Radium Age 100 (95)
March 25, 2016
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.
John Collier’s No Traveller Returns (1931).
When a Professor Wilkinson descends into a London subway station from whence he has never observed anyone to exit, he finds himself in a dystopian future. He and other victims from the same era are stripped and held in cages, before being eaten; only his scrawniness spares him. Eventually, his mathematical doodlings are noticed, and Wilkinson is purchased as a music-hall act. (Foreshadowing Pierre Boulle’s 1963 adventure Planet of the Apes.) In this future England, it transpires, the vast majority of people have settled into a bovine complacency; a few “atavistics,” however, seek sensation and vividness of life. Wilkinson escapes, disguises himself as an atavistic, and finds shelter with an “uninventor” — i.e., a voluntary simplicist who finds ways to do without the things science has created. Eventually, attempting to return to his own time, Wilkinson ends up being captured… and eaten.
Fun fact: This novella was published in a limited edition of 210 copies, very rare now. The author never permitted the story to be reprinted.
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