Space Opera Archaeology: Jack Williamson and The Legion of Space

“We’re pirates now. We shall take what we need.”

Jay Kalam, The Legion of Space

LegionOfSpaceOkay.  I’ve looked at Edmond Hamilton, E. E. “Doc” Smith, Philip Francis Nowlan, Ray Cummings, various short stories and John W. Campbell. The next name on my tour of pre-1950s space opera is Jack Williamson.

Williamson, who lived to be 98, had an impressive career as an author and was still having work published into the twenty-first century. But what I’m interested in here is his early work: namely, The Legion of Space, which was serialised in Astounding Stories in 1934 before being collected as a novel in 1947. I’m basing this post on the 1947 version, which Williamson had clearly revised as evidenced by a reference to Pearl Harbour near the start.

The novel opens with a prologue set in 1945, where a character named John Delmar describes his premonitions of the far-flung future – a framing device recalling Olaf Stapledon’s work. Delmar’s visions include his son becoming the pilot of the first manned atomic reocket in 1956, and subsequent descendants taking part in the colonisation of the Moon, atomic wars in the 1990s, battles with Martians, and the eventual conquest of the entire solar system. During the course of all this, the family’s name changed from Delmar to Ulnar. Closer to the present, however, John Delmar also foresaw his own death later in 1945 – and duly perished of influenza, leaving his written account of the future in the hands of Williamson’s narrator.

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The Good Friday Skeletons of Cairo

I’ve been researching for a  project involving mummies in horror fiction. While reading up on the topic of the living dead in Egyptian legend, I came across an interesting tidbit…

The seventeenth-century traveller Jean de Thévenot wrote about a piece of folklore attached to a large cemetery on the bank of the Nile, near Cairo. According to Thévenot, the Christians and Muslims of Cairo all believed that, for a period of three days around Good Friday each year, a macabre miracle would occur (I’ve taken Google Translate as a basis):

[T]he dead are resurrected – that is not to say that the dead walk, but rather that their bones rise from the earth during these three days, and return to the earth when the days have passed. I went to this cemetery on the Good Friday of the Greeks and other Christians who follow the old calendar, to see what the basis was, and I was astonished to find it as heavily populated as a fair… the Turks go there in procession with all their banners, because there is a Sheik buried there whose bones, they say, rise every year like the others, and so they arrive to pray with great devotion.

When I arrived, I saw some skulls and a few bones, and everyone told me that these had just come from the ground. They are so firm in this belief that it is impossible to get them to abandon it.

“I dared not state what I believed, for fear of making myself ill-treated,” remarks the sceptical Thévenot. (He compares the alleged phenomenon to apparitions of the Virgin Mary at an unspecified Greek monastery.)

How I Spent March 2018

DorisMarch18

Spring is in the air! Well, sort of. Winter seems to be finally shuffling away from my present location, anyway. That’s something.

Aside from kicking off my series of posts on how the books of the late Jack Ketchum fared onscreen, I haven’t produced much visible work this month. As far as invisible work is concerned, though, things are different. I’ve been prepping the second issue of Midnight Widows (pencilled by the always-wonderful Marcela Hauptvogelova, inked by myself, colourist TBA) which has been taking up a good chunk of my time and shaping up to be something I am very proud of indeed. The crowdfunding drive is still on track to be launched sometime this year.

I’ve also been writing. My book Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers: Speculative Fiction in the Culture Wars is still taking shape bit by bit, and on top of that, I’ve got a second book that’s about halfway finished. Announcement coming later…

Articles published elsewhere this month:

I hope you enjoyed at least some of the above pieces. If so, then a small donation to my Patreon would be very much appreciated!

Article topics for April and beyond:

April2018Beyond

Taste the Pug of Dankula

Dankula

Well, as you’ve no doubt already heard, a Scottish YouTube comedian known as “Count Dankula” has been convicted of inciting racial hatred for a video he uploaded. He has yet to be sentenced, but it is possible that he will go to prison. His crime was to upload a video called M8 Yer Dugs A Naazi, in which he trains his girlfriend’s pug to raise its front leg in a vague approximation of a Nazi salute.

Much of the discussion about the video focuses on the pug and its “salute”, but this is a bit of a red herring. The crux of the matter is clearly Dankula’s speech. During the course of the video, much of his voiceover consists of “do you wanna gas the Jews? Do you wanna gas the Jews? Do you wanna gas the Jews? Go and gas the Jews, son! Go and gas the Jews, son! Gas the Jews! Gas the Jews!” as he tries to train the dog.

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