Let’s tackle another invisibility story! This one is a little different, in that it is a story about an imaginary invisible friend!
“The Handyman,” by Lester Barclay, appeared in the October 1950 issue of Fantastic Adventures. It is short and sweet, so this will be a very short blog post! Spoilers follow… you can read the story on archive.org in advance if you like.
This past Friday, a beloved member of my extended kitty family, Mandarin, was helped on his way to the next life. Mandarin was diagnosed early this year with a rare and untreatable brain tumor. Beth did everything possible to make the remainder of his life happy and comfortable, and it was.
I wanted to share some memories of this beautiful boy, as I’ve done for other dear departed felines in my life.
I may be cursed to blog about invisibility in fiction for the rest of my life. While preparing a post about McGivern’s “The Visible Invisible Man,” I suddenly realized that there is another story about invisibility in the very same issue of Amazing Stories!
As you can see from the short description, “Priestess of the Moon,” by Ray Cummings, features a woman fighting against an invisible being before disappearing herself. It is in fact another invisibility story, and quite frankly a very silly one. Let’s take a look… spoilers again, though I don’t think anyone will be particularly upset in the case of this story.
Here’s another invisibility story — again, my book on the history and physics of invisibility will be out next year!
The last we saw of William P. McGivern was his story “The Chameleon Man,” published in January of 1942. But it turns out that this wasn’t McGivern’s first invisibility story! That honor (presumably — he might still have an early one) goes to “The Visible Invisible Man,” published in the December 1940 issue of Amazing Stories.
Like McGivern’s later story, “The Visible Invisible Man” is also a comedy. I found it much more effective than the later one, though. You can read it here before reading my post if you want.
One of the best things about studying history is the serendipitous discoveries one can make. This post is about one of those: while tracking down various stories about invisibility, I learned of the story “The Plague of the Living Dead,” by A. Hyatt Verrill, which appeared in the April 1927 issue of Amazing Stories.
I stumbled across this story while researching Verrill’s invisibility story “The Man Who Could Vanish,” and it’s easy to see why it captured my attention: the modern “zombie” craze in fiction is usually traced to George Romero’s classic 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead, but here we have a story that is decades earlier talking about the living dead!
Verrill’s “Plague of the Living Dead” is a fascinating and surprisingly gruesome story. Though it probably did not influence the modern zombie genre, it definitely anticipated much of it. Let’s take a spoiler-filled look at it. You can read the original story here beforehand if you want. Note: some significant body and animal horrors described in the story.
This is the last of my daily run of blog posts for now, marking the 30th post in a row! Most of them have been on invisibility in fiction, and we wrap with a fascinating example. I’ve still got more invisibility to post, but I won’t try to do them every day…
Is there a word for finding the correct thing by mistake? That is basically what happened with the next story of invisibility to discuss, “Cloak of Aesir,” by Don A. Stuart, published in the March 1939 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.
So why was I mistaken? Well, here’s the description of “Cloak of Aesir” from the table of contents:
A man and the Sarn-Mother and a cloak of blackness— and the old Sarn-Mothcr couldn’t hate that human enemy!
The description of the “cloak of blackness” is what caught my attention, as it certainly sounds like something invisible-y! In the story, however, the cloak is easy to spot in most circumstances, as long as there is light around. Nevertheless, the story also includes invisibility devices, so I found an invisibility story for the wrong reason!
But this story is special for another reason: it uses some physics to explain the “Cloak of Aesir” that I’ve never seen in a science fiction story before! So let’s take a look. Significant spoilers ahead, so if you want you can read the story in advance.
The penultimate post on invisibility in fiction in my attempt to blog 30 days in a row! I’ve got more stories to blog after that, but this will probably be the end of my continuous run.
So we’ve technically already had one story about an actual “Invisible World,” but Ed Earl Repp’s story clearly didn’t go far enough — the world itself wasn’t invisible, it just had an atmosphere that guided light around it, acting like a cloaking device. But what if the entire planet, and everything on it, were perfectly invisible? That’s the story in Thorne Lee’s “Ghost Planet,” which appeared in the June 1943 issue of Startling Stories:
Getting close to the end of my run of invisibility in fiction posts! Hope you’ve been enjoying them!
Here we take a quick look at a story by one of my favorite weird fiction authors: Abraham Merritt, who went by A. Merritt in most of his printed work. The story in question is “The People of the Pit,” which first appeared in the All-Story Weekly Magazine in January of 1918; it can be read here. I happened across a reprint that appeared in the first Amazing Stories Annual, published in 1927.
A. Merritt would regularly include invisibility in his fiction. In his 1923 The Face in the Abyss, he introduced invisible winged serpents that effectively had cloaking devices to make themselves invisible. In his 1932 Dwellers in the Mirage he introduced an entire invisible city hidden in a valley protected by a mirage.
Starting to get exhausted by all these invisibility posts! But I’m going for 30 straight days of blogging, then I’ll rest.
In her Ohio home on the outskirts of the 26th Century metropolis of Cincinnati, Moira Presby softly hummed a current air and eagerly awaited the return of her husband who had been called away suddenly that evening on promising business. She was as happy as people of the earth were expected to be happy under the joint rule of the Durna Rangue, a semi-scientific cult, and the space pirates.
Okay, so in the future the Earth is being ruled by a semi-scientific cult, and… space pirates???
I must admit that this introduction, which explains how the cultists joined with space pirates to take over the Earth and keep out the “Interplanetary Guard,” did not leave me optimistic about the quality of “Invisible One” by Neil R. Jones, which appeared in the September 1940 issue of Super Science Stories.
However, I ended up being pleasantly surprised! Though it is by no means a classic of the genre, it is an intriguing “invisibility caper” that had enough cleverness to it to keep me reading.
Nearing the end of my run of posts about invisibility in fiction! Be sure to look out for my book on the history of invisibility physics next year!
One thing that is truly amazing about invisibility in fiction is how much more prevalent it is than I first thought. So many famous authors have tackled stories about invisibility, from Jules Verne to Jack London to Ambrose Bierce to A.E. van Vogt. The idea of invisibility really has a power to it that has inspired many.
With that in mind, here’s another famous author’s story about invisibility, featuring one of his most famous creations! Today, we look at “Invisible Men of Mars,” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which appeared in the October 1941 issue of Amazing Stories.
Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) probably needs no introduction, but if he does: he is the author of the Tarzan novels, which began in 1912, and the John Carter of Mars novels, which also began in 1912.
“Invisible Men of Mars” is the last John Carter story published in his lifetime, and the final part of a four part series. In this series, John Carter, who has now been on Mars for many years, encounters his granddaughter Llana of Gathol in an abandoned city, and the two of them embark on a number of adventures while attempting to stop the Warlord Hin Abtol from taking over Barsoom (aka Mars). Some mild spoilers provided, so as before read the story here first.
The author of Skulls in the Stars is a professor of physics, specializing in optical science, at UNC Charlotte. The blog covers topics in physics and optics, the history of science, classic pulp fantasy and horror fiction, and the surprising intersections between these areas.