Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Armageddon 2419 A.D and the Air Lords of Han by Philip Francis Nowlan
Serialized in August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories.

Skylark of Space Amazing Stories Cover
The August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories started not just one but two classic stories.The first was the Skylark of Space.
The second was Armageddon 2419 A.D and it’s sequel the Air Lords of Han. These stories introduced the world to Anthony “Tony” Rogers.
Don’t call him Buck.
While investigating radioactive gases found in a Pennsylvania coal mine, on December 15th 1927 he was trapped in a cave-in where he lost consciousness. He awoke 492 years later in the year 2419.

From Hugo Gernsback’s forward.

Here, once more, is a real scientifiction story plus. It is a story which will make the heart of many readers leap with joy.

We have rarely printed a story in this magazine that for scientific interest, as well as suspense, could hold its own with this particular story. We prophesy that this story will become more valuable as the years go by. It certainly holds a number of interesting prophecies, of which no doubt, many will come true. For wealth of science, it will be hard to beat for some time to come. It is one of those rare stories that will bear reading and re-reading many times.

This story has impressed us so favorably, that we hope the author may be induced to write a sequel to it soon

And so he did write a sequal. “The Air Lords of Han.”

These serials were read by John F. Dille of the National Newpaper Service who convinced Nowlan to turn his story into a daily comic strip. But like Hollywood producers today, he changed the basic story and to add insult to injury changed the main character’s name from Tony to Buck.

So now you can call him Buck.

Thus Duck Dogers in the 24 1/2 century was born.

duckdodgers

Duck Dodgers: Dark Side of the Duck – Season 1

Er, excuse me.

I meant to say, thus Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was born.

Buck Rogers was a media sensation in it’s day. Comics, Movies and later Television shows were made based on these early stories

It has everything.

Disintegrator Rays

“These rays were projected from a machine not unlike a searchlight in appearance, the reflector of which, however, was not material substance, but a complicated balance of interacting electronic forces. This resulted in a terribly destructive beam. Under its influence, material substance melted into “nothingness”; i. e., into electronic vibrations. It destroyed all then known substances, from air to the most dense metals and stone.”

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Anti-Gravity Rocket Belts.

“Floaters” are a later development of “jumpers”—rocket motors encased in inertron blocks and strapped to the back in such a way that the wearer floats, when drifting, facing slightly downward. With his motor in operation, he moves like a diver, headforemost, controlling his direction by twisting his body and by movements of his outstretched arms and hands. Ballast weights locked in the front of the belt adjust weight and lift.

Replusor Rays

Now I could see the repellor rays that held the ship aloft, like searchlight beams faintly visible in the bright daylight (and still faintly visible to the human eye at night). Actually, I had been informed by my instructors, there were two rays; the visible one generated by the ship’s apparatus, and directed toward the ground as a beam of “carrier” impulses; and the true repellor ray, the complement of the other in one sense, induced by the action of the “carrier” and reacting in a concentrating upward direction from the mass of the earth, becoming successively electronic, atomic and finally molecular, in its nature, according to various ratios of distance between earth mass and “carrier” source, until, in the last analysis, the ship itself actually is supported on an upward rushing column of air, much like a ball continuously supported on a fountain jet.

Rocket Ships

Swoopers are one-man and two-man ships, developed by the Americans, with skeleton backbones of inertron (during the war painted green for invisibility against the green forests below) and “bellies” of clear ultron.

Remotely piloted drones

The “air balls” were simply miniature swoopers of spherical shape, ultronically controlled by operators at control boards miles away, and who saw on their viewplates whatever picture the ultronic television lens in the sphere itself picked up at the predetermined focus. The main propulsive rocket motor was diametrically opposite the lens, so that the sphere could be steered simply by keeping the picture of its objective centered on the crossed hairlines of the viewplates.

Rocket Guns

Rocket guns are very simple contrivances so far as the mechanism of launching the bullet is concerned. They are simple light tubes, closed at the rear end, with a trigger-actuated pin for piercing the thin skin at the base of the cartridge. This piercing of the skin starts the chemical and atomic reaction. The entire cartridge leaves the tube under its own power, at a very easy initial velocity, just enough to insure accuracy of aim; so the tube does not have to be of heavy construction. The bullet increases in velocity as it goes. It may be solid or explosive. It may explode on contact or on time, or a combination of these two.

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Telepresence/Telecommunting

A citizen in Lo-Tan might, if he felt so inclined, “visit” the seashore, or the lakes or the forests of any part of the country, for when such scene was thrown on the walls of an apartment, the effect was precisely the same as if one were gazing through a vast window at the scene itself.

A family in Lo-Tan, for instance, might “visit” friends in Fis-Ko (San Francisco) taking their apartment, so to speak, along with them; being to all intents and purposes separated from their “hosts” only by a big glass wall which interfered neither with vision nor conversation.

A young man, for instance, might recline at his ease in his apartment near the top of the city, and for three or four hours a day inspect, through his viewplate and certain specially installed apparatus, the output of a certain process in one of the vast automatically controlled food factories buried far underground beneath the base of the mountain, where the moan of its whirring and throbbing machinery would not disturb the peace and quiet of the citizens on the mountain top. Or he might be required simply to watch the operation of an account machine in an automatic store.

Online Shopping

Why should he leave his house? Food, wonderful synthetic concoctions of any desired flavor and consistency (and for additional fee conforming to the individual’s dietary prescription) came to him through a shaft, from which his tray slid automatically on to a convenient shelf or table.

There was even a tube system, with trunk, branch and local lines and an automagnetic switching system, by which articles within certain size limits could be despatched from any apartment to any other one in the city.

There is no denying that the economic system of the Hans was marvelous. A suit of clothes, for instance, might be delivered in a man’s apartment without a human hand having ever touched it. Having decided that he wished a suit of a given general style, he would simply tune in a visual broadcast of the display of various selections, and when he had made his choice, dial the number of the item and press the order button. Simultaneously the charge would be automatically made against his account number, and credited as a sale on the automatic records of that particular factory in the account house. And his account plate, hidden behind a little wall door, would register his new credit balance. An automatically packaged suit that had been made to style and size-standard by automatic machinery from synthetically produced material, would slip into the delivery chute, magnetically addressed, and in anywhere from a few seconds to thirty minutes or so, according to the volume of business in the chutes, and drop into the delivery basket in his room.

Dastardly villains beyond redemption

San-Lan snarled and crouched as though to spring at me with his bare hands. By a mighty convulsion of the will he regained control of himself, however, and assumed a manner of quiet dignity. He even smiled—a slow, crooked smile.

“No,” he said, answering his own thought. “I will not have you killed now. You shall live on, my honored guest, to see with your own eyes how we shall exterminate your animal-brethren in their forests. With your own ears you shall hear their dying shrieks. The cold science of Han is superior to your spurious knowledge. We have been careless. To our cost we have let you develop brains of a sort. But we are still superior. We shall go down into the forests and meet you. We shall beat you in your own element. When you have seen and heard this happen, my Council shall devise for you a death by scientific torture, such as no man in the history of the world has been honored with.”

Romance

Wilma and I had been married the day after the destruction of the ships, and spent this intervening period in a delightful honeymoon, camping high in the mountains.

Femme Fatales

San-Lan’s favorite concubine, Ngo-Lan, a creature of the most alluring beauty; young, graceful and most delicately seductive, whose skill in the arts and sciences put many of their doctors to shame. This creature, his most prized possession, San-Lan with the utmost moral callousness ordered to seduce me, urging her to apply without stint and to its fullest extent, her knowledge of evil arts.

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The occasional act of genocide.

“But I do know that there was something inhuman about these Hans. And I had many months of intimate contact with them, and with their Emperor in America. I can vouch for the fact that even in his most friendly and human moments, there was an inhumanity, or perhaps “unhumanity” about him that aroused in me that urge to kill.

But whether or not there was in these people blood from outside this planet, the fact remains that they have been exterminated, that a truly human civilization reigns once more.

It was a golden age of science fiction. That golden age being when you are thirteen.

Public domain free versions of the Armageddon 2419 A.D and the Air Lords of Han can be found here:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/32530
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25438

Armageddon-2419 A.D.

The Airlords of Han

It also can be purchased from Amazon.

Armageddon 2419 A.D. and Other Works by Philip Francis Nowlan (Unexpurgated Edition) (Halcyon Classics)

The Buck Rogers in the 25th Century comic series can also be purchased at Amazon.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Newspaper Dailies, Vol. 1: 1929-1930

As well as the Movie Serial starring Buster Crabbe

Buck Rogers

The Television series from the 1970’s has spaceships, disco and lots of spandex. The high lights of the show being Erin Gray and Pamela Hensley.

buck-rogers-erin-gray buck-rogers-25th-century-1

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series

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The Skylark of Space

The Skylark of Space by Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith
Written between 1915 and 1921.
Serialized in August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories.
Published in hardback in 1946

Skylark of Space Amazing Stories Cover

Skylark of Space Amazing Stories Cover

From Hugo Gernsback’s forward.

Perhaps it is a bit unethical and unusual for editors to voice their opinion of their own wares, but when such a story as “The Skylark of Space” comes along, we just feel as if we must shout from the housetops that this is the greatest interplanetarian and space flying story that has appeared this year. Indeed, it probably will rank as one of the great space flying stories for many years to come. The story is chock full, not only of excellent science, but woven through it there is also that very rare element, love and romance. This element in an interplanetarian story is often apt to be foolish, but it does not seem so in this particular story.

We know so little about intra-atomic forces, that this story, improbable as it will appear in spots, will read commonplace years hence, when we have atomic engines, and when we have solved the riddle of the atom.

You will follow the hair-raising explorations and strange ventures into far-away worlds with bated breath, and you will be fascinated, as we were, with the strangeness of it all.

This is one of the first science fictions books I ever read.  It has everything.

Faster than Light Spaceships.

“But nothing can possibly go that fast, Mart, it’s impossible. How about Einstein’s theory?”

That is a theory, this measurement of distance is a fact, as you know from our tests.”

That’s right. Another good theory gone to pot.”

Tractor beams

Seaton focused the great attractor upon the fugitive car and threw in the lever which released the full force of that mighty magnet.

Object Compasses

“the power is liberated as a similar attractive force but is focused upon the first object in line with the axis of the bar. As long as the current is applied it remains focused upon that object, no matter what comes between.”

X-plosive bullets.

The pistol cracked, and when the bullet reached its destination the great stone was obliterated in a vast ball of flame. After a moment there was a deafening report—a crash as though the world were falling to pieces. Both men were hurled violently backward, stumbling and falling flat. Picking themselves up, they looked across the valley at the place where the boulder had stood, to see only an immense cloud of dust, which slowly blew away, revealing a huge hole in the ground. They were silent a moment, awed by the frightful power they had loosed.

Well, Mart,” Seaton broke the silence, “I’ll say those one-milligram loads are plenty big enough”.

Black Holes

“Good God! It’s a dead sun, and we’re nearly onto it! It looks as large as our moon!”

Iron men in iron spaceships.

He could not move his body, which was oppressed by a sickening weight. His utmost efforts to breathe forced only a little of the life-giving oxygen into his lungs, which smarted painfully at the touch of the undiluted gas, and he felt that he could not long retain consciousness under such conditions. Nevertheless, he summoned all his strength and advanced the lever one more notch.

Dastardly villains beyond redemption

Seaton stepped impulsively toward DuQuesne with his hand outstretched.

“You’ve squared your account, Blackie. Say the word and the war’s all off.”

DuQuesne ignored the hand and glanced coldly at the group of eager, friendly faces. “Don’t be sentimental,” he remarked evenly as he turned away to his room.

Weird life forms inhabiting strange and savage worlds.

The scene, so quiet a few moments before, was instantly changed. The trees, the swamp, and the air seemed filled with monsters so hideous as to stagger the imagination. Winged lizards of prodigious size hurtled through the air, plunging to death against the armored hull. Indescribable flying monsters, with feathers like birds, but with the fangs of tigers, attacked viciously. a body ten feet in length leaped at the window in front of her, its terrible sting spraying the glass with venom. As it fell to the ground, a huge spider—if an eight-legged creature with spines instead of hair, many-faceted eyes, and a bloated, globular body weighing hundreds of pounds, may be called a spider—leaped upon it and, mighty mandibles against poisonous sting, the furious battle raged. Several twelve-foot cockroaches climbed nimbly across the fallen timber of the morass and began feeding voraciously upon the body of the dead dinosaur. But the fighters were rudely interrupted, and the earthly visitors discovered that in this primitive world it was not only animal life that was dangerous. The great tree standing on the farther edge of the island suddenly bent over, lashing out like a snake and grasping both. It transfixed them with the terrible thorns, which were now seen to be armed with needlepoints and to possess barbs like fish-hooks. It ripped at them with the long branches, which were veritable spears. The broad leaves, armed with revolting sucking disks, closed about the two animals, while the long, slender twigs, each of which was now seen to have an eye at its extremity, waved about, watching each movement of the captives from a safe distance.

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Romance
“Oh, Dicky!”

Disembodied Super Intelligences

“I see you’re surprised at my knowing your language. You’re a very inferior race of animals—don’t even understand telepathy, don’t understand the luminiferous ether, or the relation between time and space. Your greatest things, such as the Skylark and your object-compass, are merely toys. All of you are extremely low in the scale. Such animals have not been known in our universe for ten million years, which is as far back as I can remember. You have millions of years to go before you will amount to anything; before you will even rise above death and its attendant necessity, sex.”

Engineering over kill.

She saw a spherical shell of hardened steel armor-plate, fully forty feet in diameter; though its true shape was not readily apparent from the inside, as it was divided into several compartments by horizontal floors or decks. In the exact center of the huge shell was a spherical network of enormous steel beams. Inside this structure could be seen a similar network which, mounted upon universal bearings, was free to revolve in any direction. This inner network was filled with machinery, surrounding a shining copper cylinder. From the outer network radiated six mighty supporting columns. These, branching as they neared the hull of the vessel, supported the power-plant and steering apparatus in the center and so strengthened the shell that the whole structure was nearly as strong as a solid steel ball.

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 Fur covered spacesuits.

With unerring precision, the two ships were brought into place and held together by the attractor. As the doors were opened, there was a screaming hiss as the air of the vessels escaped through the narrow crack between them. The passengers saw the moisture in the air turn into snow, and saw the air itself first liquefy and then freeze into a solid coating upon the metal around the orifices at the touch of the frightful cold outside—the absolute zero of interstellar space, about four hundred sixty degrees below zero in the every-day scale of temperature. The moisture of their breath condensed upon the inside of the double glasses of their helmets, rendering sight useless.

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The occasional act of genocide.

“Thanks to you, the Mardonalian forces, instead of wiping us out, are themselves destroyed, while only a handful of our vessels have been lost, since the grand fleet could not arrive until the battle was over, and since the vessels that would have thrown themselves away were saved by your orders, which I heard. Thanks to you, we are not even crippled, though our capital is destroyed and the lives of some unfortunates, who could not reach the pits in time, have probably been lost. Thanks to you,” he continued in a ringing voice, “and to the salt and the new source of power you have given us, Mardonale shall now be destroyed utterly!”

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Doc Smith threw in everything including the kitchen sink. I mean that literally. He even describes the kitchen arrangements aboard the Skylark.

It was a golden age of science fiction. That golden age being when you are thirteen.

Public domain free versions of the Skylark of Space can be found here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20869

It also can be purchased from Amazon.

THE SKYLARK OF SPACE Masterpieces of Sience Fiction Easton Press