Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, November 4, 2016


The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle & His Incredible Aether Flyer by Dick Lupoff and Steve Stiles (1991)

Richard A. Lupoff is one of those underrated writers who amaze you with every book, making you wonder why the world has not bowed down before him and kissed his feet.  He goes his own way, writes what he wants, and is equally at home with acerbic wit and with smooth, graceful language.  Lupoff started out in the trenches of science fiction fandom and, now 81, still has one foot solidly implanted there.  He began writing professionally in the Sixties while working part-time as an editor for Canaveral Press.  At Canaveral he produced several books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, leading to his first book, a biography of Burroughs.  He published his first novel in 1967, became a full-time writer in 1970, and has published more than fifty books of astonishing variety.

The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle & His Incredible Aether Flyer has its roots in a dinner conversation at the 1966 World Science Fiction Convention about proto-science fiction books published from 1880 through 1920, when Lee Hoffman said that would make good grounds for parody.  Lupoff began writing Professor Theobald Uriah Thintwhistle's adeventures in comic book form later that year.  Artist Steve Stiles used the illustrations from Lupoff's collection of proto-science fiction books to give the panels a steampunk flavor. (This was long before steampunk ever existed.  The Thintwhistle adventures are a forerunner of this popular sub-genre.)  The first Thintwhisle strips were published in a fan magazine as by "Fenton Farnworth" and "Pascal Pascudniak."

Attempts by Lupoff to sell the strip as a book went nowhere, although Dell offered to by the story if Lupoff transformed it into a novel.  And so the 1974 novel Into the Aether was born.  Five years later, Ted White asked Lupoff and Styles if they would like to recreate the strip for Heavy Metal, he leading comic book story magazine.  Thintwhistle and company ran as a serial in that magazine from February through November, 1980.

 As we know, many good things take time.  In 1990, Kim Thompson of Fantagraphics asked Lupoff and Stiles if they would like the strips issued as a graphic novel.  They would.  They did.  And so, 25 years to the month after that original Worldcon conversation in a Cleveland Chinese restaurant, The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle & His Incredible Aether Flyer appeared in book form.

So, what's the book a book about? It's about ten chapters long.

Okay, wise guy, what's the story about?  Well, that's something that's a bit harder to explain.  Imagine if Ova Hamlet met Edgar Rice Burroughs met William Burroughs met Philip Jose Farmer met the kitchen sink.  Now, kind of squint your eyes so that everything's a bit blurry.  Next, drink a surfeit of intoxicants.  That should give you some idea of the story.

We begin with Herkimer, a spiffily dressed young man on his velocipede, pedaling though the town of Buffalo Falls, Pennsyvania, to visit his learned friend Professor Thintwhistle.  (Bleach Herkimer's hair, put him in a red suit, and give him a horse named Horse, and you'd have a good imitation of a [slightly dimmer] Dudley Do-Right.)  Thintwhistle has created a coal-powered machine (dubbed the "Chester A. Arthur) to fly through the aether to the moon.  With Herkimer and Jefferson Jackson Clay (Thintwhistles' not-to-be-trusted blackamoor servant), the Professor soon takes off on an incredible journey.  They land on the moon.  No, that's not right.  They innocently land on the left breast of the giant Selena, Queen of the Moon.  Also innocently, they plant a flag deep in the "lacteal faucet" of said giantess. causing 1) a fissure, and 2) the abrupt deflation of said portion of the anatomy.  Our heroes and their ship is sucked into the fissure and find themselves in a strange universe of  feathered serpents, giant King Charles Spaniels, Spanish pirates, cat people, intrigue, and danger.

Concurrently, Thintwhistle's colleagues Miss Taphammer and Winchester Blont investigate the Professor's disappeance and determine they must have gone through the aether.  Once that was determined, Miss Taphammer determine to build another aether machine -- the Susan B. Anthony, this time -- and follow the Professor to effect a rescue.  Meanwhile somewhere in the alternate cosmos, Jefferson Jackson Clay sheds his servile demeanor, changes his name to Manelik XX Chaka and steals the Chester Alan Arthur!

A wild and incredible romp that may not be to everyone's liking,  I loved it.


  1. Stiles, sir. Fun book...I highlighted it without reviewing it some time back...

    1. Stiles, yes. My fumble fingers struck again, Todd. Corrected now. Thanks.

  2. Steampunk might well be the only category of science-fantasy to have a television series crystallize what it was about at least as early on as the literature did, with THE WILD WILD WEST...

  3. Hadn't known of Lupoff but this is a fascinating backgrounder, Jerry. I might even keep an eye peeled for Prof. Thintwhistle!