His novel Vril: The Power of the Coming Race drew heavily on his interest in the occult and contributed to the birth of science fiction. It tells the story of a subterranean race waiting to reclaim the surface of the Earth.
The book popularised the Hollow Earth theory and may have inspired Nazi mysticism. Bulwer-Lytton’s term ‘vril’ for an energy source lent its name to Bovril meat extract.
Adopted by theosophists and occultists since the 1870s, ‘vril’ would develop into a major esoteric topic, and eventually become closely associated with the ideas of an esoteric neo-Nazism after 1945. It’s amazing that this all developed from a work of fiction!
The narrator of the novel is a young, wealthy traveller who investigates a chasm in a mine and discovers a subterranean world inhabited by beings resembling angels, called the Vril-ya. They have mental abilities, like telepathy. They use their minds to control a powerful liquid energy called ‘Vril’ which could heal, change and destroy people and things.
He is befriended by a magistrate, his wife, two sons and a daughter, learns the language, adopts the local dress, and begins to settle down. But when he falls in love with the daughter Zee, the father tells the son Taee to kill him. Instead, Taee and Zee take him back to where he came in and help him escape.
The man tries to warn people that one day the Vril-ya will run out of space underground and will claim the surface of the Earth, by violence if necessary.
Get A Brief History of Science Fiction free here!