By: Clare Winger Harris
December 19, 2022

Illustration and title from Weird Tales v. 8 #1 (July 1926).

HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize “A Runaway World,” by Clare Winger Harris. This story, her first, appeared in the July 1926 issue of Weird Tales; it entered the public domain in 2022.

ALL INSTALLMENTS: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8.



That evening the townspeople who had not already migrated to cooler regions, held a jubilee in Central Park Square. The principal speaker of the evening was Oscar
Marden, who explained to the people what capers our planet had been cutting during the past three years. After his address I noticed that he kept gazing skyward as if unable to bring his attention to Earth.

“Say, will you come to the observatory with me now?” he asked as I was talking to a group of friends shortly afterward.

“I’ll be right along,” I replied.

Scarcely half a block away we saw Ed Zutell going in the general direction of home.

“Do we want him?” I asked, not a little annoyed. “Can’t we beat it up an alley? I’d like this conference alone, for I know by your manner you have something important to tell me.”

“In the last part of what you say you are right,” responded Marden, “but in the first part, wrong. I do want Ed, for I have something to show him, too.”

When the three of us were again in the familiar setting of the past three years, Marden gazed for quite some time at the heavens through the great instrument. Finally he turned to us with a wry smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes.

“Just take a peep, boys, and tell me what you see.” He strove in vain to conceal his amusement.

We both agreed that we saw a rather reddish star.

“That ‘reddish star’,” said Oscar, impressively, “is our old friend Mars, and he is revolving in an orbit between us and the sun!”

Ed and I looked at each other speechlessly for some seconds; then without a word Ed dropped on his knees before me in something of the fashion of an Arab bowing toward Mecca.

“What’s the big idea?” I asked, not a little frightened, for I wondered if the confinement of the years had crazed him.

Oscar was laughing so that he had to hold on to the telescope for support, so I concluded there was nothing very radically amiss in the situation.

“I am worshiping a god,” said Ed, “for so I would call anyone who can move the planets about so that they line up in accordance with his conceptions of the way they ought to do.”

“I’d like to take the credit,: I laughed, then more seriously, “but a higher authority than mine has charge of the movements of the planets.”

“Well, it certainly is uncanny how you have your way in everything,” grumbled Ed.


There is little more to tell. The world soon adjusted itself to its new environment. People became accustomed to seeing the sun rise in the West and set in the East.

Vera was ineffably delighted with the new system of time which was necessitated by the increased orbit of the Earth. Inasmuch as it now required a trifle over two years for our planet to make a journey once around the new sun, Vera figured that she was less than half her former age, and this new method of figuring, I may add, others of her sex were not slow to adopt.

The huge sun rendered the Earth habitable clear to the poles, and strange to say, it caused very little increase of heat in the tropics. Astronomers proved that, though a big sun, it was not as hot a one, for it was in the later stages of the cooling-off process to which all suns eventually come. Two planets had already been journeying around the giant sun before the advent of Mars and Earth, and what they thought of the intrusion of the two strange worlds was before long made evident through radio communication.

To the astronomers of this new era the welkin presented a fascinating opportunity for studying new neighbors in space.

And thus the chemical experiment of the superpeople of that vaster cosmos was finished.


RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF: “Radium Age” is Josh Glenn’s name for the nascent sf genre’s c. 1900–1935 era, a period which saw the discovery of radioactivity, i.e., the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. More info here.

SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable | Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire” | Francis Stevens’s “Friend Island” | George C. Wallis’s “The Last Days of Earth” | Frank L. Pollock’s “Finis” | A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool | E. Nesbit’s “The Third Drug” | George Allan England’s “The Thing from — ‘Outside'” | Booth Tarkington’s “The Veiled Feminists of Atlantis” | H.G. Wells’s “The Land Ironclads” | J.D. Beresford’s The Hampdenshire Wonder | Valery Bryusov’s “The Republic of the Southern Cross” | Algernon Blackwood’s “A Victim of Higher Space” | A. Merritt’s “The People of the Pit” | Max Brand’s The Untamed | Julian Huxley’s “The Tissue-Culture King” | Clare Winger Harris’s “A Runaway World” | Francis Stevens’s “Thomas Dunbar” | George Gurdjieff’s “Beelzebub’s Tales” | Robert W. Chambers’s “The Harbor-Master” | Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s “The Hall Bedroom” | Clare Winger Harris’s “The Fifth Dimension” | Francis Stevens’s “Behind the Curtain” | more to come.