Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gulliver of Mars and the ruins of the ancient, ghost-haunted city of Queen Yang

One of my favorite aspects of Martian science fiction, fantasy & horror (besides beautiful princesses, creepy creatures, and deadly weapons) is the ruins of abandoned, long-lost, dead cities. Check out this excerpt, from British author Edwin Lester Arnold’s influential novel Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905), later republished in paperback as Gulliver of Mars:
Without stopping to think what that might mean I hurried on, the wailing now right ahead, a tremulous tumult of gentle grief rising and falling on the night air like the sound of a sea after a storm; and so, presently, in a minute or two, came upon a ruined archway spanning the lonely road, held together by great masses of black-fingered creepers, gaunt and ghostly in the shadows, an extraordinary and unexpected vision; and as I stopped with a jerk under that forbidding gateway and glared at its tumbled masonry and great portals hanging rotten at their hinges, suddenly the truth flashed upon me. I had taken the forbidden road after all. I was in the ancient, ghost-haunted city of Queen Yang!


The dark forest seemed to shut behind as I entered the gateway of the deserted Hither town, against which my wood-cutter friend had warned me, while inside the soft mist hung in the starlight like grey drapery over endless vistas of ruins. What was I to do? Without all was black and cheerless, inside there was at least shelter. Wet and cold, my courage was not to be put down by the stories of a silly savage; I would go on whatever happened. Besides, the soft sound of crying, now apparently all about, seemed companionable, and I had heard so much of ghosts of late, the sharp edge of fear at their presence was wearing off.

So in I went: up a broad, decayed street, its flagstones heaved everywhere by the roots of gnarled trees, and finding nothing save ruin, tried to rest under a wall. But the night air was chilly and the shelter poor, so out I came again, with the wailing in the shadows so close about now that I stopped, and mustering up courage called aloud...
You can read Gulliver of Mars at Project Gutenberg or listen to someone else read it to you at LibriVox!

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