Relook at “Giants From Eternity,” by Manly Wade Wellman

In my investigations of classic pulp magazines over the past year, I’ve come across some classic stories and real gems that I had forgotten about. One of these guilty pleasures is “Giants From Eternity,” by Manly Wade Wellman, published in the July 1939 issue of Startling Stories.

The cover image, incidentally, doesn’t represent Wellman’s story in the magazine.

I’m a big fan of Manly Wade Wellman’s work; his Silver John series of stories and novels, about a wandering Appalachian minstrel who fights evil with wit and a song, are absolutely delightful. With his son, he wrote a story about Sherlock Holmes squaring off against H.G. Wells’ invaders from The War of the Worlds! I’ve also written about Giants From Eternity before, when I read it in a modern edition, though I read it and blogged about it over a decade ago!

Digging up the story in magazine form gives me an excuse to take another look at the story, and share the original images from the magazine! (And once you know what the story is about, you’ll see why.) If you want to read it in advance, the issue is available on the Internet Archive, or you can buy a modern edition.

When a meteor touches down at sunset on a farm in western Kansas, nobody thinks anything of it at first. But the meteor has brought an alien lifeform called the blight with it, and the blight inexorably starts to extend itself, growing inches an hour, and consuming everything in its path: grass, livestock, people. It is immune to any attempts to stop it, as fire, chemicals and barriers all prove ineffective.

The blight draws the attention of a young scientist named Oliver Norfleet, who visits the region with his colleague Spencer DuPogue.

Norfleet is a natural genius who runs his own small lab. His preliminary investigations draw the attention of Caris Bridge of the “Board of Science,” who agrees to fund his investigations into the blight. With the Board’s support, Oliver designs a pair of blight-resistant boots to travel into the very heart of the infested region, and narrowly escapes with his life, and brings back a piece of the heart.

Oliver’s investigations of the heart lead to an incredible discovery — from it, he can extract the very essence of life itself, and with it resurrect the dead, no matter how long gone, with all of their memories intact! Thus begins an audacious and desperate plan: return to life the greatest scientific minds of history and enlist their help in stopping the blight before it consumes the Earth! The Giants From Eternity are reborn!

We get Louis Pasteur, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, an Marie Curie, a unprecedented super-team of genius to counter an unprecedented threat to life on Earth!

The story is incredibly silly, and requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief to enjoy! I loved it, though, and its blatant celebration of scientific achievement. And I do not know of another story where you get to see Louis Pasteur go on a combat raid with a shotgun!

Eventually, the team comes up with a truly incredible plan: they built an atomic rocketship that can fly by anti-gravity, and use a nuclear beam weapon to literally cut away the surface of the Earth that the blight has overwhelmed, much like removing a cancerous tumor from a patient. Using anti-gravity, the blighted region is launched into space, and Earth is saved!

There is much more to the story, including the realization that the life-giving properties of the heart are only temporary, so each of the scientists races against time to finish their contribution before they return to death and dissolution.

This was one of those surprise novels that I fell in love with unexpectedly! When I first read the synopsis, I thought it would be simply atrocious, but Wellman’s enthusiasm and optimism won me over. I highly recommend it, if you like really unusual and fun pulp science fiction adventure.

Speaking of Manly Wade Wellman, I recently learned that my friends at Valancourt Books are releasing a new edition of Wellman’s Silver John aka John the Balladeer stories! These are also highly recommended.

This entry was posted in Science fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.