Friday, July 28, 2017
FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE RADIO MAN (1948)
"Ralph Milne Farley" was the major pseudonym of Roger Sherman Hoar (1887-1963), a Harvard-educated lawyer, constitutional expert, patent law expert, one-time state senator and former assistant attorney general of Massachusetts, grandson of US attorney general Ebenzer Hoar and great-great-grandson of Declaration of Independence signer Roger Sherman.
He was also a close friend of Edgar Rice Burroughs, which may explain his penchant for planetary romance in much of his writing.
The Radio Man, the first in a series of stories about transplanted Earthman Myles Cabot, originally appeared as a four-part serial in Argosy (which touted the story as scientifically accurate!) in the early summer of 1924. It was reprinted as a three-part serial in Famous Fantastic Mysteries in 1939-1940 and finally appeared in book format from Fantasy Publishing company in 1948. Under the title An Earthman on Venus, it made its paperback debut from Avon book in 1950. A year later, artist Wally Wood produced a 26-page comic book for Avon Publishing as "An Avon Fantasy Classic," retaining the paperback title (see below).
The book opens with a meteor crashing into a field on Ralph Farley's Chappaquiddick salt water farm. Inside the meteor was a golden ball made of some sort of impenetrable material. After some effort, Farley figured how to open the ball and found something wrapped tightly in a silver material -- a manuscript signed by Myles Cabot. Cabot was a wealthy electrical engineer who had been tickering with radio experiment in his Boston Townhouse when he had mysteriously vanished from his locked laboratory and was never seen again. The manuscript tells his tale.
Cabot's experiments in radio waves created a matter transmitter which brought him to a strange clouded world, later to be proven to be Venus. He was on a large continent surrounded by a violent boiling sea which prevented ocean travel or even air travel above it, leaving the possibility of
unknown lands, wonders, and adventures for possible future stories. The continent is ruled by a race of giant, technologically sophisticated ants. Captured by the ants, Cabot is threatened by one he dubs Satan and is saved by one he calls Doggo. Doggo takes Cabot to his own house while a council of ants decide what sort of creature he is and what his fate will be.
The ants are called Formians. They communicate telepathically through their antennae and are unable to speak or hear. Cabot is taught to communicate through their written language. One day he sees a human-like creature in the garden. She is a Cupian, the other major race on the continent; Cupians are human enough except for their small, insect-like wings and their antennae. They also have no ears and have six digits on each hand and foot. But this Cupian is human enough (and beautiful enough) for Cabot. It turns our she is a Cupian princess, forced to serve the Formians for a two-year stint.
Some Venusian history: Once the Cupians ruled twelve small kingdoms on the continent and the Formians ruled just one. The war-like Formians, knowing they were the master race, began conquering the Cupian kingdoms one at a time. Each Cupian kingdom was interested in only its own turf and did nothing to oppose the Formians as they attacked other kingdoms. Soon, the Formians ruled the entire continent. The Cupians were herded to a rather unusable part of the continent and were given a quisling Cupian to serve as their king as the Formians brought the entire continent to glory under Formian rule. Oh. And every Cupian, no matter what rank, was forced to serve the Formians for a two-year period -- and that how the lovely princess (her name is Lilla) came to Cabot's attention (but -- plot twist -- Lilla is actually there illegally; she had been kidnapped and is held without the Cupians' knowledge; oh, those vile Formians!).
Anyway, Cabot falls in love with Lilla. She is repulsed by him: he has hair on his face (icky!) and has funny things sticking out of each side of his head (double icky!) and what's this with only five digits? And where are his wings? Cabot shaves, lets his hair grow to cover his ears, and uses radio technology to devise a way to communicate telepathically with some artificial antennae. Now the Princess Lilla is a tad less repulsed.
We know what's going to happen don't we? Cabot decides to throw his lot in with the Cupians, free them from Formian slavery, and win the heart of the princess. And if a well-bred Massachusetts Yankee can't do that, what good is he?
Farley went on to write further "Radio" adventures of Myles Cabot (and his offspring): The Radio Beasts, The Radio Planet, The Radio Minds, The Golden City, and The Radio Menace. Other "Radio" stories that look as though they belong in the series do not: The Radio Flyers, The Radio Gun-Men, and The Radio War.
The Radio Man is a fast, easy read and is recommended for those who love the interplanetary romances of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis Adelbert Kline. Please remember to leave your literary judgment at the door.
Check out the 1951 comic book of An Earthman on Venus, drawn by the legendary Wally Wood: