Space Opera Archeology: Philip Francis Nowlan and Buck Rogers

“Then there flashes into my memory the picture of Wilma as, screaming in an utter abandon of merciless fury, she threw herself recklessly, exultantly into the thick of that wild, relentless slaughter; and my mind can find nothing savage nor repellent about her.”

—Anthony Rogers,  “The Airlords of Han”

amazing_stories_192903In the previous posts in this series I covered Edmond Hamilton’s Interstellar Patrol stories and E. E. Doc Smith’s The Skylark of Space, two seminal works of space opera that, coincidentally, were both published in August 1928. Now it’s time to look at another work that commenced publication that month, Philip Francis Nowlan’s two-part saga that started with “Armageddon 2419 A.D.” and concluded the following year with “The Airlords of Han”, both in Amazing Stories.

Now, it’s a bit of a stretch to call either story a space opera. While they have a lot of deadly rays and flying machines, they take place entirely on the planet Earth, and space travel turns up only at the very end of “The Airlords of Han” in a rather oddball plot revelation. That said, Nowlan’s yarn did play a part in the development of space opera as a genre. “Armageddon 2419 A.D.” was the basis of a syndicated newspaper strip that started in January 1929. Here, the main character Anthony Rogers was given the nickname Buck, and his adventures ran under the title of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The comic version of the character went on all manner of interplanetary adventures (story titles include “Tiger Men of Mars” and “Depth Men of Jupiter”) and established space opera as a viable genre for comics.

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How I Spent October 2017

DorisOctoberI have a ritual for every October. Each day of the month I watch one horror film and read one horror story. This year was no exception, and I spent the month revisiting some of my old favourites and catching up on a few new releases (hello, Mother, It, The Ritual and Happy Death Day! I dug all of you, each in a somewhat different way.)

My other tradition is to knock out a number of blog posts about the horror genre. Silent films! Creepypasta! Contemporary folk horror! I made my stab at all of those, I did.

Shout out to my fellow Horror Honeys. Halloweentime is our collective favourite time of year, and we always get a little bit excitable.

Now, I prepare to conclude this year’s ritual by watching The Wicker Man for the umpteenhundredth time, before November beckons and I get back to blogging abut old space operas again…

Articles of mine published elsewhere this month:

Article topics for November and beyond:


Spending Halloween with A. Merritt


Over at Amazing Stories, I’m celebrating Halloween by looking at how the vintage horror novels of A. Merritt fared when it came to film adaptations. The first in the two-part series of posts examines Seven Footprints to Satan, a novel about the machinations of a quasi-supernatural crimelord which was, rather oddly, adapted into a knockabout comedy about a Harold Lloyd lookalike being hassled by a bloke with a black sheet over his head. How did this shift come about? Read and see, dearies…