- "The Sandman" ("Der Sandmann") (E. T. A. Hoffmann, 1816)
- "The Mortal Immortal" (Mary Shelley, 1833)
- "A Descent Into the Maelstrom" (Edgar Allan Poe, 1841/52)
- "Rappaccini's Daughter" (Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1844)
- "The Clock That Went Backwards" (Edward Page Mitchell, 1881)
- "Into the Sun" (Robert Duncan Milne, 1882)
- "A Tale of Negative Gravity" (Frank R. Stockton, 1884)
- "The Horla, or Modern Ghosts" ("Le Horla") (Guy de Maupassant, 1887)
- "The Shapes" ("Les Xipéhuz") (J. H. Rosny aîné, 1887)
- "To Whom This May Come" (Edward Bellamy, 1889)
- "The Great Keinplatz Experiment" (Arthur Conan Doyle, 1885)
- "In the Abyss" (H. G. Wells, 1896)
- "The Thames Valley Catastrophe" (Grant Allen, 1897)
- "The Lizard" (C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne, 1898)
- "A Thousand Deaths" (Jack London, 1899)
Another anthology of this type concentrating on fantasy was subsequently published in 1982 (Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Fantasy of the 19th Century).
|From Weird Tales Vol. 1, E.T.A. Hoffman, 1885|
Some time later Nathaniel is nursed back to sanity at home with Lothaire and Clara. He seems to have blocked out all memory of Olympia and Coppelius and resumes his betrothal to Clara. One day while sightseeing from a church steeple with Clara, Nathaniel remembers the small telescope he bought from Coppola/Coppelius. When he pulls it out and looks through it, Clara accidentally appears in the scope’s view. This prompts all of his memories of spying on Olympia to come back in a rush. Maddened and insane he tries to kill Clara, thinking her to be a robot. Lothaire rushes in and saves his sister from the frenzied Nathaniel. Then, when Nathaniel looks down on the street below him, he sees Coppelius in the crowd. He jumps down to his death.
"Many of Hoffmann’s stories are permeated with fantastic or science-fictional elements such as humanoid robots. He is a subtle writer who often uses experimental forms and synesthetic images. And as “The Sandman" demonstrates, his strengths include powerful narrative drive, vivid pathological characterizations, and convincingly realistic presentations of'grotesque and supernatural elements."
|From Tales and Stories, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, 1891|
The speaker, Winzy, claims to be 323 years old. He explains that, as a young man he had been an assistant to the alchemist Cornelius Agrippa. One day, after a fight with his lover, Winzy drinks one of Agrippa’s potions, believing it to be a cure for love. Agrippa tells Winzy that the elixir was actually an "elixir of immortality". Skeptical, Winzy continues his life as always and marries Bertha (the girl who had earlier spurned him). Because she ages and he does not, they are later forced to move to a new city to escape evil rumors of witchcraft. Eventually Bertha dies of old age and Winzy begins to curse his immortality. At the end of the account, he vows to go on a long journey in the hope that the ordeal will kill him, as he is too weak to commit suicide.
Other Shelley science fiction stories include Frankenstein, The Last Man (1826), and the fantasy "Transformation" (1831).
On Mount Helseggen above the whirlpool of the Maelström, a white-haired sailor tells his young fearful companion of his experience with the whirlpool below. Three years in the past he and his brother had become caught in the whirlpool after a storm (partly due to misread readings on a stopped timepiece). The sailor escapes the whirlpool by tying himself to a barrel, knowing that cylindrical objects are slower to be sucked down into a whirlpool. His brother remains with the ship and goes down with it. The sailor escapes to safety, but his hair, originally jet black, has become white.
More on Poe here.
|1968 PB edition |
A mad scientist exposes her daughter to poisonous plants in order to make her a poisonous being herself (and invulnerable to disease). The speaker falls in love with her and unwittingly begins to take on poisonous characteristics himself. His friend gives the speaker a “cure” which has the power to counter the effects of the poisonous plant. When the girl realizes how her father has manipulated her into becoming a poisonous creature, she drinks the cure in an act of rebellious self-destruction.
Other fantasy and sf stories can be found in Hawthorne's Twice Told Tales (1837) and Mosses From an Old Manse (1846).
|The Crystal Man, 1973|
One night during a thunderstorm, Van Stopp visits the boys hone and inspects Gertrude’s clock. He winds it and the hands begin moving backwards. In a strange flash, the speaker and Harry find themselves transported back in time to the 16th century defense of Leyden against the Spanish fleet. Harry promptly saves the Burgomaster’s daughter from an unruly mob. A sudden explosion causes a breach in the city wall. The speaker soon discovers Van Stopp helping lead the defense of the wall. The townspeople know Van Stopp as “Jan Lipperdam” (builder of Gertrude’s clock and the Burgomeister’s brother-in-law). The speaker also learns that his cousin Harry had been the one man prepared for the breach at the city wall, making him a hero. In other words, Harry’s contemporary knowledge of the explosion at the wall forewarned him that such an explosion would occur at this point in the past (a paradox). The speaker also learns that the girl Harry had saved is Gertrude, their great-aunt. The speaker and Van Stopp are then thrust back to the 19th century, although Harry remains in the past (possibly becoming Gertrude’s husband and therefore his own father).
Many of Mitchell's stories were collected in The Crystal Man (1976). Stories include:
- "The Ablest Man in the World" (1879): replacement of a man's brain with a computer
- "The Crystal Man" (1881): disadvantages of invisibility (precedes Wells)
- "The Balloon Tree" (1883): an intelligent flying plant, probably the first friendly alien story
|1980, Donald M. Grant|
A comet hits the sun, causing it to flare and incinerate everything on the Earth's hemisphere facing the sun. As the Earth rotates, the heat wave moves westwards, destroying first Europe and then the East Coast of the United States. Since the narrator and his scientist friend live in San Francisco, they are able to receive advance news flashes ahead of the impending doom. The scientist conceives of a desperate plan to ascend into the sky using a hot air balloon. As the the two men ascend, the air thins and the temperature slightly drops (from lack of atmospheric heat conduction). However, a massive convection current (caused by the movement of heat across the planet’s surface) strikes the balloon, hurtling the professor overboard to his death. The balloon itself is then eventually driven into the ground, killing the narrator and ending the narration.
Milne wrote over 60 sf short stories, usually of a "hard" sf nature. His work was collected in 1980 as Into the Sun and Other Stories. His fiction described steam technology, a helicopter, "genetic manipulation, wireless transmission, the fourth dimension, baseball, interplanetary exploration, television and prehistoric monsters."
|A Chosen Few Short Stories, 1895|
An inventor invents a device which can negate the effects of gravity by directing centrifugal force against the Earth’s gravitational pull. He keeps the device in a knapsack so that when he wears the knapsack, he can roam about the countryside with agile ease. In the meantime, his son falls in love with a woman, whose father eventually forbids his daughter from seeing the inventor’s son. Later, the inventor and his wife take a stroll with two negative gravity knapsacks assisting them. His wife accidentally loses her device when it goes out of control and floats away. The inventor then increases the power of his own device so that it can support both himself and his wife, allowing them to comfortably journey back to their inn without great strain. Unfortunately, after he releases his wife, the single device causes the inventor to float several feet into the air. Eventually his wife finds him and uses a fishing pole to bring him back down. However, while aloft, he had accidentally overheard that the father of his son’s lover had disapproved of his daughter’s suitor due to the strange behavior of the boy’s father (the inventor). The inventor explains his device to the man, which convinces him to allow his daughter to continue seeing the inventor’s son. The inventor decides to allow the negative gravity devices to float away into the sky, since they have caused so much trouble for him.
"Although Stockton were four science-fiction novels—The Great War Syndicate (1889), The Vizier of the Two-Horned Alexander (1889), The Adventures of Captain Horn (1895) and The Great Stone of Sardis (l898)—his strength lay in short stories, some of which have been recently collected in The Science Fiction of Frank R. Stockton (1976)."
The speaker begins to sense an invisible presence in his house, which moves things around and drinks his water and milk. At times it also manages to take control of the speaker’s mind, controlling him as if he were under a form of conscious hypnosis. He learns that a similar plague of madness had recently been observed in South America and believes that when he had recently witnessed a ship from South America sailing nearby, one of the supernatural creatures must have latched onto him. Eventually he lures the creature (which he senses is called a “horla”) into his bedroom and then jumps out of the room, locking the horla within. He then sets his house on fire, hoping that the burning pyre will also destroy the horla (presumably still trapped in the upstairs bedroom). However, he later decides that the horla would not die by such a normal means, and that his only escape from the horla is to kill himself.
Maupassant was interested in the supernatural and bizarre, and many of his stories exploring such topics were published in Allouma and Other Tales (1895) and Tales of Supernatural Terror (1972).
|Art: Michael Bukowski, 2017|
In ancient Mesopotamia (ca. 5000 BC), alien creatures land and make camp nearby a territory inhabited by nomadic tribes. These creatures are shaped as cones, cylinders and “slabs”, and kill all who come in contact with them (apparently through short-range force bolts of some kind). At first occupying only a relatively small area of land, they procreate and begin expanding their territory. The nomad leaders realize that if something is not done then the creatures (named “Xipehuz”) will eventually overrun the continent and exterminate mankind. The tribe ask a settled (non-nomadic) wise man named Bakhun for help. Bakhun then spends a year observing and taking notes on the Xipehuz. He eventually learns that the weak spot of the Xipehuz lies in their “star”, the part of their body which emits heat rays (primarily for cooking and writing). This star aperture, if struck, will kill a Xipehuz instantly. In the next month, Bakhun gathers a massive army from all of the tribes of the surrounding areas. Several battles ensue, with the nomads and the Xipehuz each adapting new tactics (battle formations, shield formations, etc) as the war progresses. Eventually, the bravery of the nomads and the leadership of Bakhun leads mankind to victory and the Xipehuz are completely wiped out. Bakhun regrets the necessity of destroying the Xipehuz in order that man could survive.
J. H. Rosny aîné's real name was Joseph-Henri Boex, and in France he wrote about two dozen sf works. "The Shapes" was his first sf story. A collection appeared in 1973 as Recits de Science-Fiction.
A shipwreck victim lands on an uncharted island populated by telepaths. Generations ago, those with psychic tendencies were gathered and sent away, after which they eventually found and settled this uncharted territory. Now, generations later, they no longer speak, but only communicate telepathically. The traveler eventually becomes part of this tribe and marries. During this period he experiences a true bond with his patrons, as telepathy has done away with most human personality faults. Some time later, whilst on a boating errand, his craft gets caught in a current and he is swept away from the island, unable to return due to a rocky barrier. Later, rescued by a passing American ship, he finds normal “speaking” humanity burdensome and believes that he will soon die from despair.
Bellamy is most well-known for his book Looking Backward, 2000-1887 (1888).
"Bellamy also produced other, less well-known works of science fiction. There is an earlier novel, Mrs. Ludington's Sister (1884), which deals with immortality."
A scientist of Keinplatz named Baumgarten becomes interested in psychic phenomena. His assistant, Fritz, is in love with Baumgarten’s daughter. In order to gain the girl’s hand in marriage, Fritz allows Baumgarten to use him in an experiment. Baumgarten puts Fritz into a trance and then himself. He hopes that their two consciousnesses can converse as “astral projections” while their bodies are mesmerized. When they wake up, the consciousnesses are switched, although the two men are unaware of this. Several comic events then occur (involving the professor’s family and Fritz’ drinking friends), but Baumgarten and Fritz eventually realize that they have switched bodies. They then repeat the procedure to restore themselves to their rightful bodies.
Doyle wrote many sf stories, the first being "The American's Tale" (1879). His other sf works include The Lost World (1912), “The Terror of Blue John Gap“ (1910), “The Poison Belt” (1913), and “When the World Screamed" (1929). A collection of his stories appeared in 1979 as The Great Supernatural Stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His sf works were also collected in The Science Fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1981).
|Art: Frank R. Paul, Amazing Stories, September 1926|
A scientist-inventor named Elstead journeys 5 miles deep into the ocean and encounters a race of primitive, chameleon-like lizard creatures, who live in ruins on the sea bottom. The creatures are fascinated by the glowing bathysphere and take it to their city by dragging it by its tether cord. Just before air runs out in the sphere, the cord breaks and the sphere rises back to the surface. After a period of recovery, Elstead modifies his sphere so that the cord can be released from within. He embarks on another journey below the sea, but is never heard from again.
"...His novels have to a large extent overshadowed and obscured his short stories, which contain some of his most creative thinking and effective writing. The best of these shorter works can be found in Thirty Strange Stories (1897) and Twenty Eight Science Fiction Stories (1952)."
More on H.G. Wells here.
|The Strand Magazine, December 1897|
“The Thames Valley Catastrophe”, Grant Allen (1897)
A wave of lava erupts out of a volcanic fissure in the Thames Valley. The speaker, a bicyclist, spots the lava wave and flees, just barely able to keep ahead of the lava front. During his flight he tries to warn the people lying in the path of the lava wave but they do not believe his warnings (and are soon incinerated). In the end, London is completely destroyed, but not before the bicyclist successfully reaches his family and helps them escape to the highlands.
"Allen‘s shorter works of science fiction and fantasy are very well written and many can be found in Strange Stories (1884) and Twelve Tales (1899)."
A cave explorer discovers a deeply-buried underground lake. Nearby is the husk of a strange beast. He is also disappointed to find someone’s penknife, meaning that he is not the first to discover this hidden lair. As the explorer chips away at a large mass, it seems to stir. Eventually a tentacled dinosaur-like creature awakens and chases the man around the cave. He kills it with his knife and escapes. He dedicates his tale to the owner of the penknife, who he suspects died horribly at the hands of one of the creatures.
Hyne is best known for The Lost Continent (1900), a novel about Atlantis.
"While only four of the Captain Kettle adventures contain fantastic elements—Captain Kettle on the Warpath (1916), Ice Age Woman (1925), Mr. Kettle, Third Mate (1931) and Ivory Valley: An Adventure of Captain Kettle (1938)—Hyne did write seven other science-fiction and fantasy novels (besides The Lost Continent) which explore such diverse themes as diamond-making, a hollow earth, imaginary war, immortality and magical objects."
A young man is saved from drowning by a scientist (by coincidence his long-lost father) and brought back to the scientist’s island hideout. The scientist believes he can bring the dead back to life through a combination of anti-coagulant drugs, radiation and respiratory resuscitation (through control of atmospheric pressure). In order to carry out his experiments he forces his son to be an unwilling subject, killing him again and again through various poisons, and then resuscitating him with his scientific methods. Naturally reluctant from the first, the subject eventually becomes desperate to escape when he senses that his father may soon vivisect him. Using his own background in science, the man deduces a method by which atomic elements can be disassembled into their constituent parts through an electromagnetic field. He lays a trap consisting of electrically-powered magnets pointed at his entrance-way. When his father steps into the field he is immediately disintegrated.
"A Thousand Deaths" was London's first sf story.
"Four of his novels are science fiction: Before Adam (1906), a form of “prehistoric fiction set in the Stone Age that reflected London's aversion to urban life; The Iron Heel (1907). an outstanding work that prefigures the Fascist experience; The Scarlet Plague (1915), a catastrophe novel that is marred by his acute racism: and The Star Rover (1915). In addition he produced thirteen shorter stories of science fiction, which can be found in The Science Fiction of Jack London and Curious Fragments: Jack London’s Tales of Fantasy Fiction (both 1975)."
Many of these stories can be found through links posted at https://classicsofsciencefiction.com/2018/09/20/19th-century-science-fiction-short-stories/