|The Rossi Intervention|
By The Numbers
During 2016 I have been looking back at several temporal landmarks of the past:
200. I blogged about Mary Shelly's Frankenstein from the perspective of 2016.
|the Vance Era|
75. I looked back to 1941 and the origins of Isaac Asimov's positronic robot saga.
50. I celebrated the first 50 years of the Star Trek Era.
25. In anticipation of the 25th year since Asimov's death, I looked back at the science fiction writing career of Arkady Strugatsky, who died in 1991.
|Frank Reade Library 1.1|
When I started this blog post, I already had one mention of the year 1891 in the wikifiction blog: a post that shows an image of Albert Einstein in 1891. In my thinking, Einstein is emblematic of the transition from the classical world into the Atomic Age. Here, I want to explore the period of transition between
2) science fiction robots such as Asimov's positronic robots.
When I was a young boy, my mother was careful to protect me from the more disturbing parts of The Wizard of Oz. For many years, I was only allowed to watch first few minutes of that movie on T.V. before I was sent off to bed.
As far as I can tell, the Tin Man originally had no connection to steam. His origin was as a normal human being. To convert the man, Nick Chopper, into an artificial life form, body parts such as arms were cut off and replaced, one by one, with metal parts. The Tin Man fantasy seems to have been part of a long tradition of stories that explored the mysterious boundary between life and artificial life (see The Brazen Android, below).
Reuben Hoggett has a website describing his research into the origins of "steam men". According to Hoggett's account, the origin of metalic steam men can be traced back to Zadoc P. Dederick, in New Jersey.
|steam-powered engine and wagon|
Soon after Dederick's prototype steam man was described in published journalistic accounts, Edward Ellis published a story about a steam-powered engine in the shape of a man that could pull a wagon across the plains of the American West (see "The Huge Hunter; OR, The Steam Man of the Prairies"). Sadly, Ellis' poor steam man was destroyed in an explosion.
|electric man (source)|
125 years ago, steam-powered devices were becoming old-fashioned and being replaced by electric devices. A sub-genre of proto-science fiction adventure stories of the late 1800s that included as plot elements various "high-tech" devices became known as Edisonades.
"Philip Reade" is apparently an invented name, used by the author of a series of gizmo invention stories, the first of which were published in 1891. Among these gizmo stories was Tom Edison Jr's Electric Mule.
These "Philip Reade" stories remind me of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Wild, Wild West. I suspect that some people can never suspend disbelief and take science fiction seriously. For such folks, the best entertainment to be had from science fiction is to make fun of the genre.
|Gino D'Achille cover art|
|art by Keith Thompson|
By No Means
Captain Tom explains that the Electric Mule is battery powered. Apparently, when in need of an electric charge, "spontaneously generated" power is put into the Mule's power system by means of a set of "cranks" on the Mule's back. Thus, the Mule is apparently a perpetual motion machine!
Beyond the technical problem of power sources and the mechanics of robotic mobility, a true robot in the science fiction sense must also think and speak.
|by Boris Vallejo|
|cover art by Geoff Taylor|
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