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Locke, Richard Adams

Entry updated 15 March 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1800-1871) UK-born journalist, editor and customhouse official in later years, in the US from 1832, now universally regarded as author of the famous "Great Moon Hoax" (see also Scientific Hoax). Beginning on 21 August 1835, several issues of the New York Sun carried articles purporting to describe the inhabitants of the Moon and their environs, culminating on 30 August with a description of the "Temple of the Moon", where lunar natives known as Man-bats (see Life on Other Worlds) were seen to congregate; all these observations were attributed to the distinguished astronomer Sir John Herschel (1792-1871), who had made them with the aid of a new, high-magnification telescope (see Inventions). The Sun published the articles in pamphlet form in September; title variations include Great Astronomical Discoveries Lately Made by Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope and A Complete Account of the Late Discoveries in the Moon (both coll of linked "essays" 1835 chap) [see Checklist for further details]. The book has also been dubiously ascribed to the French geographer Joseph Nicolas Nicollet (1786-1843), but the consensus is that the work was indeed Locke's. The relationship of Locke's spoof to previous and subsequent works of Edgar Allan Poe – whose slightly earlier "Hans Pfaall – A Tale" (June 1835 Southern Literary Messenger) was a Moon hoax, and who admired Locke's "ingenious" prank – is not entirely clear: what is clear is that the two writers were similarly inspired, and were an inspiration to Thomas M Disch in The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World (1998), where he espouses a theory, itself reflexively laced with spoof elements, in which sf is seen as intrinsically wedded to hoax. The play element in Locke's tall tale has generated comparisons as well with the Orson Welles radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds (1938), which was also meant to entertain. The Moon Hoax, or A Discovery that the Moon has a Vast Population of Human Beings (coll of linked "essays" 1859; exp with new intro by Ormond Seavey as anth 1975) presents the original text plus later material. [JE/JC]

see also: Astronomy.

Richard Adams Locke

born East Brent, Somersetshire: 21 September 1800

died New Brighton, Staten Island: 16 February 1871



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