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Gratacap, Louis Pope

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1851-1917) US naturalist, museum curator and author whose first writings were nonfiction essays like "The Ice Age" for the Popular Science Monthly in 1878. His first sf novel, The Certainty of a Future Life in Mars: Being the Posthumous Papers of Bradford Torrey Dodd (1903), remains his best known. Dying in the conviction that dead humans transcendentally ascend to a Martian Reincarnation as embodied spirits, the narrator's father is soon communicating from there by radio with his son. Martian society, he reports, is Utopian – with natives of the planet as servants – and Mars itself has canals; an essay on Mars by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910) closes the volume. A Woman of the Ice Age (1906) is Prehistoric SF, set around 30,000 BCE in what would become California, featuring a female protagonist whose wholesome musculature and relative autonomy (and nudity) ambivalently evoke late nineteenth-century visions of the natural woman, who gives joyous birth to superior children, advancing the race (see Eugenics). The Evacuation of England: The Twist in the Gulf Stream (1908) pins its expectations of Disaster on the completion of the Panama Canal, which causes Central America to sink and Atlantic currents to flow westwards; the science is foolish, but the climatic changes it depicts now seem less improbable. The Mayor of New York: A Romance of the Days to Come (1910) is set in 2000 CE, when "suicidariums" gently gas the willing and anarchism threatens the independent state of New York. In The New Northland (1915) a Lost Race of Hebrew-speaking dwarfs inhabits a clement hollow in the Arctic, where their possession of vast amounts of radium (see Elements) seals their fate, for the protagonist decides that these riches must be exploited. The End: How the Great War was Stopped; A Novelistic Vagary (1917) is a World War One fantasy in which the risen dead terrify the living into stopping the war. Gratacap's range was wide, incorporating much material which has become central to sf, but his books are overlong, choked by his compulsive didacticism, and nearly unreadable today. [JC]

Louis Pope Gratacap

born Brooklyn, New York: 1 November 1851

died New York: 19 December 1917



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