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The End Of Books

BOOK: The End Of Books
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This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

eISBN: 978-1-61824-993-7

Copyright © 2013 by Ron Miller

Cover art by: Ron Miller

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

Electronic version by Baen Books

The End of Books Originally published in
Scribner’s Magazine
August 1894. Special contents copyright © 2009 Black Cat Press

The Ron Miller Science Fiction Classics Collection


The Archeology of Space Travel

(space travel books from the 18th and early 19th centuries)

The Life and Astonishing Adventures of John Daniel
(1751), Ralph Morris, illustrated

Voyage to the Moon
(1827), George Tucker

Journeys to the Moon
(includes "The Moon Hoax" by Richard Adams Locke, "The Unparalleled Adventures of Hans Pfaall" by Edgar Allan Poe and " the newly discovered Planet Georgium Sidus" by "Vivenair", illustrated

Trip to the Moon
, Lucian of Samosata

Iter Lunaire
(1703), David Russen

A Voyage to Cacklogallinia
(1727), "Samuel Brunt"

Gulliver Joi
(1851), Elbert Perce, illustrated

The Consolidator
(1705), Daniel Defoe

Trips to the Moon

(1896), James Cowan, illustrated

The Conquest of the Moon
(1889), Andre Laurie, illustrated

(1917), J.A. Mitchell, illustrated

The Moon Conquerors
(1930), R.H. Roman

A History of a Voyage to the Moon
(1864), "Chrysostom Trueman"

The Moon Colony
(1937), William Dixon Bell, illustrated by Ron Miller

To the Moon and Back in Ninety Hours
(1922), John Young Brown, illustrated

Pioneers of Space
(1949), George Adamski

A Christmas Dinner With the Man in the Moon
(1880), illustrated

Flights to and from Mars

Doctor Omega
(1906), Arnould Goupin (translated by Ron Miller), illustrated

To Mars via the Moon
(1911), Mark Wicks, illustrated

A Plunge Into Space
(1890), Robert Cromie

A Trip to Mars
(1909), Fenton Ash, illustrated

War of the Worlds
(includes The Crystal Egg and The Things That Live On Mars), H.G. Wells. Illustrated

Gulliver of Mars
(1905), Edwin Arnold

Across the Zodiac
(1880), Percy Greg

Journeys to Other Worlds

The Moon-Maker
(includes The Man Who Rocked the Earth) (1916), Arthur Train and Robert Wood

A Trip to Venus
(includes "Daybreak on the Moon") (1897), John Munro

A Honeymoon in Space
(1900), George Griffith, illustrated

The Brick Moon
(includes "On Vesta" by K.E. Tsiolkovsky) (1869), E.E. Hale

A Columbus of Space
(1894), Garrett Serviss, illustrated

Extract from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven
(1909), Mark Twain

Zero to Eighty
(1937), "Akkad Pseudoman" (E.F. Northrup)

(Voice from Another World, 1874 and Letters from the Planets, 1883), W.S. Lach-Szyrma, illustrated

A Journey in Other Worlds
(1894), J. J. Astor. Illustrated

Deutsche im Weltall

(Germans in Space)

By Rocket to the Moon
(1931), Otto Willi Gail, illustrated

The Shot Into Infinity
(1925), Otto Willi Gail, illustrated

The Stone From the Moon
(1926), Otto Willi Gail, illustrated

Between Earth and Moon
(1930), Otfrid von Hanstein, illustrated

Distant Worlds
(1932), Friedrich Mader, illustrated

A Daring Flight to Mars
(1931), Max Valier

Space Travel for Junior Space Cadets

Through Space to Mars
(1910), "Roy Rockwood" (Howard R. Garis)

Lost on the Moon
(1911)), "Roy Rockwood" (Howard R. Garis)

Rocket Riders Across the Ice
(1933), Howard R. Garis, illustrated

Rocket Riders in Stormy Seas
(1933), Howard R. Garis, illustrated

Rocket Riders in the Air
(1934), Howard R. Garis, illustrated

Adrift in the Stratosphere
(1937), A.M. Low, illustrated

Jules Verne

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
, Jules Verne, translated and edited by Ron Miller. Illustrated

A Journey to the Center of the Earth
, translated, annotated and edited by Ron Miller. Illustrated

Off on a Comet!
, Jules Verne, edited by Ron Miller, illustrated

From the Earth to the Moon
(includes Around the Moon), Jules Verne, translated and edited by Ron Miller. Illustrated

The Purchase of the North Pole
, edited by Ron Miller, illustrated

Science Fiction by Gaslight

The End of Books
(1884), Octave Uzanne, illustrated by Albert Robida

Under the Sea to the North Pole
(1898), Pierre Mael, illustrated

Penguin Island
(1908), Anatole France, illustrated by Frank C. Pape

The Crystal City Under the Sea
(1896), Andre Laurie, illustrated

The Earth-Tube
(1929), Gawain Edwards (G. Edward Pendray)



Three Go Back
(1932), J. Leslie Mitchell

The Flying Legion
(1920), George Allen England, illustrated

The Island of Captain Sparrow
(1928), S. Fowler Wright

Under the Sea to the North Pole
(1898), Pierre Mael, illustrated

Fugitive Anne
(1904), Rose Praed, illustrated

Lentala of the South Seas
(1908), W.C. Morrow

The Girl in the Golden Atom
(1923), Ray Cummings

Maza of the Moon
(1929), Otis Adelbert Kline

Bad Girls

(1920), Pierre Benoit

Out of the Silence
(1928), Erle Cox


The Lost Continent
(1900), C.J. Cutcliffe-Hyne

The Legend of Croquemitaine
(1874), Ernest L'Epine, illustrated by Gustave Dore

Not Quite Human

The Beetle
(1897). Richard Marsh, illustrated

(1872), J. Sheridan LeFanu

The Lair of the White Worm
(1911), Bram Stoker, illustrated

The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins
(1751), Richard Paltock, illustrated

The Sea Lady
(1902), H.G. Wells, illustrated

Angel Island
(1914), Inez Haynes Gilmore

The Future Eve
(1926), Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, illustrated

The Coming Race
(1871), Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The End Of Books

“It was in London, about two years ago, that the question of “the end of books” and their transformation into something quite different was agitated in a group of book-lovers, artists, men of science and of learning, on a memorable evening, never to be forgotten by anyone then present.

We had met that evening, which happened to be one of the scientific Fridays of the Royal Society, at a lecture given by Sir William Thomson, the eminent English physicist, professor in the University of Glasgow, universally known for the part he took in the laying of the first transatlantic cable.

On this Friday evening Sir William had announced to his brilliant audience of
and men of the world that the end of the terrestrial globe and of the human race was mathematically certain to occur in precisely ten million years.

Taking his stand on the theory of Helmholtz, that the sun is a vast sphere in process of cooling, and, by the law of gravity, of shrinking in proportion as it cools, and having estimated the energy of the solar heat as four hundred and seventy-six million horse-power to the superficial square foot of its photosphere, Sir William had demonstrated that the radius of the photosphere grows about one-hundredth part shorter every two thousand years, and that it is therefore quite possible to fix the precise hour when its warmth will be insufficient to maintain life on our planet.

The great philosopher had surprised us no less by his treatment of the antiquity of the earth, which he showed to be a question of pure mechanics. In the face of geologists and naturalists he gave it a past history of not more than a score of millions of years, and showed that life had awakened upon earth in the very hour of the sun’s birth-whatever may have been the origin of this fecundating star, whether the bursting of a pre-existing world or the concentration of nebulae formerly diffused.

We had left the Royal Institute deeply moved by the great problems which the learned Glasgow professor had taken such pains to resolve scientifically for the benefit of his audience. With minds in pain, almost crushed by the immensity of the figures with which he had been juggling, we were silently walking home, a group of eight different personalities-philologians, historians, journalists, statisticians, and merely interested men of the world-walking two and two, like creatures half awake, down Albemarle Street and Piccadilly.

Edward Lembroke dragged us all into the Junior Athenæum to supper; and the champagne had no sooner limbered our half-numbed brains than it was who should speak first about Sir William Thomson’s lecture and the future destiny of humanity-questions interesting above all others and usually as varied as the minds of those who discuss them.

James Whittemore discoursed at length upon the intellectual and moral predominance which by the end of the next century the younger continents would have over the older ones. He gave us to understand that the Old World would little by little give up its claim to omnipotence, and America would lead the van in the march of progress. Oceanica, born only yesterday, would develop superbly, throwing off the mask of its’ ambitions and taking a prominent place in the universal concert of the nations. Africa, he added, that continent ever explored and ever mysterious, where at a moment’s warning countries of thousands of square miles are discovered-Africa so painfully won to civilization, does not seem called to play an eminent part, notwithstanding her immense reservoir of men. She will be the granary of other continents; upon her soil various invading peoples will by turns play dramas of small importance; hordes of men will meet and clash and fight and die there in greedy desire to possess this still virgin soil, but civilization and progress will gain a footing only after thousands of years, when the prosperity of the United States, having reached its zenith, will be drawing toward its decline, and when new and fateful evolutions shall have assigned a new habitat to the new products of human genius.

Julius Pollock, gentle vegetarian and learned naturalist, usually a silent boon companion, amused himself by imagining the effect upon human customs of the success of certain interesting chemical experiments transforming the conditions of our social life. Nutriment will then be accurately portioned out in the form of powders, sirups, pellets, and biscuits, everything reduced to the smallest possible bulk. No more bakers, butchers, or wine-merchants then; no more restaurants or grocers; only a few druggists, and everyone thenceforth free, happy, all wants provided for at the cost of a few cents; hunger blotted out from the roll of human woes. Especially the world would cease to Le the unclean slaughter-house of peaceful creatures, a grewsome larder set forth for the gratification of gluttony, and would become a fair garden, sacred to hygiene and the pleasure of the eye. Life would be respected both in beasts and in plants, and over the entrance to this Paradise Regained, become a colossal museum of the creatures of God, might be written, “Look, but do not touch the exhibits.”

“That is all Utopia,” cried John Pool, the humorist. “The animals, my dear Pollock, will not follow your chemical programme, but will continue to devour one another according to the mysterious laws of creation. The fly will always be the vulture of the microbe, the most harmless bird the eagle of the fly; the wolf will keep on presenting himself with legs of lamb, and the peaceful sheep will continue, as in the past, to be ‘ the tiger of the grass.’ Let us follow the general law, and while awaiting our turn to be devoured, let us devour.”

Arthur Blackcross, painter and critic of mystical, esoteric, and symbolic art, a most refined spirit and founder of the already celebrated School of the Æsthetes of to-morrow, was urged to tell us in his turn what he thought painting would come to a century and more from now. I think the few lines which follow accurately sum up his little discourse:

“Is what we call modern art really an art?” he cried. “Do not the artists without vocation, who practise it fairly well, with a show of talent, sufficiently prove it to be a trade, in which soul is as much lacking as sight? Can we give the name of works of art to five-sixths of the pictures and statues which litter up our annual exhibitions? Can we indeed find many painters or sculptors who are truly original creators?

“We see nothing but copies of all sorts; copies of Old Masters accommodated to modern taste, adaptations ever false of epochs forever gone by, trite copies of nature as seen with a photographer’s eye, insipid patchwork imitations of frightful war subjects such as have made Meissonier famous; nothing new, nothing that takes us out of our own humanity, nothing that transports us elsewhere. And yet it is the duty of art, whether by music or poetry or painting, at any cost to carry us beyond ourselves, that for an instant at least we may hover in that sphere of the unreal where we may take the idealistic aeropathy cure.

“I verily believe,” Blackcross went on, “that the hour is at hand when the whole universe will find itself saturated with pictures, dull landscapes, mythological figures, historic episodes, still life, and all other works soever; the very negroes will have no more of them. In that divine moment, that avenging instant, painting will die of inanition; governments will perhaps at last perceive their dense folly in not having systematically discouraged the arts as the only practical way of protecting and exalting them. In a few countries, resolved upon a general reform, the ideas of the iconoclasts will prevail; museums will he burned down, that they may no longer influence budding genius; the commonplace in all its forms will be tabooed ; that is to say, the reproduction of any tangible thing, of anything that we see, of anything that illustrations, photography, or the theatre can sufficiently well express ; and art, at last given back to itself, will be raised aloft into the upper regions of revery, seeking there its appropriate figures and symbols.

“Art will then be a closed aristocracy ; its production will be rare, mystic, devout, loftily personal. It will perhaps command at most ten or twelve apostles in each generation, with something like a hundred ardent disciples to admire and encourage them.

“Beyond the realm of this abstract art photography in colors, photogravure, illustrated books, will suffice for the gratification of the masses; but exhibitions being interdicted, landscape painters being ruined by photopainting, historical subjects being for the future represented by suggestive models which at the pleasure of the operator shall express pain, surprise, dejection, terror, or death, all photopainting, in short, having become simply a question of a vast diversity of mechanical processes, a branch of commerce, there will be no painters in the twenty-first century, but instead of them a few holy men, true fakirs of the ideal and the beautiful, who amidst the silence and incomprehension of the masses will produce masterpieces at last worthy of the name.”

Slowly and with minute detail Arthur Blackcross worked out his vision of the future, not without success, for our recent visit to the Royal Academy had been hardly more cheering than those paid to our two great national bazaars of painting in Paris, at the Champ de Mars and the Champs Elysees.

For a little while we discussed the general ideas of our symbolical friend, and it was the founder of the School of the Æsthetes of To-morrow himself who changed the course of conversation by an abrupt appeal to me for my literary views and opinions.

“Come, my worthy Bibliophile, it is your turn to speak. Tell us how it will be with letters, with literature and books a hundred years hence! Since we are remodelling the society of the future to suit ourselves, this evening, each of us throwing a ray of light into the darkness of the centuries to come, I pray you illuminate certain horizons with a beam from
revolving light.”

Cries of “Yes, yes!” cordial and pressing entreaties followed; and as we were all kindred spirits, and it was pleasant to hear one another think, the atmosphere of this club corner being sympathetic and agreeable, I made no demur, but improvised my discourse as follows:

“What is my view of the destiny of books, my dear friends? The question is interesting, and fires me all the more because in good faith I never put it to myself before this hour.

“If by books you are to be understood as referring to our innumerable collections of paper, printed, sewed, and bound in a cover announcing the title of the work, I own to you frankly that I do not believe (and the progress of electricity and modern mechanism forbids me to believe) that Gutenberg’s invention can do otherwise than sooner or later fall into desuetude as a means of current interpretation of our mental products.

“Printing, which Rivarol so judiciously called the artillery of thought, and of which Luther said that it is the last and best gift by which God advances the things of the Gospel-printing, which has changed the destiny of Europe, and which, especially during the last two centuries, has governed opinion through the book, the pamphlet, and the newspaper-printing, which since 1436 has reigned despotically over the mind of man, is, in my opinion, threatened with death by the various devices for registering sound which have lately been invented, and which little by little will go on to perfection.

“Notwithstanding the enormous progress which has gradually been made in the printing-press, in spite of the already existing composing-machines, easy to run, and furnishing new characters freshly moulded in movable matrices, it still appears to me that the art in which Fust and Scheffer, Estienne and Vascosa, Aldus Manutius and Nicholas Jenson successively excelled, has attained its acme of perfection, and that our grandchildren will no longer trust their works to this somewhat antiquated process, now become very easy to replace by phonography, which is yet in its initial stage, and of which we have much to hope.”

There was an uproar of interruption and inquiry among my hearers; astonished “oh’s!” ironical “ah’s!” doubtful “eh! eh’s!” and mingled with a deepening murmur of denial such phrases as “But that’s impossible!” “What do you mean by that?” I had some difficulty in restoring silence enough to permit me to resume my remarks and explain myself more at length.

“Let me tell you that the ideas which I am about to open to you are the less affirmative that they are not ripened by reflection. I serve them up to you just as they come to me, with an appearance of paradox. However, there is nothing like a paradox for containing truth; the wildest paradoxes of the philosophers of the eighteenth century are to-day already partly realized.

“I take my stand, therefore, upon this incontestable fact, that the man of leisure becomes daily more reluctant to undergo fatigue, that he eagerly seeks for what he calls the comfortable, that is to say for every means of sparing himself the play and the waste of the organs. You will surely agree with me that reading, as we practise it today, soon brings on great weariness; for not only does it require of the brain a sustained attention which consumes a large proportion of the cerebral phosphates, but it also forces our bodies into various fatiguing attitudes. If we are reading one of our great newspapers it constrains us to acquire a certain dexterity in the art of turning and folding the sheets ; if we hold the paper wide open it is not long before the muscles of tension are overtaxed, and finally, if we address ourselves to the book, the necessity of cutting the leaves and turning them one after another, ends by producing an enervated condition very distressing in the long run.

“The art of being moved by the wit, the gayety, and the thought of others must soon demand greater facilities. I believe, then, in the success of everything which will favor and encourage the indolence and selfishness of men; the elevator has done away with the toilsome climbing of stairs; phonography will probably be the destruction of printing. Our eyes are made to see and reflect the beauties of nature, and not to wear themselves out in the reading of texts ; they have been too long abused, and I like to fancy that some one will soon discover the need there is that they should be relieved by laying a greater burden upon our ears. This will be to establish an equitable compensation in our general physical economy.”

BOOK: The End Of Books
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