REVIEW: “The Professor’s Experiment” by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford

Review of Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, “The Professor’s Experiment” in A Brilliant Void: A Selection of Classic Irish Science Fiction, edited by Jack Fennell (Tramp Press, 2018): 107-123 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

In the days before cryogenics and assisted comas, the idea of being able to put a person to a dreamless sleep that can persist days or weeks or years without any degradation of the body is both fantastical and tantalising — since the days of Shakespeare and perhaps even longer people have dreamt of potions which can induce a sleep like death. In Hungerford’s story, the old Professor has been researching the potions of the ancient Peruvians and South American Indians for decades and is now ready to put his theory into practice, despite the worries of his student and friend, Paul Wyndham. As yet, he has been unable to find anyone in Ireland that he could experiment on…and then there is a knock upon his door…

There is one place in the story where I fear there may have been an editorial mishap in the abridgement process; on p. 117 there is a strange repetition of six sentences. In the first place, there is a queer shift in time which is inexplicable, while the second occurrence of the sentences a few paragraphs later makes a lot more narrative sense. It seems as if the first occurrence of the sentences was mistaken, and it makes me wonder what — if anything — should have been there instead.

(Originally published in 1895.)

REVIEW: “Mercia, the Astronomer Royal” by Amelia Garland Mears

Review of Amelia Garland Mears, “Mercia, the Astronomer Royal” in A Brilliant Void: A Selection of Classic Irish Science Fiction, edited by Jack Fennell (Tramp Press, 2018): 79-103 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

It’s amazing how modern a late 19th C story can feel. Here is the story of how Mercia, the Astronomer Royal, suffers sexual harassment at the hands of her boss (Emperor Felicitas). First she tries to resign her position to get away; and when he won’t allow her to resign and he lays his hands upon her, and she tries to rebuke him and protect herself, she is arrested on charges of attempted murder. Anxious to know how the trial will unfold, the Emperor visits a noted psychic who shows him scenes of the future — scenes that do not go well for the Emperor, though he does not know why. In an attempt to restore public favor to himself, he offers Mercia a pardon — a pardon which she refuses to accept because she has neither committed nor yet been convicted of a crime. In the end, the trial goes ahead and in a convenient plot twist Mercia is cleared of all charges and the emperor is disgraced.

I wonder what Mears would have made of the Blasey Ford/Kavanaugh investigation of 2018…

(This is an abridged extract of a novel originally published in 1895.)