Read-reading E. E. "Doc" Smith, The Skylark of Space
. The Project Gutenberg version, based on the 1928 publication in "Amazing Stories." What I've read before was probably the later book version. Dunno whether I'll finish it or not, but the guy does have something
--amazing how something so comically melodramatic can be so readable.
There's not too much investment-related content, although someone says, of the rich-guy-co-hero, as proof of his sanity and level-headness, "You know that he never invests a cent in anything more risky than Government bonds."
The avoidance of ess, eee, ex is remarkable, too. 1928? That would have been well after Elinor Glyn's Three Weeks
(1907), James Branch Cabell's Jurgen
, and James Joyce's Ulysses
. In an early scene, the earnest young hero-scientist, Dick Seaton, is overworking himself, and his colleague says to his girlfriend,
"Your part will be hard. He will come to you, bursting with news and aching to tell you all about his theories and facts and calculations, and you must try to take his mind off the whole thing and make him think of something else. It looks impossible to me."
The smile had come back to Dorothy's face. Her head, graced by its wealth of gleaming auburn hair, was borne proudly, and glancing mischief lit her violet eyes.
"Didn't you just tell me nothing is impossible? You know, Martin, that I can make Dicky forget everything, even interstellar—did I get that word right?—space itself...
My friends, put aside our postmillennial sensibilities, and try to guess how she does it, if you don't already know. Answer below.*
I also noticed the striking similarity between the opening scene, and the opening of Isaac Asimov's early novel, Pebble in the Sky
. In The Skylark of Space
, an electrochemistry experiment releases "intra-atomic energy" and sends a copper steam-bath shooting violently into outer space. In Pebble in the Sky
, a similar experiment releases a laserlike beam that burns a hole in the wall--and, unbeknownst to the scientists, continues on, expanding, and hits a man miles away and sends him into the future.
I suspect I last read this book before 1989, because this time I was also struck by the vague similarity between the electrochemical release of "intra-atomic energy" and Pons and Fleischmann's alleged "cold fusion." In the 1928 novel it is platinum, rather than palladium, that does the trick. It is known that the "atomic bombs" in H. G. Well's 1914 book, The World Set Free
inspired Leo Szilard's discoery/invention of chain reaction; I wonder whether Pons and Fleischmann ever had read The Skylark of Space
*She puts him to sleep by playing the violin.
She took down her violin and played; first his favorites, crashing selections from operas and solos by the great masters, abounding in harmonies on two strings. Then she changed to reveries and soft, plaintive melodies. Seaton listened with profound enjoyment. Under the spell of the music he relaxed, pushed out the footrest of the chair, and lay back at ease, smoking dreamily. The cigar finished and his hands at rest, his eyes closed of themselves. The music, now a crooning lullaby, grew softer and slower, until his deep and regular breathing showed that he was sound asleep.
The mystery: was "Doc" Smith consciously aware of the ludicrousness? Probably. Jack London was aware of the ludicrousness of an episode in The Sea-Wolf in which a couple, acknowledged "lovers," who have escaped from the evil Wolf Larsen and have literally
been cast away on a small island, fashion two separate huts
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.