““Soon the ancient mystery of Africa will have vanished,” H. Rider Haggard lamented, asking “[where will] the romance writers of future generations find a safe and secret place, unknown to the pestilent accuracy of the geographer, in which to lay their plots?” The answer at least in the short term was Australia.” —Russell Blackford, Van Ikin, Sean McMullen, Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction.
There has been a lot of speculative fiction written about Australia, even before colonization. The first ‘home-grown’ lost civilization story set in Australia was Oo-A-Deen, or, The Mysteries of the Interior Unveiled, published by an unknown author in the Corio Chronicle and Western Districts Advertiser, in 1847. It tells the story of an explorer who discovers a lost utopian society and falls in love with the daughter of the High Priest. With the rise in popularity of the genre thanks to such novels as Haggard’s She and King Solomon’s Mines many imitators soon followed. Thanks to the imagination of many a writer, the unexplored Australian Outback was soon populated by Atlantaeans, Lemurians, Toltecs, Classical Greeks, Ant Men, Bat People, and even the descendants of Alexander the Great’s might army.
This Early Australian Science Fiction anthology is a collection of 13 tales considered to be among the most influential Australian works in the lost world genre. They are the works most referred to by researchers and academics when they evaluate Australian colonial science fiction. Some have been made available for Kindle for the very first time and are exclusive to ROH Press.
Will you like every tale in this collection? Maybe, maybe not. Tastes are personal. But there is a lot to choose from! A few tales of note: The Lost Explorer by James Francis Hogan was the first noteworthy Haggard imitator. Critics speak highly of John David Hennessey’s An Australian Bush Track, praising it for its depiction of independent Australian women. Ernest Favenc was highly popular in his day, both The Secret of the Australian Desert and Marooned on Australia, were printed in multiple editions. According to Jessica Amanda Salmonson’s Lost Race Check Guide, Eureka (a rarity from 1899, the original hardback sells for $1600) is ‘one of the finer books of its kind.’ The Adventure of the Broad Arrow by tramp writer Morley Roberts is a fast-paced novella by an unjustly forgotten Victorian author. Only one novel in this anthology was written by a woman: Fugitive Anne by Rosa Campbell Praed, one of the rare novels in the genre with a female protagonist. Erle Stanley Cox’ Out of the Silence is considered the first classic of Australian science fiction. This is the original edition published in 1919 that went on to international acclaim. In 1949, it tied for 13th on the Arkham Survey of Basic SF Titles.
You can read the first chapter of each novel by clicking on the links below.
The Lost Explorer by James Francis Hogan, 1890 (First Kindle Edition)
The Golden Lake by W Carlton Dawe, 1891 (First Kindle Edition)
A Haunt of the Jinkarras by Ernest Favenc, 1894 (First Kindle Edition)
The Secret of the Australian Desert by Ernest Favenc, 1896 (First Kindle Edition)
Marooned on Australia by Ernest Favenc, 1896 (First Kindle Edition)
An Australian Bush Track by John David Hennessey, 1896
The Adventure of the Broad Arrow by Morley Roberts, 1897 (First Kindle Edition)
The Last Lemurian by George Firth Scott, 1898
Eureka by Owen Hall, 1899 (First Kindle Edition)
Fugitive Anne by Rosa Campbell Praed, 1902
The Lost Explorers by Alexander MacDonald, 1906
The Silver Queen by William Sylvester Walker, 1908 (First Kindle Edition)
Out of the Silence by Erle Stanley Cox, 1919 (The original edition, not the text available freely online)