Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Extraordinary Engines and Edison

I'm really looking forward to reading Nick Gevers's upcoming Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology, which boasts an impressive lineup of talent. I'm currently in the outlining phase of my own "...and puppet show" contribution, which is entitled "Edison's Frankenstein."

Speaking of which, can anyone think of any genre stories that feature Thomas A. Edison as a character, off the top of your heads? I'm conscious of not wanting to reinvent any wheels, but I only know of a handful of comics and stories with Edison in them, and I'm sure there must be more I'm not remembering (or have never seen).

There's "Edison's Conquest of Mars" by Garrett P. Serviss, a serial published in the New York Evening Journal in 1897. I think Forry Ackerman reprinted a book version of it later.
Tim Powers' Expiration Date had Edison's ghost as a major character. I suppose you know about the Jay Lake thing from the issue before last of Weird Tales. Donald R. Bensen's And Having Writ... has a Wikipedia entry that pretty well details his role in the story:


Edison's Conquest of Mars is available through Project Gutenberg, and the zip of the HTML version is illustrated. Durendal has scans of the original newspaper serialization with much larger images of the illustrations:

According to the Clute/Nicholls encyclopedia's entry titled "Edisonade," Edison appeared in a French novel called L'Eve future by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. (There was also the "Tom Edison, Jr." series of dime novels, but the protagonist is supposedly unrelated to the actual Edison.)

Edison appears in the modern day in Jason Stoddard's "Panacea," which should still be up at SciFiction.
I don't have the issues with me at the moment, but Dark Horse's Tarzan series of a decade ago had a Tesla/Edison/Frankenstein's Monster story.
I mentioned a few of them in Victoriana. There's also these, from Pulp Heroes:

Edison, Thomas Alva. Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) was an American inventor and entrepreneur. In 1908 he was the hero of the Celebrity Pulp Thomas Alva Edison--Der Gross Erfinder #1-5, written by “John Merriman,” the pseudonym of two unknown German authors. The fictional Thomas Edison is a kindly-yet-heroic old man who uses SCIENCE! to create wonderful new inventions--homunculi, advanced radio sets, and the like--and uses them to vanquish benighted natives and wicked men, from yacht pirates to Indian gold thieves to Chinese pirates to radium thieves.

German Army. The German Army was created by Cleveland Moffett and appeared in “The Conquest of America in 1921” (McClure’s Magazine, May-Aug. 1915); the serial was collected as The Conquest of America (1916). In 1921 the Germans, quite unprovoked, declare war on the United States by sinking a ship in the Panama Canal, blocking the Canal and forcing America’s Pacific fleet to sail the long way home. The Germans then destroy the American’s Atlantic fleet and land an army of 100,000 men on Long Island. The Germans defeat an American army and take New York City, holding various financiers (including Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Andrew Carnegie) hostage. A second German army lands in New England, and the Germans take most of the American east coast and ports on the Gulf of Mexico. Attempts by the Americans to sue for peace are ignored, since the Germans want to turn America’s east coast into a German colony. Nikola Tesla’s radio-controlled torpedoes fail to sink the German fleet, but Thomas Edison’s torpedoes succeed in doing so, and when the French and Russians attack Germany the Germans are forced to withdraw their armies. The ensuing peace treaties return things to the way they were before the war.
Edison invents the "ether propeller" that powers the ships in the RPG Space: 1889, which was itself the subject of a Big Finish audio book tie-in.

When I lived in Chicago, I saw a fantastic play about some kids and an aging Nikola Tesla who put one over on Edison. Have tried to find it since but can't figure out what it was.
I was just emailing with Michael Rowley about Space:1889, actually. I've seen write-ups of it online, but never had a chance to sit down and read through the manuals myself. Did you ever play it?
The semi-incomparable Matt Fraction (he of Immortal Iron Fist and Casanova fame) employs Edison as a heavy in his steampunkish graphic novel The Five Fists of Science.
That one, at least, I've got. But thanks for the tip!

By the way, Dave, I take back everything I ever said about Fraction, if I ever said anything, which I may have done over lunch a time or two. He is 100% awesome in my book, and Casanova and Immortal Iron Fist may be two of the best things in the history of ever.
Never played it. Wish I could remember that computer game where the Jules Verne gun-style rocket misfired and carries the queen to a very Burroughs Mars, then you have to go rescue her in the other rocket!
I have a lot of Space: 1889 material -- though I've never played it. The background is great fun. Some of the reprinted books are still available as are the volumes of Transactions of the Royal Martian Geography Society. There's a lot of material still available online. See http://heliograph.com/.
Thanks for the tip, Stu!
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by 

Blogger. Isn't yours?