February 21, 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…
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
Introduction by CONOR REID
Afterword by JOSHUA GLENN
(February 21, 2023)
In 1912, the creator of Sherlock Holmes introduced his readers to yet another genius adventurer, Professor Challenger, who in his very first outing would journey to South America in search of… an isolated plateau crawling with iguanodons and ape-men! A smash hit, Doyle’s proto-sf thriller would be adapted twice by Hollywood, and it would go on to influence everything from Jurassic Park to the TV show Land of the Lost. Its 1913 sequel, The Poison Belt, finds Challenger and his dino-hunting comrades trapped in an oxygenated chamber… as the entire planet passes through a lethal ether cloud.
“The last word in the sensational. No less interesting than the feats of Sherlock Holmes.” — Pittsburgh Gazette-Times (1912)
“Highly interesting adventure of a sort to stir the pulse and arouse the wonder of even the jaded novel reader.” — The New York Times (1912)
“The chief criticism of this book is that it is too short!” — Publisher’s Weekly (1913)
“To anyone who has had the delightful experience of traveling in The Lost World with Professor Challenger the bare announcement that that brilliant and eccentric personage plays a most important part in this new tale will quite suffice. For who, having once met the Professor, would not desire to continue the acquaintance?” — New York Times (1913).
“Professor Challenger is at home in the poison belt, his beard very big and black, his oddities accentuated rather than softened since his first appearance.” — The Saturday Review (1913)
“They who neglect to read it will have missed a highly entertaining flight of the Doyle imagination.” — New York Evening Sun (1912)
“At once one of the most realistic and one of the most romantic of [Doyle’s] books.” — The Living Age (1912)
“It is the original and real thing, a gem of the Jurassic epoch.” — Seattle Post Intelligencer (1912)
“It is a book which excites the reader’s imagination from the opening page, and Mr. Doyle’s consummate descriptive art never found better use than in following the fortunes of his brave band of explorers into a country the like of which was never dreamed.” — Boston Globe (1912)
“[MIT Press’s] The Lost World and The Poison Belt is a wonderful snapshot of the Edwardian scientific mind, both its virtues and its defects.” — Katherine Addison, author of The Angel of the Crows.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE (1859–1930) was a Scottish physician and author who in 1887 introduced Sherlock Holmes, arguably the best-known fictional detective. He also wrote poetry, historical novels, influential gothic short stories, and more. Doyle’s proto-sf series of Professor Challenger adventures include The Lost World (1912), The Poison Belt (1913), The Land of Mist (1926), “When the World Screamed” (1928), and “The Disintegration Machine” (1929).
JOSHUA GLENN is a consulting semiotician and editor of the websites HiLobrow and Semiovox. The first to describe 1900–1935 as science fiction’s “Radium Age,” he is editor of the MIT Press’s series of reissued proto-sf stories from that period. He is coauthor and co-editor of various books including the family activities guide UNBORED (2012), The Adventurer’s Glossary (2021), and Lost Objects (2022). In the 1990s, he published the indie intellectual journal Hermenaut.
CONOR REID is a podcaster and writer from Ireland. He has published widely on popular fiction and science, including The Science and Fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs (2018). He is the Head of Podcasts at HeadStuff Media, as well as the host and producer of his own critically acclaimed literature podcast, Words To That Effect. The podcast, which has been performed live in both Ireland and the UK, tells stories of the fiction that shapes popular culture.
Originally published in 1912–1913. 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.” — Tor.com | “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 | William Hope Hodgson’s THE NIGHT LAND | MORE VOICES FROM THE RADIUM AGE, ed. Joshua Glenn | 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.
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.