Prisoner of the Vampires of Mars

Prisoner of the Vampires of Mars

Prisoner of the Vampires of Mars

Prisoner of the Vampires of Mars

Synopsis

Robert Darvel, a young and penniless French engineer at the turn of the twentieth century, is an amateur astronomer obsessed with the planet Mars. Transported by a combination of science and psychic powers to Mars, Robert must navigate the dangers of the Red Planet while trying to return to his fiancée on Earth. Through his travels, we discover that Mars can not only support life but is also home to three different types of vampires. This riveting combination of science fiction and the adventure story provides a vivid depiction of an imagined Mars and its strange, unearthly creatures who might be closer to earthly humans than we would care to believe.

Originally published in French as two separate volumes, translated as The Prisoner of the Planet Mars (1908) and The War of the Vampires (1909), this vintage work is available to English-language audiences unabridged for the first time and masterfully translated by David Beus and Brian Evenson.

Excerpt

William Ambler

I am calling forth formidable powers.
Gustave Le Rouge, Prisoner of the Vampires of Mars

It’s well established that science fiction is a genre that spent many years wandering in the wilderness of ill-repute. Long cast as the undiscriminating purveyors and consumers of adolescent power fantasies and the exploits of bug-eyed monsters, its enthusiasts always found themselves seated around the kids’ table at the literary banquet, popularity serving as cold comfort in the face of critical indifference or—worse yet—derision. Such treatment engendered a number of coping mechanisms. Some ran for the shelter of more respectable terms like “fabulist” or “magic realist.” Others chose to hang their hat on the predictive qualities of the genre: “Arthur C. Clarke anticipated the satellite belt! William Gibson envisioned cyberspace!” Much of this defensiveness is falling away as the genre is incorporated into the literary canon, but it is still invigorating to encounter a volume like Gustave Le Rouge’s Prisoner of the Vampires of Mars and find oneself reminded of the true beating heart that kept the genre alive for so long in the face of widespread scorn: the breathless voice of the creator saying, “Look at this thing that I’ve made—you’ll not find another quite like it anywhere.”

Le Rouge was himself a unique character. He was that rare anticapitalist relentlessly dedicated to putting his (lack of) money where his mouth was. He composed dozens of works in virtually every genre imaginable, many of them going through a number of translations and selling in the hundreds of thousands, but was known to brag about signing over the rights for a pittance up front and eschewing the enormous riches he stood to accrue . . .

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