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.
Getting closer to the end of my run of invisibility posts! Here’s one that’s a little different…
So when is something unable to be seen but not invisible? Well, the answer is handily demonstrated by William P. McGivern’s “The Chameleon Man,” which appeared in the January 1942 issue of Amazing Stories!
Let’s come back to this picture in a few moments. But here we’ve got a story about a different way of not being seen, and it’s worth talking about it!
Just a reminder again that I’ll (hopefully) have a book out on the history and physics of invisibility next year, so keep an eye out!
Here we have a first in our discussion of invisibility in fiction — a sequel! “Land of the Shadow Dragons,” by Eando Binder, appeared in the May 1941 issue of Fantastic Adventures, and it is a direct sequel to Binder’s “The Invisible Robinhood.” It even merited a cover image:
It was weirdly thrilling to see the return of The Invisible Robinhood in print, even in this era of endless superhero movies and their sequels. This example, because it was much less common in that era, seems somehow more magical and precious to me. I’ll do some spoilers again, so read the story here first if you’re worried about that.
Still more invisibility in fiction to come! It seems like an almost endless subject.
I didn’t have particularly high expectations for this next story. “The Invisible Bomber,” by Lieutenant John Pease, appeared in the June 1938 issue of Amazing Stories. My initial thought: “An invisible airplane? That’s been done, and doesn’t seem like a particularly exciting concept.”
However, this story, which is relatively short in comparison to others I’ve read (7 pages instead of an average of 14), has a few clever twists and surprises to it, as well as a novel description of invisibility! I will talk spoilers in this post, so read the story here first if you want.
Yet another invisibility story! It is simply amazing how many of these are out there. And I haven’t even really looked past the year 1960.
If you look at the cover of the January 1927 issue of Amazing Stories, you could be forgiven for thinking that it contains a reprint of H.G. Wells’ classic The Invisible Man — I mean, Wells’ name is right on the cover!
That cover image, however, depicts a scene from a different story, “The Man Who Could Vanish,” by A. Hyatt Verrill, which is our next invisibility story to discuss!
Have we found the ultimate invisibility story? Read on…
In hindsight, I should have realized that I would find a story that takes invisibility to the extreme! Once we’ve had invisible people, invisible monsters, and invisible cities, it was inevitable that we would get to an entire invisible planet!
“The Invisible Planet,” by Ed Earl Repp, first appeared in the October 1940 issue of Amazing Stories, which was the very first science fiction magazine. Ed Earl Repp was a regular contributor to the pulp magazines, though after World War II he focused his energy on writing screenplays for Westerns. One can understand the passion for Westerns, because “The Invisible Planet” is very much an action-packed adventure with lots of gunplay and a cartoonish villain!
Yep, I’ve still got more invisibility stories to discuss! In fact, I found 4 more through searching old magazines today. Reminder that I’ll have a book on the history of invisibility physics coming out next year!
Although invisibility is a science fiction trope, we haven’t seen that many invisibility stories yet that really embrace the traditional “outer space” setting of sci-fi. We’ve seen Slan, although invisibility plays a minor role in the story, and “The Attack From Space,” which mostly takes place on Earth, though the alien invaders are from Mercury.
Let’s look at something much more Golden Age sci-fi with “Salvage in Space,” by Jack Williamson! It first appeared in the March 1933 issue of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. It features a meteor miner coming face to face with an invisible alien that has annihilated the crew of a now derelict spaceship.
Before discussing the story, can I just mention how much I adore the illustration of the monster that comes with it?
It looks very reminiscent of a Japanese oni, a sort of demon or ogre, and I suspect the artist was inspired by such a source!
Another invisibility story! The number and variety of stories continues to amaze me.
You know what we haven’t really seen yet? A good invisible spy story! “Raiders Invisible” came close, but its invisible spies were the bad guys; we need a story about a heroic invisible spy!
So let’s take a look at “The Radiant Shell,” by Paul Ernst, which appeared in the January 1932 issue of Astounding Stories.
Yet another blog post about invisibility in fiction! Just as a reminder, this is to celebrate the completion of my book draft on the history of invisibility physics, coming next year (I hope).
Let me recap and build upon a list I started a few posts ago: so far, we’ve had invisible people, invisible monsters, invisible buildings, invisible cars, invisible dogs, invisible spacecraft, invisible robots, and invisible superheroes. But we haven’t yet seen invisible aliens, so let’s rectify that!
Today’s story is from another addict of invisibility, Captain S.P. Meek, who also wrote “The Cave of Horror,” which appeared in the January 1930 issue of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. Fast forward to September of 1930, and we find that Meek has another story, “The Attack From Space!”
As noted in the image, this story is a sequel to Meek’s “Beyond the Heaviside Layer,” which appeared in the July 1930 issue of the same magazine. So, before we get to this story, we have to say a few words about what “the Heaviside layer” is…