(1869-1937) UK photographer (having changed his mind after studying law at Balliol, Oxford, with a view to becoming a barrister) and author who was active during the first decade of the twentieth century. His first and best novel, The Struggle for Empire: A Story of the Year 2236 (1900), takes the Future War story to its logical, grim conclusion. The Anglo-Saxon Federation – ostensibly a Utopia with London as its "superb capital" but in truth a class-ridden Dystopia where the rich in their insatiate greed have plundered the planet (see Ecology) – expands ominously into other solar systems in search of raw material to exploit. At this point interstellar warfare breaks out between Earth and a superior race from the Sirius system. The descriptions of space battles, and of an Earth surrounded by a barrage of space torpedoes and mines while scientists struggle to perfect the ultimate Weapon, make it – as Everett F Bleiler argues in Science-Fiction: The Early Years (1990) – the precursor to and equal of many of the Space-Opera stories of the 1930s. Cole's later novels are anticlimactic. His Other Self (1906) is a mildly humorous tale of a man bedevilled by an alter ego which possesses his body and makes him watch as that body behaves immorally; The Death Trap (1907) is a harsh Future War account of a German invasion of the UK, successfully repulsed at crippling cost to both countries; The Artificial Girl (1908), a tale of cross-dressing, is not of genre interest. [JC]
see also: Colonization of Other Worlds; Fantastic Voyages; Galactic Empires; Stars.
Robert William Cole
born Heston, Middlesex: 16 April 1869
died Dawlish, Devon: 12 November 1937
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