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book reviews Conan Doyle's Science Fiction Arthur Conan Doyle. The Annotated Lost World. Roy Pilot and Alvin Rodin, eds. Indianapolis: Wessex Press, 1996. xxiii + 264 pp. $34.95 ALTHOUGH SHERLOCK HOLMES is his best-known creation, Arthur Conan Doyle himself preferred Professor Challenger, that epitome of egocentricity who is his second most memorable character. Challenger first appeared in a science fiction novel, The Lost World, in 1912. At that time, the science fiction genre was still evolving. The novels of Jules Verne had appeared in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and H. G. Wells, in books like The Time Machine (1895) and The War of the Worlds (1898), had shown that scientific romances could be entertaining but at the same time comment on society. The Lost World was the next work of science fiction of any significance. Like Wells, Doyle wrote in clear, vigorous prose and, with a literary flair, fused satiric observations and exciting adventure. He was the first to make extensive use of the encounter of modern men with prehistoric life, and coined the phrase "lost world" for an isolated geographical location where prehistoric creatures had survived into the twentieth century. Professor Challenger is a lively, amusing figure, constantly embroiled in scientific disputes. His character provides the focus for a satiric portrayal of the geological and anthropological controversies that racked Victorian and Edwardian schools of scientific learning. Doyle has great fun describing the unruly skirmishes between rival scientists, skewering the pretensions and posturing of the speakers and their detractors at public lectures. The formidable intellectual arrogance of Professor Challenger is completely deflated when he meets a savage ape-man who is almost his physical twin. Doyle's satire is effective, never harsh, and often displays flashes of genuine humor. For their text, Pilot and Rodin use the 1912 British first edition, checked against the original serialization of the story in the Strand Magazine and the American first edition. In their introduction and various appendices, they discuss the origin, sources, and development of Doyle's novel. They indicate that as early as 1910 Doyle conceived the idea of an adventure story about explorers finding a plateau in the jungles of South America. His interest in paleontology had been aroused by the discovery of fossil iguanodon tracks in a quarry near his home in Sussex. Doyle's imagination may have worked overtime as he contemplated his novel; once, while aboard ship, he believed he saw a living 481 ELT 40:4 1997 ichthyosaurus. The geographical location for Doyle's imaginary lost world was probably one of two recently discovered plateaus, Mount Roraima in Venezuela or the Ricardo Franco Hills in Brazil. The editors also discuss men from whom Doyle may have copied the eccentric and obnoxious characteristics of Professor Challenger, as well as possible models for other characters. In The Annotated Lost World the editors reproduce illustrations from various early versions of the novel. These include the drawings of Harry Rountree for the original serial in the Strand Magazine, those of Joseph Clement Coll for the American serialization in the Sunday Magazine, and an occasional illustration from the first British and American book editions. Illustrations, especially those in the Strand, were important to Doyle. He often gave minute instructions to Rountree, urging him to follow carefully the reconstructions of dinosaurs in Extinct Animals (1905) written by his friend, naturalist Edwin Ray Lankester. In Appendix B, Pilot and Rodin discuss a special group of photographs, conceived and supervised by Doyle. While examining Doyle materials in the Berg Collection of The New York Public Library, the editors discovered four boxes containing some of these photographs together with Doyle's notes for them and directions to photographer W H. Ransford. To make these pictures, some of which appeared in the Strand serialization and in the first edition of The Lost World, Doyle, Ransford, and a third person had disguised themselves in appropriate dress as the four explorers of The Lost World. Doyle wore a large bushy beard to portray Professor Challenger. Ransford played two parts, but with trick photography put together composite photos. Among the artifacts was the "actual mustache" used by Ransford. Surely Doyle must have enjoyed fooling his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 481-483
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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