Utopian novels of the early period

After doing some background research for my interactive fiction story, Harmonia, I became fascinated with some of the earliest works of science fiction: the utopian fiction of the 19th century. I’m especially interested in those books by women and other underrepresented writers, as these fictional works tend to describe the world as people wished it to be.

Each one of these pieces contains original biographical research on the authors.

Her stories

Old French Fairy Tales, illustrated by Virginia Francis Sterrett

A survey of early utopian and dystopian works by woman, from the period between 1850 and the early 20th century.

Always fond of the marvelous

“‘Resolute’ Under Sail For the Last Time”

An original biography of an obscure author of this period. Anna Adolph, her novel Arqtiq, and a uniquely American personal history.

Unveiling a Parallel

“Cover of Unveiling a Parallel”

An exuberantly feminist and sex-positive utopian novel by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Robinson Merchant, one an experienced author, the other a business leader and independent spirit.

Etidorhpa

Black and white detail of an eyeless figure and a 19th century man in a cave

A triumph of the hollow earth genre, Etidorhpa by John Uri Lloyd takes the reader on a hallucinogenic journey with instantly memorable illustrations.

Journeys to the Planet Mars

Yellow and red book cover for Journeys to the Planet Mars

A winking hoax or an elaborate act of self-deception? Journeys to the Planet Mars is a deeply-felt book by spiritualist Sara Weiss, who wrote and illustrated it under the direction of “spirit guides” at the end of her long life.

The Ostrich for the Defence

Red and white book cover showing an ostrich

The Ostrich for the Defence was William Hile’s novel-length advertisement for a doomed venture to achieve world peace through ostrich farming.

Freeland: A Social Anticipation

Green cover with the words Freeland and a decorative illustration of a tree

Austrian economist Theodor Hertzka wrote this novel in 1889, and leveraged its popularity into direct action: a spectacularly ill-conceived attempt to found a utopian colony in a region of Kenya by a hapless mob of dissolute European criminals that ended in despair and violence.