I’ve been downloading books and stories from Project Gutenberg (Which probably would disappoint Amazon because I know when they sold me my Kindle they were hoping to make a lot more money off of me than they have.) including some very old science fiction. The interesting thing you discover from reading old sci-fi is that, as with any other genre, a good story will always be a good story and will never really become out-dated.
You won’t only find good stories at Project Gutenberg. They do not judge. The collection includes not only great classics but also a lot of obscure, forgotten stuff that probably should remain forgotten. A prime example of such a work is A Journey in Other Worlds by John Jacob Astor. Yes, that John Jacob Astor. In this book three men, two scientists and a businessman if I remember correctly, decide to start a project to “correct” the Earth’s tilt, thinking that a world without seasons would be a much more pleasant and convenient place to live. After talking about this project a for a little bit they take off on a journey to Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter is a warm, jungle planet full of huge, dinosaur-like beasts which the travelers shoot indiscriminately. In addition to the gleeful killing spree they talk a lot about exploiting the resources of Jupiter. Saturn is Heaven. Literally. It’s where our spirits go after we die and here the story goes into a lot of religious and emotional stuff. The story never does do anything with the “correcting the Earth’s tilt” thing and one wonders what was the point of even mentioning it in the first place. The writing style does not help the book any either. Much of it, especially in the first half, feels more like reading a report than a novel. Yes, I read the whole thing. I’m just stubborn that way.
After that I read Heart of Darkness, which I’ve already mentioned. More recently I read two short stories by Philip K. Dick (Did you know that the “K” is for Kindred?) The Variable Man and The Crystal Crypt, the first things I have ever read by Dick, and yes I will be reading more of his work. The Variable Man is about a man from the early 20th century who is accidentally brought into the future where he is a “variable” that the prediction computers of that era cannot calculate. The Crystal Crypt is about an incident on Mars. I love early Mars stories.
I just started The Picture of Dorian Gray a couple of days ago. It’s easy to see why Oscar Wilde is so often quoted. As I read I keep wanting to highlight and save quotables, but then, often, I will think, “Wait, I don’t even agree with that.” It makes one wonder – what is it about a sentence that makes it feel quotable?
There is also a non-fiction document that I’ve been reading off and on for months: Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years With the Indian Tribes on the American Frontier by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. It is quite long. I’m only 14 percent of the way into it. So far almost nothing has been said about the Indian tribes, which is disappointing, but it is still just a little bit interesting – sort of like reading a blog. The author touches on details of everyday life of the era while traveling, gives opinions and observations, and shares some of his correspondence. A lot of it is tedious but I’m curious enough to keep going back to it once in awhile.