Jane Wells Webb Loudon (1807-1858) was an English author who wrote before the term ‘science fiction’ was invented. She was classified as Gothic, fantasy or horror. Her father lost his fortune and died penniless when she was only 17, and she decided to raise some money by publishing a novel she had written.
She said, ‘I had written a strange, wild novel, called the Mummy, in which I had laid the scene in the twenty-second century, and attempted to predict the state of improvement to which this country might possibly arrive.’
Like many female writers at the time, she published the book anonymously. John Louden wrote a good review of it, thinking the author was a man. He sought out the author, and met Jane in 1830. They married a year later.
Jane’s novel was building on the earlier Frankenstein novel (see last week’s post) and the current fascination with Egyptian history, sparked by Napoleon’s Egyptian campaigns. However, unlike the Frankenstein monster, the hideous revived Cheops makes friends and gives sage advice on politics and life to them. Also, the mummy specifically says he is allowed life by divine favour, rather than being given life by science.
Many early science fiction books set in the future are full of fantastical dreamed-up ideas. Jane visualised advances in existing science, society and even fashion. She thought surgeons and lawyers might be steam-powered automatons, and even predicted a kind of internet. Some of her predictions have since been described as prophecies.
She only published one other fiction book, the semi-fictional Stories of a Bride. Interested in her husband’s field of agriculture and gardening, her other books were gardening manuals for laymen and women which were enormously popular.
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