Monday, February 26, 2024

Hollow Earth Tales vol 1

There’s a whole sub-genre of science fiction dealing with the idea of a hollow earth, or undiscovered civilisations deep beneath the Earth. It’s a sub-genre that appeals to me quite a bit. Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ wonderful Pellucidar stories are the most obvious examples but the idea was extremely popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. At that time the idea did not seem outrageously implausible. Today of course it seems very implausible indeed but that just makes these stories more fun.

Hollow Earth Tales volume 1 is a collection of such tales from the pulpier end of the literary spectrum. They’re variable in quality but some are pleasingly off-the-wall.

The Plunge of the ‘Knupfen’ by Leonard Grover was published in All-Story Magazine in 1909. This is very much in the scientific romance mould but with some extraordinary bizarre flights of fancy. Like many such tales it involves a subterranean digging machine invented by an eccentric scientist but in this case the scientist does not seek scientific knowledge. He is after gold. He is convinced that there are unlimited quantities of the precious metal to be found if you can just get deep enough within the Earth. And his subterranean craft, the Knupfen, is capable of taking its one-man crew hundred of miles beneath the surface.

What he finds there is very strange indeed. An enjoyably lightweight story.

The Smoky God or a Voyage to the Inner World by Willis George Emerson was published in 1908. It’s a bizarre mix of pseudoscience and mythology. The most interesting thing about it is the idea that if you go far enough into the polar regions you will find yourself in the interior of the Earth. An interesting curiosity.

The Annihilator Comes by Ed Earl Repp was published in Wonder Stories in 1930. It is set in 1980. A giant rocket-propelled U.S. airship is on a mission to rescue a party of Swedish scientists lost in the Arctic, close to the North Pole. They are surprised to find themselves in a tropical region, although it’s no tropical paradise. It’s a tropical hell. The dinosaurs are bad enough but there are worse horrors to come.

They quickly realise that they are now in the interior of the Earth. An outrageously pulpy but action-filled entertaining story.

The Strange Voyage of Dr Penwing by Richard O. Lewis appeared in Amazing Stories in 1940 is much stranger and more interesting. A crazy old scientist believes that we’re not living on the surface of the Earth but inside it. The story also plays around with fun half-baked Einstein-ian ideas. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek but very clever.

The Hollow Planet by Don Wilcox was published in Amazing Stories in 1942. An earthquake plunges Randolph Hill into the interior of a planet (whether or not the planet is Earth is not quite clear). This is a world turned inside out, with people eking out a precarious existence on what is in effect the inside of a giant eggshell, with a sun in the middle. These people have no idea that any other worlds exist. They believe the interior of the planet is the entire universe.

We get Randolph Hill’s account in the form of his journal but the main story takes place many years later and involves his granddaughter and the man she loves, a man who believes that other worlds exist. In this society that is a dangerous belief. Not a bad story.

The Voice from the Inner World by A. Hyatt Verrill appeared in Amazing Stories in 1927. A meteor is sighted and a ship disappears. Then a strange radio message is picked up - from deep beneath the Earth’s surface! The message is from a survivor of that ship and he tells of a world of terrifying cannibal giantesses. And he tells of a deadly threat to the whole world. A very pulpy tale with a fair leavening of horror, but enjoyable.

The Underground City by Bertrand L. Shurtleff was published in Amazing Stories in 1939. Every few years a major coal mine is hit by a disaster. The bodies of the miners are never recovered. A young mining engineer thinks he has found a clue and it leads him to a very strange underground city. It leads him to unimaginable horrors, and perhaps an awful fate for the girl he loves. A reasonably enjoyable tale.

On the whole this is an interesting and varied collection and if the hollow earth idea appeals to you you’ll want to check it out. Recommended.


  1. I've added this to my wish list (he sighed)

    1. I know the feeling. I have a wish list that just grows and grows as well. I just keep hearing about more and more books and movies that I simply have to have.