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Hay, William Delisle

Entry updated 6 May 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1853-?   ) UK author and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, in New Zealand for some years, and known for writings on New Zealand matters, including Brighter Britain!; Or, Settler and Maori in Northern New Zealand (1882 2vols). His first sf tale, The Doom of the Great City; Being the Narrative of a Survivor, Written A.D. 1942 (1880 chap), retains interest for the vividness with which it presents three central topoi of the Death-of-the-City subgenre: the jeremiad in which London is seen as a Babylonian hive of corruption, with a focus on the stock market, insane class inequalities, and prostitution; the description of the panic and flight as inevitable Disaster – in this case a poisonous fog (see Poison; Pollution), which causes an invariably fatal "spasm of the bronchi" – savagely depopulates the metropolis in a very Near Future 1882; and a record of the survivor's appalled trek through the corpse-littered solitude, with ample echoes of Last Man rhetoric [for cover image of this early vision of apocalypse now, see Picture Gallery under links below]. The fog itself clearly reflects the sudden focus of interest on the increasingly numerous London fogs, one of which in 1879 had caused an unprecedented number of deaths. Though the narrator is British, he has been in New Zealand for sixty years, and his narration clearly evokes the New Zealander trope, in which (see also Ruins and Futurity) the corpse of London is viewed by an individual somehow remote from the events contemplated.

Three Hundred Years Hence; Or, a Voice from Posterity (1881), which is more substantial – but very much less tolerable in its racist elements (see Race in SF), which derive from Hay's extremely savage interpretation of Social Darwinism – is a Future History told as a series of lectures delivered in 2180 CE, long after a worldwide Future War of the early twentieth century has stalled in global stalemate, which the white races solve by committing salutary genocide on all Blacks and orientals, after which cleansing, a whites-only socialism creates – with the aid of various Inventions – a technological and political paradise on Earth. In Blood: A Tragic Tale (1888) an experimental blood transfusion goes awry, causing an Identity Transfer between a young man (who "dies"; and his body is incinerated) and a young woman (who survives, but finds she must share her body with the new boarder). [JC]

William Delisle Hay

born Bishop Wearmouth, County Durham: 1853


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