13-15, with a vaudeville performer's burlesque of the scientist. It's interesting to see someone, almost exactly a century ago, taking notice of how the mass media decides who it's going to take seriously, and who it's going to make a laughingstock. As I say, things haven't necessarily changed a whole lot.

There's also a bit of irony, unusual for adventure fiction of the time, in the last chapter that I don't want to ruin for you.

And, just to show you that this was meant to be an honest-to-gosh book, I also present the would-be cover.

Click image to download novel (9.35MB pdf)
Click image to download cover (1.02MB jpg)

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