Boothby, Guy

Tagged: Author

(1867-1905) Australian-born playwright and author, schooled in the UK 1874-1883, again resident in the UK from 1894, author of a large number of books in various genres; he remains best known for his Dr Nikola sequence: A Bid for Fortune; Or, Dr Nikola's Vendetta (January-November 1895 Windsor Magazine; 1895; vt Dr Nikola's Vendetta; Or, A Bid for Fortune 1908; vt Enter Dr. Nikola! 1975), Doctor Nikola (January-August 1896 Windsor Magazine; 1896; vt Dr Nikola Returns 1976), which is mostly set in a Tibetan Lost World, The Lust of Hate (1898), in which nefarious Inventions proliferate, Dr Nikola's Experiment (October 1898-April 1899 Woman at Home; 1899) and "Farewell, Nikola" (1901). The first and last titles have little sf content, though they are a necessary frame for the central volumes, during the course of which the charismatic, Mephistophelian Mad Scientist Nikola – who combines aspects of the Accursed Wanderer figure from early nineteenth-century Gothic literature (see Wandering Jew) and the amateur cracksman Raffles created by E W Hornung (1866-1921), with a touch of H G Wells's Dr Moreau – searches for a Tibetan process that will resuscitate the dead and ensure Immortality in the living. The costs of this search are high: his laboratory is stocked with Monsters out of The Island of Dr Moreau (1896) (see Apes as Human; Devolution), including one grotesque mutilated human with a giant head which must be fixed in a supporting device in order to remain upright. But there are some hints in both Dr Nikola and Dr Nikola's Experiment that – unhampered by any undue compunction, armed with Psi Powers, and blessed with a powerful experimental intellect which obscurely enables him to Hypnotize anyone necessary for his project – he may have reached his goal.

Nikola's venomous hatred of imperial Britain is if anything intensified in Pharos, the Egyptian: A Romance (June-November 1898 The Windsor Magazine; 1899), whose ancient protagonist, cursed with Immortality, infects a dupe with a deadly plague which kills millions across Europe. Boothby wrote at least two Ruritanian novels, The Fascination of the King (1897), in which a Ruritanian adventurer establishes a kingdom somewhere near China, and "Long Live the King!" (December 1899-May 1900 The Windsor Magazine; 1900), in which monarchy is restored to Pannonia, in obedience to the strict prophecies of a gypsy. Some other titles in his large oeuvre are of some interest, including The Woman of Death (1900), about a She figure whose powers of Precognition fail to help her seduce the almost supernaturally insouciant English aristocrat she longs for (see Sex) in Paris (see Decadence).

A proportion of Boothby's shorter fiction, variously assembled and almost always less accomplished than his novels, is supernatural. The title story of A Crime of the Under-Seas (coll 1905) hints at but does not produce a fantastic Invention, though "The Treasure of Sacramento Nick" (1 May 1894 Macmillan's Magazine), collected in the same volume, evokes an implied Lost World and describes its 200-year-old ruler. A careless and over-prolific writer, Boothby died young, truncating a career that might otherwise have included more ambitious work. [JC]

see also: Forgotten Futures.

Guy Newell Boothby

born Adelaide, South Australia: 13 October 1867

died Bournemouth, Hampshire: 26 February 1905

works (selected)

series

Dr Nikola

individual titles

collections and stories

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