RogerBW's Blog

Stories of Other Worlds, George Griffith 12 April 2021

1901 SF. Lord Redgrave has built the first spaceship, and with his new wife (the daughter of the late inventor) goes on a tour of the solar system.

And there's really very little personality here at all; Redgrave is the standard colonial-era action hero, except that he has no thought of spreading civilisation; rather, he's purely a tourist. His wife Zaidie (an American) gets to be the emotional one, and sometimes faint. In a series of six short stories, later fixed up into a short novel, they visit the Moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, as well as a stellar collision that's forming a new planetary system. And of course they are well-armed.

The defensive armament of the Astronef consisted of four pneumatic guns, which could be mounted on swivels, two ahead and two astern, and which carried a shell containing either one of two kinds of explosives invented by her creator. One was a solid. and burst on impact with an explosive force equal to about twenty pounds of dynamite. The other consisted of two liquids separated in the shell, and these, when mixed by the breaking of the partition, nurse into a volume of flame which could not be extinguished by any known human means. It would burn even in a vacuum, since it supplied its own elements of combustion. The guns would throw these shells to a distance of about seven terrestrial miles. On the upper deck there were also stands for a couple of light machine guns, capable of discharging seven hundred bullets a minute.

The small arms consisted of a couple of heavy, ten-bore, elephant guns carrying explosive bullets, a dozen rifles and fowling pieces of different makes of which three, a single and a double-barrelled rifle and a double-barrelled shot-gun, belonged to her ladyship, as well as a dainty brace of revolvers, one of half-a-dozen brace of various calibres which completed the minor armament of the Astronef.

This is for a crew of three people, the leader of whom has sworn to see the ship destroyed before it's used as a weapon of war. Yeah. (Though he's not above a bit of petty electioneering, with a quick blast at bimetallism.) Of course, it does mean that when a mob of locals gets unruly they can be effortlessly Maxim-gunned by the dozen, so that's all right then.

There's a fair bit of Flammarion's aging worlds (all these places have been inhabited; in some places the inhabitants have died out as they gradually ran out of heat and air, in others they've regressed, and Venus being "young" has creatures who don't yet understand sin) and some attempt to work out just how one can take advantage of the R.Force (the repelling component of gravity); it can be used for propulsion, but near planets it's used merely for levitation, because the propellers can drive one at a perfectly adequate two hundred miles an hour.

Of course a spaceship working by unknown principles of science still needs an engine-room telegraph.

Is this the earliest example of planet-of-the-week tourism? I can't say, though it's the earliest I've met. It's silly, and if you can get past the attitudes it's fun, and not to be taken at all seriously.

Freely available from Project Gutenberg and of course Marcus L. Rowland who has the original short story versions as well as the fixup novel A Honeymoon in Space.

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  1. Posted by Jon Hancock at 11:50am on 12 April 2021

    It's scarcely a proper honeymoon if the happy couple don't get to shoot a Martian in the face.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:56am on 12 April 2021

    This might even be the first example of Martians that Want Our Women. Shocking thought.

    Whatever happens, we have got
    Four pneumatic cannon, two Maxims, and more than twenty hand-held firearms
    And they have not
    (a chance)

  3. Posted by John P at 08:19pm on 12 April 2021

    Armed to the teeth & coming in peace? They're obviously RPG players then.

  4. Posted by Phil Masters at 10:23am on 13 April 2021

    Jon — no, this is an upper-class, Anglo-American honeymoon. They destroy a small Martian aerial fleet.

  5. Posted by RogerBW at 10:24am on 13 April 2021

    Yes, but that's just by way of introduction. They shoot a Martian in the face later.

    (Jon has read the stories and run adventures from FF2.)

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