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Robertson, Morgan

Entry updated 15 May 2020. Tagged: Author.

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(1861-1915) US sailor and author, almost always on nautical themes; many of his stories are sf or fantasy. These tales, typical of their maritime venues, tend to the mystical, the fog-girt, the occult and the morose, the most useful assemblies of his early work in this vein being Spun Yarn: Sea Stories (coll 1898) and "Where Angels Fear to Tread" and Other Tales of the Sea (coll 1899), both of these assembled with one added story as Spun Yarn: Sea Stories (omni 1900); some later work appears in Over the Border (coll 1914). His sf is sometimes similarly atmospheric, though a story like "The Battle of the Monsters" (16 July 1899 Saturday Evening Post) is one of several late nineteenth-century tales featuring microscopic observers (see Great and Small) who report back on events within the human body, in this case a battle between rabies bacilli and antitoxins (see Medicine). Of his Future-War tales, "The Submarine Destroyer" (September 1905 Everybody's Magazine) – in which the Invention of a torpedo-deflecting warship enables America to enforce the repatriation of Japanese-Americans to a reluctant Japan (see Yellow Peril) – is perhaps the strongest; though "A Matter of Induction" (15 April 1910 Popular Magazine) – featuring the continuing character Finnegan who becomes a genius when drunk, and is consequently able to fly a brand-new experimental plane that no one else knows how to pilot – is also a future-war tale of interest.

Robertson is best remembered for Futility: The Wreck of the Titan (1898; vt Futility; Or, the Wreck of the Titan 1912; vt The Wreck of the Titan; Or, Futility 1912; exp as coll, vt The Wreck of the "Titan" 1914; vt The Wreck of the Titan; Or, Futility: The Doomed Unsinkable Ship 1974), which proved remarkably predictive in telling the Near Future tale of a great new "indestructible" British-built ocean liner called the Titan which steams at an arrogant pace into an iceberg in the North Atlantic in April and sinks (see Titanic). [JC/MA]

Morgan Andrew Robertson

born Oswego, New York: 30 September 1861

died Atlantic City, New Jersey: 24 March 1915




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