The First Real Extrasolar Alien in Scientifiction
You ever sit around and think up a mystery to solve? The first extra-solar planet was proposed about 1963, and proven in the 1990s. But way back, in the early days of science-fiction, who thought up aliens from way our yonder? Who had that kind of amazing imagination when astronomers themselves stared wondering into their telescopes, more focused on Martians than aliens from outer space.
Of course, you might say H. G. Wells, Burroughs, or any number of folks. But wait! These were Martians, Venusians, Moon Men, Asteroid dwellers, or people from Jupiter and Saturn. Even Lovecraft speculated about those from Yuggoth, the 9th planet - when we only knew there were 8. Well, I guess we’re back to eight planets again, but that is beyond our discussion here.
No, these won’t do to solve our puzzle. We need a planet around a star not our own, and we need sentient life that can travel or at least communicate with us.
After a great deal of searching, I have narrowed the choices to two. And there may be a connection.
The first is obvious. H. P. Lovecraft in the Call of Cthulhu. ”They had, indeed, come themselves from the stars, and brought Their images with Them.” We know that Lovecraft began to write his story sometime in the Summer of 1926.
The next is The Thing from — “Outside” by George Allen England written about 1923, and as published in Amazing Stories #1 in 1926. Almost as the story begins (page 69) he paraphrases H. G. Wells famous line, “…intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us …”, as, “Pale, cold stars watched down from spaces infinitely far beyond man’s trivial world.”
England had sold the story to Gernsback for his forerunner, Science and Adventure renamed in 1920 from its predecessor the Electrical Experimenter . England’s story appeared in Vol. 10, No. 2 of 1923, and was then reprinted in the first issue of Amazing Stories along with reprint stories by Wells, Verne, and Poe and a few others.
England also fictionalized aliens of the fourth dimension “beyond the galactic rim” in a 1914 All Story serialization called Empire of the Air. This is remarkable as Shapley was still piecing together theories about what the galaxy was and how big it was.
Another connection is that S. T. Joshi has noted that in 1914, a youthful 23 year old H. P. Lovecraft praised England’s story telling ability in the 15 August 1914 All-Story Cavalier Weekly.
England has been pegged by historians as almost as popular in the pulp magazines as Burroughs. Lovecraft was known to have followed All Story, and may have followed England into Science and Invention.
The two stories have uncanny coincidences mentioning a creature from another star system that has influenced by happenstance until only madness and mayhem resulted. While Cthulhu is usually seen as an upgraded Dagon, it had to be upgraded from some literary substance percolating in Lovecraft’s mind.
No less a scholar than Robert Price has reclassified this as part of the Ithaqua Cycle of Lovecraftian fiction. Prior to this, August Derleth was so enamored of the story he used it in his 1948 Strange Ports of Call anthology.
Lovecraft is well known, of course, but England’s story is so similar to the modern UFO alien abduction scenario, it could read as if extracted from a Ray Fowler case book.
“Things. Things that reckon with us no more than we do with ants. Less, perhaps.”
“It’ll do any infernal thing it takes a fancy to, yes! If it happens to want us—”
“But what could Things like that want of us? Why should They come here, at all?”
“Oh, for various reasons. For inanimate objects, at times, and then again for living beings. They’ve come here lots of times, I tell you…”
“Superior beings use inferior, for their own ends. To assume that man is the supreme product of evolution is gross self-conceit. Might not some superior Thing want to experiment with human beings?”
“It was observing us while we slept”
“…everywhere they felt that It was watching…”
“there are forms of life as superior to us as we are to ants. We can’t see ‘em. No ant ever saw a man. And did any ant ever form the least conception of a man? These Things have left thousands of traces, all over the world. “
And at last, we see England’s source: “Charles Fort, the greatest authority in the world on unexplained phenomena,” persisted Jandron, “gives innumerable cases of happenings that science can’t explain, in his ‘Book of the Damned…”.
We need to use caution. Fort in 1919 did not necessarily consider aliens and alien ships as coming from other star systems. They may have simply been from the ether, or from some theosophanic dimension. We need to be careful to give England the credit for making this leap of faith that they are creatures from another star system. This seems very much England’s origination, and considering his 1914 story, he predates even Fort’s publication.
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