REVIEW: “The Age of Science” by Frances Power Cobbe

Review of Frances Power Cobbe, “The Age of Science” in A Brilliant Void: A Selection of Classic Irish Science Fiction, edited by Jack Fennell (Tramp Press, 2018): 53-68 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

The titular Age of Science in Cobbe’s story is a newspaper, an issue, dated to 1977, of which we are given a glimpse of via that marvelous new invention, the “prospective telegraph”, which does for time what the electronic telegraph did for space. The anthology editor, Fennell, notes that “futuristic newspaper” stories of the 19th C almost make up a genre of their own, and it is fascinating seeing a late 19th C glimpse of what the world would be like a century later.

Some things are laughable — there is no more war, as science has removed any reason for war; there stock market is much reduced in power and importance; both the Upper and Lower Houses of government are populated solely by medical men — while others seem shockingly prescient — when I read one of the occasional notes that reported a fault in a train at that moment under the Channel, 10 miles from Dover, I immediately had to pause and find out just when the Chunnel opened. (1994 — nearly 20 years after Cobbe foresaw it — but already as early as 1876 a protocol was established for a cross-Channel railway tunnel. So perhaps the surprise comes in that it took another 120 years to actually come to fruition!) Others, such as the strict and absolute prohibition of women either reading or writing seem merely sad, and all too familiar.

(This is an abridged version of a novella originally published in 1877).