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Mitchell, J A

(1845-1918) US editor – he founded Life magazine in 1883, editing it until his death – and author in various genres. The Romance of the Moon (1886 chap) is a fantasy for children; Mitchell's sf proper begins with The Last American: A Fragment from the Journal of Khan-Li, Prince of Dimph-Yoo-Chur and Admiral in the Persian Navy (1889 chap; exp 1902), a somewhat spoofish Satire in which a thirtieth-century Persian expedition visits a depopulated Nh-Yok (ie New York) described in language typical of the Lost Race tale, though incorporating some characteristics of those Ruins and Futurity tales that embed an archaeological observers's gaze on the past: that past has been severed from the observer by some great Disaster; and the observer misinterprets (and misspells) what he sees. On the cover of both versions of The Last American and elsewhere appear images of the Statue of Liberty gazing upon the waters of a Ruined Earth: a Merhika that has been devastated by unfettered greed, excessive immigration and catastrophic Climate Change. This iconic use of the Statue, which was first erected only three years earlier, may be the first of the many; it is supplemented by an interior illustration of the similarly iconic Brooklyn Bridge, also in ruins. The tale was much influenced by Edgar Allan Poe's "Mellonta Tauta" (February 1849 Godey's Lady's Book) and curiously prefigures Gene Wolfe's Seven American Nights (in Orbit #20, anth 1978, ed Damon Knight; 1989 chap dos). Its racism is perhaps typical of Mitchell's era, though he was accused of anti-Semitism during his lifetime.

Life's Fairy Tales (coll 1892) assembles a set of very sharp short stories, verging upon (though not quite attaining) conte cruel savagery. The protagonist of Amos Judd (1895) has inherited his family curse: voluntary Precognition, which allows him to see the future but not to change it; much transformed, the tale was filmed as The Young Rajah (1922) directed by Phil Rosen. The title story of That First Affair and Other Sketches (coll 1896) is an Adam and Eve tale. Gloria Victis (1897; vt Dr Thorne's Idea 1910) is a religious fantasy, in which Christ resurrects a nineteenth-century murder victim, and is typical of this author's other fantasies. Mitchell's second sf novel, Drowsy (1917), is a sentimental love story resulting in the birth of a child Telepath who, after maturing into an early Superman figure, discovers Antigravity and builds a Spaceship, visiting the Moon and Mars, the latter of which is inhabited by humanoid Aliens. The book was notable for Angus Peter Macdonall's fine illustrations, many of them moonscapes, some reproduced in Extrapolation, May 1971; their relationship to the text is at times exiguous. [JC]

John Ames Mitchell

born New York: 17 January 1845

died Ridgefield, Connecticut: 19 June 1918



Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 09:53 am on 24 June 2024.