Radium Age 100 (42)

By: Joshua Glenn
October 19, 2015

One in a series of 100 posts about the best science fiction novels published from 1904–33. HILOBROW’s Josh Glenn has named that era science fiction’s Radium Age; more info here. The complete Radium Age 100 list can be found here.

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Maurice Renard’s The Blue Peril (1910).

Having discovered a planet swaddled in an impenetrable etheric “ocean,” the Sarvants — an advanced race of space explorers — fish for specimens of its two- and four-legged indigenous life-forms. Like scientists of any species, they dissect their specimens and toss the remains back into the ocean. Having studied and classified these exotic creatures, which are presumably incapable of either suffering or rational thought, the Sarvants preserve and mount a few remaining examples for display. Meanwhile, in eastern France, human body parts are discovered — scattered across the landscape. An investigation is mounted; who is committing these crimes? In the pocket of one of the victims, a written account is discovered: Aliens, it seems, are abducting Earth creatures! The French authorities manage to communicate with the aliens — the Sarvants — who turn out to be tiny insectile creatures capable of assembling and dissembling their bodies with one another at will, in order to form such organs as are necessary for controlling their technology. Astonished to realized that Earth creatures are intelligent (though bizarrely shaped), the Sarvants cease their experiments.

Fun fact: The hybrid nature of Renard’s novel — which combines elements of Wellsian science fiction with Poe-esque Gothic horror and detective fiction — caused it to be overlooked, for many years, by sci-fi scholars.

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MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: HiLoBooks homepage! | What is Radium Age science fiction? |Radium Age 100: 100 Best Science Fiction Novels from 1904–33 | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | Radium Age: Context series | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Hugo Gernsback | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin

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