Saturday, May 22, 2010

“The Blindman’s World,” an 1886 short story by Edward Bellamy

Thanks to the Google Books project, you can read or download Edward Bellamy’s oft-forgotten short story “The Blindman’s World” as it was originally published in the November 1886 issue of The Atlantic Monthly magazine. The plot revolves around Professor S. Erastus Larrabee, an astronomer who collapses at his telescope and enters a trance-like state for several hours. Later, the professor realizes that his spirit journeyed to Mars, a utopian planet inhabited by a human, English-speaking, scientifically advanced race called the Martials who have complete foreknowledge of their own future. The opening lines:

THE NARRATIVE to which this note is introductory was found among the papers of the late Professor S. Erastus Larrabee, and, as an acquaintance of the gentleman to whom they were bequeathed, I was requested to prepare it for publication. This turned out a very easy task, for the document proved of so extraordinary a character that, if published at all, it should obviously be without change. It appears that the professor did really, at one time in his life, have an attack of vertigo, or something of the sort, under circumstances similar to those described by him, and to that extent his narrative may be founded on fact. How soon it shifts from that foundation, or whether it does at all, the reader must conclude for himself. It appears certain that the professor never related to any one, while living, the stranger features of the experience here narrated...

A lengthy quote from “The Blindman’s World” appears in scholar Gary Westfahl’s Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits (2005).

According to one literary critic, Bellamy’s “The Blindman’s World” “anticipates the utopian impulse more fully realized years later in Looking Backward” (1888).

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