February 7, 2023

Under the direction of HILOBROW’s Josh Glenn, the MIT Press’s RADIUM AGE series is reissuing notable proto-sf stories from the underappreciated era between 1900–1935.

In these forgotten classics, sf readers will discover the origins of enduring tropes like robots (berserk or benevolent), tyrannical supermen, dystopias and apocalypses, sinister telepaths, and eco-catastrophes.

With new contributions by historians, science journalists, and sf authors, the Radium Age book series will recontextualize the breakthroughs and biases of these proto-sf pioneers, and chart the emergence of a burgeoning literary genre.

Today marks the publication of the following Radium Age series title…


Introduction by SUSAN R. GRAYZEL
(February 7, 2023)

When war breaks out — a world war, whose thoroughly modern tactics include aerial bombardment and purposely displacing civilian populations — British civilization swiftly collapses. Theodore Savage, an educated and idle civil servant, and Ada, a miserable working-class woman who becomes Eve to his Adam, find themselves required to hide, scavenge, and fight for survival… in an all but unrecognizable Albion where science and technology are regarded by their fellow survivors with superstitious awe and terror. This 1922 proto-sf novel was one of the first to see WWI as foretelling the end of civilization.

“Miss Hamilton always writes forcibly, and her present novel deals with the heart-shaking effects of the next war. It might, indeed, be used as a tract to convey an awful warning.” — The Spectator (1922)

“Miss Hamilton has spun so finely with the intimate fibres of human emotion and thought that the whole effect is startlingly real.” — The Bookman (1922)

“Terror falls from the skies, and within a few months England has become a collection of small tribes living separately and brutishly, tilling the soil and building hutments.” — The Fortnightly Review (1924)

“Challenging last century’s assumptions about the invulnerability of imperial civilization, Cicely Hamilton’s 1922 novel is a grim, swift read — and an argument for pacifism as the first principle of survival.” — Nisi Shawl, author of Everfair

Pre-publication press for MITP’s edition of Theodore Savage includes the following…

  • “The writing is brilliant, nuanced, and deep. No aspect of the hellish aftermath of scientific warfare is unexplored. […] A terrifying and prescient science fiction novel that’s unflinching in its portrayal of the fragile scaffolding that supports ‘civilized’ society. — Foreword
  • “Hamilton drew on the anxieties and trauma that emerged from the First World War to tell a story of a Europe decimated by war — and to explore how society and gender roles had drastically changed as a result.” —’s list of “Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for January and February 2023”
  • “A cautionary tale about the state of femininity in the early 20th century.” — Transfer Orbit

CICELY HAMILTON (1872–1952) was an Anglo-Irish actress, author, and feminist campaigner best known for her 1909 treatise Marriage as a Trade. Her prewar plays include Diana of Dobson’s (1908) and How the Vote Was Won (1909). After working in the north of France during WWI and witnessing how its violence affected civilians, she was inspired to write Theodore Savage (1922), a proto-sf novel presciently foregrounding modern warfare’s destructive power.

SUSAN R. GRAYZEL is Professor of History at Utah State University, where she researches and teaches about modern European history, women’s and gender history, the history of the world wars, and war and culture. Her publications in these areas include Women’s Identities at War (1999) and At Home and Under Fire (2012). Her latest book is The Age of the Gas Mask: How British Civilians Faced the Terrors of Total War (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Originally published in 1922. Cover designed by Seth. See this book at The MIT Press.


The RADIUM AGE series launched in March 2022. Here’s a Q&A with Josh. The series has received some nice coverage — including the following comments:

“Joshua Glenn’s admirable Radium Age series [is] devoted to early- 20th-century science fiction and fantasy.” — Michael Dirda, Washington Post | “Neglected classics of early 20th-century sci-fi in spiffily designed paperback editions.” — The Financial Times | “New editions of a host of under-discussed classics of the genre.” — | “Long live the Radium Age.” — Scott Bradfield, Los Angeles Times | “Shows that ‘proto-sf’ was being published much more widely, alongside other kinds of fiction, in a world before it emerged as a genre and became ghettoised.” — BSFA Review. | “A huge effort to help define a new era of science fiction.” — Transfer Orbit | “An excellent start at showcasing the strange wonders offered by the Radium Age.” — Maximum Shelf | “It’s an attractive crusade. […] Glenn’s project is well suited to providing an organizing principle for an SF reprint line, to the point where I’m a little surprised that I can’t think of other similarly high-profile examples of reprint-as-critical-advocacy.” — The Los Angeles Review of Books | “Fascinating.” — First Things 


RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF FROM THE MIT PRESS: VOICES FROM THE RADIUM AGE, ed. Joshua Glenn | J.D. Beresford’s A WORLD OF WOMEN | E.V. Odle’s THE CLOCKWORK MAN | H.G Wells’s THE WORLD SET FREE | Pauline Hopkins’s OF ONE BLOOD | J.J. Connington’s NORDENHOLT’S MILLION | Rose Macaulay’s WHAT NOT | Cicely Hamilton’s THEODORE SAVAGE | Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE LOST WORLD & THE POISON BELT | G.K. Chesterton’s THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL | MORE VOICES FROM THE RADIUM AGE, ed. Joshua Glenn | William Hope Hodgson’s THE NIGHT LAND | Hemendrakumar Roy’s THE INHUMANS | Charlotte Haldane’s MAN’S WORLD | Francis Stevens’s THE HEADS OF CERBERUS & OTHER STORIES | Edward Shanks’s THE PEOPLE OF THE RUINS | J.D. Beresford’s THE HAMPDENSHIRE WONDER | John Taine’s THE GREATEST ADVENTURE | Marietta Shaginyan’s MESS-MEND | & more to come.

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.


Kudos, Radium Age SF