Wallis, George C

Tagged: Author

(1871-1956) UK printer (before World War One), cinema manager and author who began writing sf and historical and adventure fiction in 1895 for the penny weekly adult magazines, the first of these apparently being a serial, "Behind the Barrier: A Story of Mystery and Peril in the Antarctic Regions" in Pearson's Storyteller for 12 October 1895/concluding issue not known; around the turn of the century, he was writing for Slick journals, but around 1903 he began to write almost exclusively for the Boys' Papers, ceasing around 1912 for at least a decade. He also wrote as by Royston Heath and as by John Stanton.

Early work of interest includes an Atlantis sequence, comprising in terms of inner chronology "The White Queen of Atlantis" (1896 Pearson's Weekly Extra Christmas Number), which is a long Lost Race tale set in Atlantis featuring an ultimately successful misalliance between a princess and a sailor; "The Vow of King Vendis" (17 April 1897 Short Stories), which is brief; and "The Last King of Atlantis" (3 October 1896-30 January 1897 Short Stories), a book-length adventure which climaxes in the destruction of the great Island, the manuscript of this story being discovered in 1963 by a submarine.

More interesting are Wallis's several not-unsuccessful attempts to create Scientific Romances in the manner of H G Wells. The first of these may be "The Last Days of Earth: Being the Story of the Launching of The 'Red Sphere'" (July 1901 The Harmsworth Magazine), a Far Future story set in 13,000,086 CE, the planet being dead except for a man and his wife, who escape the imminent End of the World in the eponymous Faster Than Light Spaceship. The most remarkable may be "The Great Sacrifice: A Scientific Romance" (June 1903 The London Magazine), in which an astronomer and his close friends speculate worriedly about perturbations in the orbits of all the planets in the Solar System excluding Mars and Earth, only to learn – via projectiles bearing messages from Mars – that the passage of a vast meteor stream is due to overheat the Sun, ending all life; the inference is that the Martians have shifted the Outer Planets in an attempt to block the stream. Introducing events in a clear Parody of the famous beginning paragraph of Wells's The War of the Worlds (1898), Wallis honours his source, and reverses its meaning:

By what means the Martian intelligences despatched their tiny projectiles across the abyss of space with such accuracy we shall never know, nor shall we ever know what those intelligences were like. We only know that they must have been thousands of years in advance of us in knowledge and in power, almost god-like in the latter....

But the meteor swarm continues to approach, and the Martians blow up their own planet to absorb the cloud and save us.

Wallis then lost his market for adult sf. A story like "In Trackless Space" (10 December 1904 Union Jack Library) as by John Stanton, in which two lads travel to Mars in an advanced Spaceship, is written for boys; the Mars they discover, whose inhabitants are primitive creatures, is not the Mars of the previous tale. Other similar tales include "The World Wreckers" (1908 Scraps), a Future-War story influenced by George Griffith, "The Terror from the South" (1909 Comic Life), in which an Antarctic Lost Race becomes belligerent, and "Wireless War" (1909 Comic Life), with A J Andrews, a Future War novel.

Only three of his early sf and fantasy novels were reprinted as books: The Children of the Sphinx: A Romance of the Old Orient (1901), an historical fantasy set in Egypt; Harrah the Moor: The Wonderful Story of the Invasion of Europe (1910-1911 Lot-O'-Fun, original title not established; circa 1912) as by Royston Heath, whose subtitle is descriptive; and Beyond the Hills of Mist (1912 Lot-O'-Fun; 1913), in which a Tibetan Lost Race, equipped with aircraft, plans world domination.

With the genesis of Genre-SF magazines in the 1920s Wallis re-entered the field with "The Star Shell" (November 1926-February 1927 Weird Tales) with B Wallis (?   -?   ), Bruce Wallis being his cousin and possibly his literary agent; the tale involves a hijacked Antigravity Spaceship landing on the Jovian moon Europa, then Jupiter itself, a world described in Planetary Romance terms. More impressive was "The World at Bay" (November-December 1928 Amazing), also with B Wallis, set in a concisely described Underground redoubt, and "The Mother World" (Spring-Summer Amazing Stories Quarterly) with B Wallis, a Feminist Utopia set on another world whose inhabitants remain calm due to Eugenics and several efficient Power Sources. During 1938-1941 he had nine Space Operas published in Tales of Wonder.

Wallis was probably the only Victorian sf writer (with the possible exception of Eden Phillpotts, who wrote little sf until 1922) to continue to publish after World War Two. His last novel was The Call of Peter Gaskell: A Master Thriller Science Fiction Novel (1948), a very late Lost Race tale, the story being brought up to date by the fact that the She figure, an Incan "wonder woman who wants to control the earth", plans to do so with the aid of nuclear weapons. He is of interest not as a uniformly good writer (which he was not) but because he interestingly explored the themes of Victorian scientific romance, and because he became a capable author of early Genre SF. [JE/JC/PN]

George Charles Wallis

born Weedon, Nottinghamshire: 18 March 1871

died Sheffield, Yorkshire: 1 September 1956

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