Tag Archives: Historical

Vintage Science Fiction Month: A Trip to the Moon

Vintage SciFi Month was created by Little Red Reviewer and is moderated by Red Star Reviews. Any science fiction film, short story, play, or book released before 1979 is eligible for this celebration of classic science fiction. 

A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage Dans la Lun) was a short silent film released in 1902 by French film maker Georges Méliès who was assisted by his brother Gaston. In other words, don’t turn up your volume when watching it! There is no sound. This was the first science fiction tale ever filmed to the best knowledge of modern film historians. A Trip to the Moon influenced generations of storytellers in this genre.

if you’d like to watch this film before reading my thoughts about it, click on the link below or hit play. It’s just under 13 minutes long.

A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage Dans la Lun)

Everything after this sentence will contain spoilers.

As you have probably surmised from the title, A Trip to the Moon told the story of a group of men who built a space ship and visited the moon.

One of the things that first grabbed my attention about their adventures were the roles women played in them. Women appeared to be part of the planning and construction committees but did not travel with the main characters to the moon. I would have loved to sit in on the meetings that decided who would play what role in this film.

Screenshot from Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) (1902) in which a rocket ship has wedged itself into the eye of the moon.I’d seen this image floating around online for years but never knew the context of it.

It came as a delightful surprise to finally discover why the moon had a face and, more importantly, why that face had a gigantic space ship sticking out of it.

There was also something interesting about seeing what the film makers thought were important things to bring to the moon.

Granted, this was pretty soft science fiction even for the era in which it was created, but I’d never think to prioritize packing pillows of all things. I suppose that everyone needs to feel comfortable when they fall asleep on the surface of the moon!

This pattern continued throughout the thirteen minutes of lighthearted lunar adventures. While this is thought of as science fiction, I saw so many fantasy influences as well. It made me wonder if those two genres were much more tightly entwined in 1902. I’d bet they were given how many scientific advances humanity had yet to make as well as the fact that this appears to be the first speculative fiction film ever made like I mentioned above!

All of you should absolutely watch this short film. It was a whimsical glimpse into how some people thought 119 years ago. Since we can’t sit down with them and pick their minds, seeing what they created is the next best thing.

Solitary Fear: A Review of Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk

Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk by Frank Cowper. Image on cover is of a sinking ship and a ominous skull in the sky watching it. The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Frank Cowper

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1925 and 2018

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 64 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Reading a ghost story on Christmas Eve was once as much a part of traditional Christmas celebrations as turkey, eggnog, and Santa Claus.

When he finds an abandoned duck punt on Christmas Eve, a hunter rows out into the marsh and comes across a shipwreck. He climbs aboard to explore—and finds himself trapped when a surge snaps the mooring line and his punt floats away. Sleep eludes him, and soon he discovers that he’s not the only one trapped on the derelict ship.

Review:

Content warning: claustrophobic setting. I will not be discussing this in my review.

This tale was set in an era when the social classes were much more divided than they are these days. That is to say, it was a terrible faux pas to befriend people from lower or upper classes. Since the lonely, financially secure main characters lived in an economically depressed area, this essentially meant that they could hire their neighbours to work for them but could never invite them over for something sociable like dinner.

I love being near all sorts of bodies of water, but they can be melancholy places in disagreeable weather. The thought of purposefully going out exploring in a chilly, watery environment on Christmas Eve made me shake my head and wonder what on Earth the protagonist was thinking.

With that being said, the protagonist’s impulsivity and willingness to take unnecessary risks was exactly what this plot needed to push it forward. He was someone I soon grew to like quite a bit even while shaking my head at his total disregard for his own safety.

The eerie thing about this haunting was that it happened in total darkness after the main character accidentally got trapped on the abandoned ship. Imagine hearing frightening sounds, having no way to discover what was making them, and not being able to move out of fear of walking the wrong way and falling through rotten, gap-filled lumber into a freezing sea!

That imagery alone was what earned this story a horror rating. It wasn’t gory at all, but it sure was horrifying.

 

Completing the Set: A Review of The Crown Derby Plate

Book cover for Marjorie Bowen's "The Crown Derby Plate- A Ghost Story for Christmas." Image on cover is of a ghost, tombstone, and house.The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: The Crown Derby Plate – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Marjorie Bowen

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1931 and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Holiday, Historical

Length: 56 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: An antique collector hears of an ancient woman with a large collection of china. Hoping to complete a particular set, the collector pays a visit to the woman’s ramshackle house, where she makes a terrifying, ghostly discovery.

Review:

One of the first things that intrigued me about this short story was that was written about a single woman who was a senior citizen. The speculative fiction genre is sadly pretty short on protagonists who fit that demographic, so I’m always in the market for writers who buck that trend.

Martha, the antique collector, was the character who greedily went off in search of a Crown Derby Plate that was the only piece missing from her prized collection. She struck me as the sort of person who has memorized all of the etiquette rules and social niceties while also having a deep understanding of how to use them to quietly get exactly what she wants. While I’d never want to befriend her, I did find the combination of her impeccable manners and selfish motives to be fascinating.

The paranormal elements of the plot were ridiculously easy to figure out in advance. I’d suspect that anyone who has read more than one ghost story in their life would know where this piece was going as soon as Martha set off to visit her neighbour’s dilapidated estate.  It would have been nice to have fewer clues about what was happening there.

With that being said, I loved the spooky atmosphere of the Hartley’s house. This is one of those things that can quickly make or break a ghost story, and it was done well in this case. Miss Lefain, the frail old woman who lived there, was not well enough to do even simple tasks like dusting, so Martha was in for quite a surprise when she saw how run-down the property was.

While it wasn’t specifically written for these groups, this is something that could be a fun story to read to kids or people learning English as a second language who are in the market for something short, simple, and scary.

An Alluring Trap: A Review of One Who Saw

Book cover for A.M. Burrage's One Who Saw. Image on cover is of a pair of green eyes with long eyelashes. The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: One Who Saw – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: A.M. Burrage

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1931 and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 64 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

A sensitive writer flees the clatter of London for a sleepy French city. After settling in at quiet hotel, he spies a ghostly, solitary young woman weeping in a walled garden, her features hidden from view. Compelled to see the woman’s face, he ventures forward…. Originally published on Christmas in 1931, “One Who Saw” is regarded as A.M. Burrage’s masterpiece.

Review:

Secondhand stories aren’t always correct, but in this case they just might be!

I was expecting Simon Crutchley to tell his tale to the audience directly. The fact that we learned about it through a group of his neighbours gossiping at a dinner party beginning with the opening scene came as a surprise to me, but it somehow made his experiences even more harrowing than they might have already been.

Humans are good at filling in the gaps when they have some information but not necessarily all of it. Simon’s reaction to his paranormal experience was so life-changing that it made sense his neighbours would speculate about it. While I would have loved to read this from his perspective, it did make sense that he wasn’t up for that given what his neighbours described happening to him.

Gardens aren’t supposed to be scary places, so I was intrigued by how much effort the author put into showing how a lack of sunlight can make what should be a cheerful place to sit and write into a spot that anyone looking for some peace and quiet would best avoid.

By far my favourite part of this story had to do with what happened to people who attempted to see the face of the ghost who was sitting in the sunless garden. This wasn’t something that hauntings typically include, and it added a twist to the plot that I appreciated.

One Who Saw was deliciously chilling. I’d recommend it to everyone who loves ghost stories.

Stained Property: A Review of The Red Lodge

Book cover for H.R. Wakefield's The Red Lodge. Image on cover shows a lodge on a hill. The sky behind it is red and either sun or moon is half-behind the house.

The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: The Red Lodge – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: H.R. Wakefield

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1928 and 2018

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 32 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Reading a ghost story on Christmas eve was once as much a part of traditional Christmas celebrations as turkey, eggnog, and Santa Claus.

The Red Lodge is a magnificent Queen Anne house, the ideal rental for a young family on a much-needed holiday. But something is wrong at the Red Lodge. What caused the drownings of so many previous occupants? What dark presence lurks in the river? Why has the son grown sullen and afraid?

Review:

Some places are too evil for human occupancy.

One of the most fascinating things about living in or visiting an old house is researching the former owners and what their lives were like. Generally, this sort of search yields pretty mundane results, but as you’ve probably already gathered this isn’t one of those occasions. I won’t go into details about how and why The Red Lodge became such a restless and malevolent place, but that backstory really made the plight of the newest occupants even more poignant.

The narrator of this tale deeply loved wife and his young son, so it struck me as odd to see how quickly he brushed away their anxiety about living at The Red Lodge. Change is hard for everyone, so I would have understood if he hadn’t listened the first couple of times. It did feel weird to have a six-year-old and a cherished wife talk about odd things happening in their home and change their habits as a result of them without the father and husband taking note of that. I sure would have liked to have a clearer explanation for whether this was a common occurrence in their family or if the spirit had already begun to warp the main character’s perspective so early on.

While this wasn’t a gory story, there were definitely some awful things that happened at the lodge. I appreciated the way the author hinted at how folks died there instead of describing it in elaborate detail. This was definitely one of those cases where less was more, especially given how reluctant folks would have been to discuss this sort of thing in the 1920s in general.

If you think a property can be stained beyond all hope of repair from the awful things that happened on it, I’d recommend checking out The Red Lodge.

Flickering Hope: A Review of Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel

Title: Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel Author: Seth Tucker Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 25, 2013 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Historical Length: 27 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: A murder in Whitechapel is not uncommon, but the state of the body requires someone… Read More

Suburban Gothic: A Review of The House on Abigail Lane

Title: The House on Abigail Lane Author: Kealan Patrick Burke Publisher: Elderlemon Press (Self-Published) Publication Date: June 17, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary Length: 68 pages Source: I bought it. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: From the outside, it looks like an ordinary American home, but since its construction in 1956, people… Read More

Unlikely Gleaning: A Review of Harvest

I’d like to thank Berthold Gambrel for reviewing this book and bringing it to my attention. Title: Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch Author: Jason H. Abbott Publisher: Blue Boar Press Publication Date: October 7, 2019 Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Holidays Length: 19 pages Source: I received a free copy from the… Read More

Love and Regret: A Review of The Curse of La Llorona

Content warning: deaths of children. I will be discussing this in my review.  The Curse of La Llorona is an American 2019 supernatural horror film set in 1973 about a mother who tries to save her children from a malevolent spirit who is trying to keep them for herself. La Llorona, or The Weeping Woman, is… Read More

House of Secrets: A Review of The Others

The Others is a 2001 gothic paranormal suspense film written, directed, and scored by Alejandro Amenábar about a woman named Grace who was raising her two young children alone in a crumbling, old mansion in Jersey while her husband was away fighting in World War II. After all of her servants mysteriously disappeared, she slowly… Read More