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Sayler, Harry Lincoln

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1863-1913) US journalist and author, exclusively of stories for young readers, those of greatest interest being three series involving aviation. Of perhaps most sf interest is the first – Airship Boys sequence beginning with The Airship Boys; or, The Quest of the Aztec Treasure (1909), his authorship ending with The Airship Boys as Detectives; or, Secret Service in Cloudland (1913); a final volume, The Airship Boys in the Great War; or, The Rescue of Bob Russell (1915), being written by De Lysle F Cass after Sayler's death – a series which gave a name to the short-lived Airship Boys subgenre, though after a volume or two the tales are better described as Airplane Boys; individual volumes throughout frequently utilize sf tropes. The first two tales, which make up one narrative on the model of the Lost Race story, carries its young protagonists in an advanced Balloon in search of Aztec treasure; its direct sequel, The Airship Boys Adrift; or, Saved by an Aeroplane (1910), also introduces the first of several Inventions, with the lads converting their balloon into an aeroplane on the high seas (symbolically and actually terminating by this act the Airship Boys subgenre), and proceeding to Mexico, where a genuine lost tribe is discovered. The next two instalments are adventure tales set within the Arctic Circle, and are not fuelled by innovation. But The Airship Boys in Finance; or, The Flight of the Flying Cow (1911) features the invention and use of an intercontinental Rocket, which is used in the next volume, The Airship Boys' Ocean Flyer; or, New York to London in Twelve Hours (1911), to transport its crew directly to Britain, where they win a giant prize, their increasing financial success marking these exploits as genuine Edisonades. The Airship Boys as Detectives; or, Secret Service in Cloudland (1913) is of less interest.

The Aeroplane Boys sequence – beginning with In the Clouds for Uncle Sam; or, Morey Marshall of the Signal Corps (1910) and ending with On the Edge of the Arctic: An Aeroplane in Snowland (1913), all titles as by Ashton Lamar – shows greater narrative sophistication in its handling of a varied cast, but the inevitable Inventions are of less interest, basically being restricted to new forms of propulsion, and new design configurations, neither of these being very daring. In both sequences, the far-flung travels during which natives are condescended to and exploited, the close relationship of the young protagonists to sources of income, their eagerness to use their inventions for profit, and their willingness to translate their innovations into corporatized Technologies, are (as was the Airship Boys sequence) typical of the Edisonade; had Sayler lived into World War One, he would almost certainly (as did Cass in his stead) have involved his cast in saving an America at war. The first volumes of the Boy Scouts of the Air sequence – beginning with The Boy Scouts of the Air at Eagle Camp (1912) and ending with The Boy Scouts of the Air on Flathead Mountain (1913), all as by Gordon Stuart – offer no new inventions; but subsequent volumes, by other hands, engage the cast actively in the War. Sayler's only other series, Boys' Big Game sequence as by Whitney Elliott [not listed below], eschewed the fantastic. [JC]

Harry Lincoln Sayler

born Little York, Montgomery County, Ohio: 13 February 1863

died Indianapolis, Indiana: 31 May 1913

works (selected)


The Airship Boys

The Aeroplane Boys

Boy Scouts of the Air

Earlier and later volumes, by other hands under this name, are not listed below.

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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