The Spark of Modernism

Twenty Speculative Stories and Writings That Defined an Era, 1886–1939


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About the Book

Between the years of 1886 and 1939, the world saw the first automobiles, rapid urbanization, the decay of empires, vast economic inequality, the first airplanes and the terrifying secrets of the atom. It was a time of cataclysmic cultural and technological transformation, and spawned the rise of the literary genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror. This work assembles gems of late nineteenth and early twentieth century genre literature, including stories by such literary giants as H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, C. L. Moore, A. Merritt and E. M. Forster, as well as smaller authors like Clare Winger Harris, Marie Corelli, William Hope Hodgson and others. An array of incisive nonfiction pieces on cultural and scientific advances of the time period provides a context for the anthology’s stories.

About the Author(s)

William Gillard teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and is the author of six books. He lives in Appleton, Wisconsin.

James Reitter is an associate professor of English and film studies at Dominican University New York. He publishes poetry in magazines and journals.

Robert Stauffer specializes in medieval and Renaissance literature at Dominican University New York. He has published science-fiction short stories and several articles on baseball.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by William Gillard, James Reitter and Robert Stauffer

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 274
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9109-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4946-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Introduction 1
“The Comet” by W.E.B. Du Bois 7
“Enoch Soames: A Memory of the ­Eighteen-nineties” by Max Beerbohm 19
“The Striding Place” by Gertrude Atherton 43
“Haïta the Shepherd” by Ambrose Bierce 49
“Luella Miller” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman 54
“The ­Ash-tree” by M.R. James 66
“The Bowmen” by Arthur Machen 78
“The Decay of the Ghost in Fiction” by Olivia Howard Dunbar 82
“The Miracle of the Lily” by Clare Winger Harris 88
“With the Night Mail” by Rudyard Kipling 104
“From Beyond” by H.P. Lovecraft 122
“The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster 129
“Rust” by Joseph E. Kelleam 156
“The Rhythm of the Spheres” by A. Merritt 165
“The Death of a Saint” by Evelyn Underhill 176
“The Electric Creed” by Marie Corelli 183
“The Searcher of the End House” by William Hope Hodgson 194
“What Pragmatism Means” by William James 215
“Spear and Fang” by Robert E. Howard 230
“The Black God’s Kiss” by C.L. Moore 238
For Further Reading 263
Index 265

Book Reviews & Awards

• “An excellent anthology for a number of reasons: the spread of stories and authors draws from seemingly disparate backgrounds, but in a way that cuts across generic markers which have become a bit too pat. Here we have science fiction, horror, and fantasy presented together, rather than rolled back into their now conventional stalls; the arbitrary divides between ‘popular’ and ‘literary’ fiction are questioned by way of the editors’ discussion of the work in terms of Modernism. For course use, this anthology would be great in both genre and general fiction contexts. But most importantly, it is a great collection of stories, some fairly common, but many less well known.”—Jamie Williamson, author of The Evolution of Modern Fantasy: From Antiquarianism to the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series

• “The Spark of Modernism explores how turn-of-the-century American and British speculative authors used tales of other worlds and times as funhouse mirrors to engage some of the most pressing scientific and social issues of their day—many of which are still with us in the contemporary moment. Editors Bill Gillard, James Reitter, and Robert Stauffer have curated a lively and comprehensive volume that features science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories by genre luminaries alongside pieces from writers more often thought of as scientists, philosophers, political activists, and journalists. Complete with detailed biographies that make the authors and their works come alive for modern audiences, this book is a must-read for science fiction scholars and fans alike. Highly Recommended!”—Lisa Yaszek, Regents Professor of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech

• “A wonderful, indeed sense-of-wonder-full, collection of classic speculative fiction: some famous pieces, some less well known to day, but all brilliantly readable and illuminating. There’s not a dud in the whole. Not only is this anthology a delight to read, it also establishes a fascinating and original throughline into Modernism as such, reframing how we think about that movement. Highly recommended.”—Adam Roberts, author of The History of Science Fiction

• “Editors Gillard, Reitter, and Stauffer should be commended for assembling an anthology that offers a fresh look at an important era in the history of science fiction and fantasy. In addition to classic stories by W. E. B. Du Bois, E. M. Forster, and Rudyard Kipling…their collection is both enlightening and entertaining”—Gary Westfahl, author of The Rise and Fall of American Science Fiction, from the 1920s to the 1960s