SERVISS, Garrett P(utman)
(1851-1929)
   US journalist and writer who majored in science at Cornell University, then studied law, and only afterwards entered journalism, working on 2 New York newspapers before moving into freelance writing and lecturing. His speciality was ASTRONOMY; his Other Worlds (1901) was a significant work of popular science. In 1897 he was commissioned to write an unofficial sequel to an equally unofficial US newspaper recasting of H. G. WELLS's THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1898), which was then making aconsiderable stir as a newspaper and magazine serial, and - in the absence of adequate copyright protection - inspiring various imitations along the way. GPS's "sequel" was Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898 The New York Journal; 1947; cut vt Forrest J. Ackerman Presents Invasion of Mars 1969),a tale which quite remarkably captured the ebullient US spirit of the time. Edison himself (EDISONADE) is the protagonist. After the first wave of Martians have duly perished of bacteria, he invents a disintegrating WEAPON and an ANTIGRAVITY machine, using the latter to power 100SPACESHIPS he has persuaded the nations of the world to build. The armada invades MARS, and after many battles causes its polar icecap to melt, which results in a genocidal flood. The book was one of the first edisonades to be written for adults, and perhaps the only adult presentation of the entrepreneurial inventor to mention his name on its title page. In details of plot, and in its triumphal narrative tone, it closely prefigured the SPACE-OPERA edisonades of E.E. "Doc" SMITH and his imitators.GPS's remaining sf is intermittently vivid, but lacks the seemingly unconscious mythopoeic potency of his first. In The Moon Metal (1900), set in 1940, a mysterious figure supplies the world with a rareuntraceable metal which serves, for a while, as a new fiscal standard (MONEY). "The Sky Pirate" (1909 The Scrap Book) features thesuperscientific exploits of the eponymous adventurer. A Columbus in Space (1909 All-Story Magazine; rev 1911) features another pioneering SPACEFLIGHT, this time to VENUS. The Second Deluge (1912) is a DISASTER novel in which the Earth is inundated to a depth of several miles as a result of passing through a "nebula" composed of water; a latter-day Noah, having built an ark, saves all God's creatures and visits the US West, where the President has also been saved. This novel was reprinted 3 times: inAMAZING STORIES (1926), AMAZING STORIES QUARTERLY (1933) and FANTASTIC NOVELS (1948). GPS's last story, The Moon Maiden (1915 The Argosy; 1978 chap), is a dubiously complicated love tale in which it is revealed that lunar beings have been guiding us upwards for millennia. In a sense, GPS was born too soon; born 20 years later he might have become one of the prolific masters of the new sf.
   JC/MJE

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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