Friday, 23 April 2010

A scientific genius

Sitting in the sunshine in my back garden at last, I flicked open the June 1925 edition of the Strand Magazine to find this opening spread, for an adventure story called The Island Under Sea. I've found out very little about the extraordianrily named author, other than that he wrote a biography of Paul Verlaine (quite interesting) and appears to have been an anuthority on, or at least a translator of, Russian literature.

Anyway, Island Under Sea turns out to be quite a good wheeze belonging to the Atlantean fantasy sub-genre. Needless to say the exotic girl preserved in the block of crystal is from fabled Atlantis. The 'star' of the piece is a British scientific genius called 'A B C' Hawkes, who is busy plying the ocean in a souped up ship of his own design (naturally). He knows everything about everything, as they always do, and has an endearing habit of exclaiming phrases like: 'Shades of Darwin!'

But what I particular loved was the editor's note below the byline: 'The story is written in collaboration with a well-known Professor of Science, so the reader may rest assured that nothing is related that could not actually have happened.'

Yeah, right. Like maidens perfectly preserved for millennia in a block of something unidentifiable and islands floating up from the sea bed for a bit then descending again, just for the fun of it. Were the readers as naive and trusting as the editor hoped?

At the conclusion of the yarn, there is a note stating: 'Another story of A.B.C Hawkes: Scientist will appear in an early number. Sounds like a series on the way. Hope there are monsters in it!

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