INVADERS FROM OUTSIDE (2)
September 17, 2023
J. Schlossel’s first story, “Invaders from Outside,” appeared in the January 1925 issue of Weird Tales. It was one of only six stories that he’d publish. SF historians agree that — with its solar system of inhabited planets, a council of worlds, and a space battle between fleets of ships — the story is an early example of “space opera.” HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize it here for HILOBROW’s readers.
The very first trip from Mars was to the Moon, which circled the barbarous planet, Earth. Those intrepid Martian explorers expected to throw their lives away when they shot up into the absolute void of space. They never thought that they would return. And their folk waited season in and season out; still they did not hear from them. Years after all hope had been abandoned their craft was sighted in the clear sky. They were returning at last.
The Martians crowded around that ship after the initial shock and roar of its landing was past. As the captain stepped out of his frail craft he was cheered again and again by the admiring populace. Twenty had started out on that first trip into the infinite, yet only seven others besides
the captain dragged themselves wearily on to the Martian soil. The other twelve lay buried in a strange world. They had for the most part succumbed to the frightful rigors of the trip over.
Their folk begged them, then and there, to toll of the terrible hardships and dangers that they must have gone through. Those daring pioneers first rested, and then they began their strange tales. That they were thickly garnished with wild imaginings was suspected, but no one then could tell positively.
The travelers told of the wonderful feeling of lightness that pervaded them as they stepped out of their vehicle; of the Moon’s strange vegetation, the great scarlet blossoms that were far larger than any vegetation on Mars. They described the smooth, unbroken plains: the great cities that dotted the lunar landscape; the civilization there that was even older than their own. They recounted in each detail the immense throngs that came to greet them; the perfect hospitality of the Moon dwellers; the genuine welcome.
They next told of the homesickness that had engulfed them and their inability to leave because they were short-handed. More than half of the crew had died and they could not work their vessel back. They had made many friends while they had sojourned there. They told their hosts of their yearning to return to their native soil and the reason why they could not. Their hosts volunteered to help them work their vessel back, and showered them with gifts when they took leave, and invited them to return.
When these first voyagers had told their tales and exhibited metals that were considered almost priceless on their own planet, but which could be had in any quantity on the Moon, their tale so fired the adventurous Martians that there was a stampede to sign on for the proposed expedition that their government, was undertaking.
Other explorers started out in the direction of No. 5. They found the inhabitants there as far advanced as they were, but along different lines. The inhabitants of No. 5 were esthetic, pleasure-loving and beauty-loving creatures.
Others went still farther out, to Jupiter and the Jovian system of habitated moons. Everywhere they found civilizations almost equal to their own. They returned to Mars, their home. They had been received with hospitality everywhere, and treated with the respect due to an envoy from one world to another.
The government of Mars entered into a trade compact with the governments of the other worlds. The situation on Mars prior to the return of the first exploring expedition had been critical. The local markets had been overcrowded, and to avoid grave industrial crises it had been absolutely necessary that new markets be found at once.
After the return of the explorers the traders started out. They went in droves. They went almost to the limits of the solar system to obtain markets for their surplus products. That they had found new markets and kept them could be proved by the enormous traffic that each world now carried on with the others. The ancient method of transportation, those old ships propelled by the rocket discharge principle, were too slow. Why, their limit of speed was only about twenty thousand miles an hour. So slow! It took their ancient ancestors from one to eight Martian years to make one round trip. Compared to the modern almost instantaneous method of wireless transmission of solid matter, the rocket-propelled ships were slow and crude.
Though the inhabitants of Mars were the most aggressive, they did not presume to the right of leadership or the right to dictate terms. They were too far advanced to entertain such useless dreams of conquest. What they had or knew they gave without stint to the younger civilizations of the union. All was instantly accessible to every member of those twelve worlds through the Bureau of Knowledge and the Bureau of Means.
It seems like a paradox to say that they were civilized and still peaceful, that they did not understand the full significance of war. They knew what war was, but not through personal contact. War, they held, was for the savages that lived on the three outer moons of Uranus, or for the nameless four-legged things that so miserably existed on the planet Earth, but not for the highly intelligent beings who owed allegiance to the Confederacy.
That strange, alien world that was speeding toward them, meanwhile, remained totally unknown. Its small size and its tremendous distance might have been the reason why their mighty telescopes could not bring it into view, or perhaps the curious zigzag course it followed.
It made no difference how far advanced their civilization were, they could not read the future. That was admitted to be beyond the realms of possibility. But why couldn’t there be one, only one, out of the combined populations of the whole twelve worlds to warn them of the approaching danger, to tell them that a strange world was approaching out of the depths of space at an inconceivable velocity?
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”.