Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Pulp Author Forgotten Out Of His Time

Name one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 1930s whose stuff really was way ahead of its time & very few people are going to name is Laurence Manning . His writing style is pulp & fast the type of fast that one finds in the good science fiction authors of the time. The ideas of The Man who awoke were way ahead of their time. 
   In the 1930's, who was thinking the implications of subjects like computer networks, interstellar travel, atomic power, composite roadways, fossil fuel depletion, societies enslaved by leisure.... immortality?  Laurence Manning was, and left us "The Man Who Awoke", which belongs next to HG Wells' "Time Machine" in the annals of great sci-fi. This could be the best book ever written as far as I'm concerned, as it is succinct and poignant, relevant and idealistic, and a quick read without needless ink. I only wish he wrote more books!
The book was a great read & pretty much did exactly what the cover fee had said. It entertained & combined some really cool little technological ideas. I've seen it available from Amazon for 1.18 plus shipping. 
 From Wiki a quick timeline 
 It was initially serialised in five parts during 1933 in Wonder Storiesmagazine. Later it was published as one complete novel in 1975 by Del Rey/Ballantine.
Norman Winters puts himself into suspended animation for 5,000 years at a time. The stories detail his ensuing adventures as he tries to make sense of the societies he encounters each time he wakes.

[edit]Plot summary

  • 5000 AD. Humanity staggers to save itself amid the world's littered, stagnant wreckage after what has become known as the great Age of Waste.
  • 10,000 AD. The world is dominated by the Brain - the immovable in purpose super computer that knows all, sees all, and feels nothing. Thanks to its cradle-to-grave supervision, human life is easy and comfortable, but what will happen when The Brain realizes people are superfluous?
  • 15,000 AD. People can now program their choice of dreams and sleep their lives away. Winters awakes to find the sleeping outnumber the living. He cannot stop the implosion of civilization by himself.
  • 20,000 AD. After an abused Age of Freedom came an Age of License. Genetic experiment heralded the terrifying Age of Anarchy. Each Individual had his own mobile "City" that provided for all his needs, resulting in a society where people had no need for each other and were incapable of cooperating, resulting in nearly all interpersonal encounters being small wars.
  • 25,000 AD. Scientists discover the secret sought through the centuries – immortality. But is Mankind ready for it? Immortality is frightfully boring without a purpose. Humanity scatters to the far corners of the cosmos seeking knowledge and experience, leading to a quest toward "the meaning of it all."
The novel might be easily dismissed as standard pulp fare if it had not presaged concepts popularized decades later: the sexual revolution, green consumerism, strong AI, full-immersion virtual reality as a surgical procedure (like The Matrix), desktop molecular manufacturing, global warming, and stem cell therapies. Many of these have only appeared in most peoples' worldview in the 21st century.
 My copy of the book sits right along side HG Well's When The Sleeper Awakes but this isn't Wells. Manning jets through his concepts & zooms around the high lights to weave a story that is both engrossing & convincing. Your not going to find much in the way of high plot development but you will find grand concepts.

Who was he?
From Wiki -
Manning was born in St. John, New Brunswick and attended Kings College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the 1920s he moved to the United States. In the USA, he lived primarily on Staten Island, where he began writing short stories for several pulp science fiction magazines. After teaming with SF writer Fletcher Pratt in "City of the Living Dead" in the May, 1930 issue of Science Wonder Stories, he wrote "The Voyage of the 'Asteroid'", which appeared in the Summer 1932 issue of Wonder Stories Quarterly, and The Man Who Awoke, a series of stories that was later published as a novel.
Manning had a passion for rocketry & was one of the presidents & editors for The American Rocket society. He was recognized by the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum as one of the early rocketry pioneers. He retired from the society during the 1940s saying that the hobby had grown up. He was awarded the life time achievement award for the society in 1961 from the VP of the United States Lyndon Baines Johnson. He was also an award winning gardener & ran a mail order garden business. My grand father ordered many a plant from him & often told me about his work. After 1935 he stopped writing science fiction accept for the occasional story.
He was a friend of Fletcher Pratt (who will be covered another time.Fletcher's work in war games should be familiar fare to most of my readers) The man's output for the time he wrote was pretty incredible.Check it out:   

  • City of the Living Dead co-authored with Fletcher Pratt (May, 1930 Science Wonder Stories), reprinted by Gernsbeck Publications in 1939
  • The Voyage of the Asteroid (Summer, 1932 Wonder Stories Quarterly)
  • Wreck of the Asteroid, Part One (Dec, 1932 Wonder Stories)
  • Wreck of the Asteroid, Part Two (January, 1933 Wonder Stories)
  • Wreck of the Asteroid, Part Three (February, 1934 Wonder Stories)
  • The Man Who Awoke, Part 1 (March, 1933 Wonder Stories)
  • The Man Who Awoke, Part 2 (April, 1933 Wonder Stories)
  • The Man Who Awoke, Part 3 (May, 1933 Wonder Stories)
  • The Man Who Awoke, Part 4 (June, 1933 Wonder Stories)
  • The Man Who Awoke, Part 5 (August, 1933 Wonder Stories)
  • The Call of the Mech Men (November, 1933 Wonder Stories)
  • Caverns of Horror (March, 1934 Wonder Stories)
  • Voice of Atlantis (July, 1934 Wonder Stories)
  • The Living Galaxy (September, 1934 Wonder Stories)
  • The Moth Message (December, 1934 Wonder Stories)
  • The Prophetic Voice (April, 1935 Wonder Stories)
  • Seeds From Space (June, 1935 Wonder Stories)
  • World of the Mist, Part 1 (September, 1935 Wonder Stories)
  • World of the Mist, Part 2 (October, 1935 Wonder Stories)
Laurence Manning & The OSR 

Here's an idea, Imagine a game such as Call of Cthlhu or even a party from say Dungeons & Dragons being put to into suspended animation to watch over their kingdom. The same idea works even better for a game like Human Space Empires. Each slice of a campaign is an adventure. The party awakens during a different time period & has to deal with the ramifications. They might have to make corrections to their time line & might have to travel forward the old fashioned way to see the results. Manning isn't HG Wells & its action not so much the social commentary. I'd say to stick with grand concepts against an action oriented adventure.
  Any science fiction based rpg or even fantasy campaign might work here. The king in the mountain legend might work for a party easily. Here's the idea from wiki- 
King in the mountain stories involve legendary heroes, often accompanied by armed retainers, sleeping in remote dwellings, including caves on high mountaintops, remote islands, or supernatural worlds. The hero is frequently a historical figure of some military consequence in the history of the nation where the mountain is located. See Here 
 This idea could work for Mutant Future where the heroes awaken in another epoch where the fall has happened! Imagine the heroes waking up in the era of the Petal Throne after the whole swallowing by the pocket universe issue!


  1. I've never read any Manning, but it sounds worth checking out.

  2. Well try this little one from Manning & Pratt about VR from 1930! There is a bit of overt racism in the story but then there's more then a bit in Lovecraft & Howard as well.
    Thanks for the comments Trey. I need to know what I'm doing right with this blog or wrong. Please folks let me know your thoughts or opinions!

  3. Thanks for the great reminder~
    A friend recommended 'The Man Who Awoke' to me in college, but I could not turn up a copy, and pretty much forgot about both it and the author. This really fires my interest in completing that quest now~

  4. As usual, great stuff Needles!


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