In the early 1600s, the first telescopes were being used by astronomers such as Thomas Harriot in England and Galileo Galilei in Italy. These instruments were often aimed at the Moon. By mid-century, lunar cartographers debated if the Moon’s dark spots were seas, if it had an atmosphere, and if life existed there. Already, the scientific discoveries and debates were inspiring fiction writers to imagine what life on the Moon might be like.
Telescopes improved as the decades advanced. Nonetheless, in 1780, eminent astronomer William Herschel reported on his study of the Moon and noted “the great probability, not to say almost absolute certainty, of her being inhabited. . . .” A new wave of science-fiction writers launched readers to the Earth’s satellite and introduced them to its indigenous people. Over the 1800s, evidence gained from even bigger and better telescopes finally convinced most scientists that the Moon is lifeless — and as telescopic technology waxed, fiction about life on the Moon waned. Featuring works by Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, and other visionaries, Imagining Life on the Moon During the Rise of the Telescope brings this phase of science into clearer focus.
247 pages, trade paperback
Listen to a Sample Story
The last story in the anthology comes from George Griffith’s 1900 magazine serial Stories of Other Worlds. Each installment of this serial spotlights a journey to another world, the first trip being to the Moon. You can listen to a segment of this story here — or right-click on the title to download the .mp3 for offline listening. Visit the Tales Told When the Windows Rattle page for more readings!
(Visit the Tales Told When the Windows Rattle page for more readings.)
Telescopes versus the Moon People
I created a timeline to chart the introduction and development of the telescope interwoven with the history of scientific commentary and fictional works about life on the Moon. I call this illustrated chronology: Telescopes versus the Moon People.
Phantom Traditions Library
Imagining Life on the Moon During the Rise of the Telescope will be the fourth volume in the Phantom Traditions Library, a series of anthologies featuring unusual and forgotten genres of fiction that flourished in the 1800s.
The other volumes are:
- Entranced by Eyes of Evil: Tales of Mesmerism and Mystery
- Echoing Ghost Stories: Literary Reflections of Oral Tradition
- Ghostly Clients & Demonic Culprits: The Roots of Occult Detective Fiction
Future anthologies will feature tales about haunted railroads, polar journeys, and more!