Griffith, George

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Pseudonym of UK traveller, journalist and author George Chetwynd Jones (1857-1906), the son of a clergyman and one of the most influential sf writers of his time; he legally became George Chetwynd Griffith in 1894. He appeared frequently in the pre-sf Magazines and Pulp magazines, particularly Pearson's Weekly and Pearson's Magazine, writing as Griffith or, for some short stories, as Levin Carnac. He was instrumental in the transformation of the Future War novel to a more sensational form, capitalizing on contemporary political anxiety; and he helped make up a literary coterie, including William Le Queux, M P Shiel and Louis Tracy, which specialized in the genre.

Griffith first established himself with The Angel of the Revolution (21 January-14 October 1893 Pearson's Weekly; cut 1893) and its sequel Olga Romanoff: Or, the Syren of the Skies: A Sequel to "The Angel of the Revolution" (23 December 1893-4 August 1894 Pearson's Weekly as "The Syren of the Skies"; rev 1894). In the first a revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood of Freedom and equipped with aerial battleships (see Airships) creates a Pax Aeronautica, which imposes reforms upon the entire world; the second, set 125 years later, describes the upheaval which transforms this Utopian state to one of total anarchy. Both are remarkable for their foresight of battle tactics in air warfare and for their anticipation of radar, sonar and nuclear weapons. They include elements which would only later become commonplace, notably the struggle by international cartels for world domination and the apocalyptic visions of Armageddon on Earth and of Disaster from the heavens by Comet. These elements can be found also in The Outlaws of the Air (4 September 1894-23 May 1895 Short Stories; rev 1895), Gambles with Destiny (coll 1898), The Great Pirate Syndicate (19 February-23 July 1898 Pick-Me-Up; rev 1899), The Lake of Gold: A Narrative of the Anglo-American Conquest of Europe (1903), A Woman Against the World (1903), The World Masters (1903), The Stolen Submarine: A Tale of the Russo-Japanese War (1904), The Great Weather Syndicate (1906), The World Peril of 1910 (1907) and The Lord of Labour (1911).

From early in his career Griffith was overshadowed by H G Wells, a fact which caused him to diversify his work in search of critical acclaim. Such praise never came, although he produced notable examples of several themes: Immortality featured in Valdar the Oft-Born: A Saga of Seven Ages (2 February-24 August 1895 Pearson's Weekly; rev 1895) and Captain Ishmael (1901), the latter also being an early example of the Parallel-Worlds theme; the Lost-World theme in The Romance of Golden Star (1 September-21 December 1895 Short Stories as "Golden Star"; rev 1897), The Virgin of the Sun (1898), A Criminal Croesus (1904) and His Better Half (1905); the supernatural in Denver's Double: A Story of Inverted Identities (1901), The White Witch of Mayfair (1902) and The Destined Maid (1908); Space Flight in A Honeymoon in Space (January-July 1900 Pearson's as "Stories of Other Worlds"; exp 1901); Religion in The Missionary (1902); Telepathy in A Mayfair Magician: A Romance of Criminal Science (1905); the fourth Dimension in The Mummy and Miss Nitocris: A Phantasy of the Fourth Dimension (fixup 1906).

Griffith's influence on contemporary UK sf was extensive, from E Douglas Fawcett's Hartmann the Anarchist (June-September 1893 The English Illustrated Magazine; 1893) through to Cyril Seymour's Comet Chaos (1906) and John Mastin's The Stolen Planet (1906), and can still be seen today, as in Michael Moorcock's nineteenth-century pastiches. (Since Griffith's anti-US stance precluded US publication of many of his works, his influence there has been negligible.) Several of his novels have been reprinted in recent times, as well as a collection of unreprinted stories, The Raid of "Le Vengeur" (coll 1974) edited by George Locke. [JE]

see also: Edisonade; End of the World; Forgotten Futures; History of SF; Mars; Mercury; Moon; Near Future; Nuclear Energy; Politics; Proto SF; Reincarnation; Technology; Transportation; Venus; Weapons.

George Chetwynd Griffith

born Plymouth, Devon: 20 August 1857

died Port Erin, Isle of Man: 4 June 1906




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