Nisbet, Hume

Tagged: Art | Author

(1849-1923) Scottish actor, painter, teacher and writer, intermittently in Australia from 1865 – where much of his non-fantastic fiction is set – though he spent most of his life in England. He wrote at least forty-five novels, some of which are fantasy or sf, beginning with Ashes: A Tale of Two Spheres (1890; vt Wasted Fires 1902), a rather metaphysical assault on the world of publishing, set in an imaginary city morally contaminated by an art editor who incarnates Baal-Moloch; and "Bail Up!": A Romance of Bushrangers and Blacks (1890), which involves astral projection and a moderately sympathetic Yellow Peril figure. (Nisbet's sympathy with natives may be limited in modern terms, but his depiction of the aborigine as oppressed, in this and later tales, aroused considerable resentment in nineteenth-century Australia.) Later novels variously Equipoise between fantasy and sf: The "Jolly Roger": A Story of Sea Heroes and Pirates (1891) features a supernatural wind, mass Hypnotism, and a hidden pirate Island; in Valdmer the Viking: A Romance of the Eleventh Century by Sea and Land (1893) Vikings are taken to Tule, a technologically superior Lost World in the Arctic north of North America, which they manage to destroy; A Desert Bride: A Story of Adventure in India and Persia (1894) locates its Lost World in India; in The Great Secret: A Tale of Tomorrow (1895), a Mad Scientist leads a crew of vicious anarchists to an Underground cavern where dead spirits of the famous, reminiscent of figures in John Kendrick Bangs's Houseboat sequence, converse with the living, super-Weapons are encountered, and an excursion is mounted to Atlantis Under the Sea; The Quest of the Golden Pearl (1897) is another Lost World tale set on a holy Island near Ceylon; The Empire Makers: A Romance of Adventure and War in South Africa (1900) sets its Lost World in South Africa. Much of Nisbet's work is scarred by crassness and commercial opportunism, but flashes of political and personal insight can be found throughout. [JC]

James Hume Nisbet

born Stirling, Scotland: 8 August 1849

died Eastbourne, Sussex: 4 June 1923

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