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Volume 1515


By Den Valdron


Farley's Flyers of Pellucidar

I'd like to take a moment or two to look at Ralph Milne Farley's Radio Flyers, with perhaps a note or two to his Radio Gun-Runners.

I've written about Ralph Milne Farley in Radio Free Venus and I'll happily refer you to that article.  I feel no special need to repeat myself at length.   Instead, I'll simply note that after Otis Adelbert Kline, Ralph Milne Farley was  probably the most interesting of the Burroughs imitators.  Where Kline worked jungle men, Mars and Venus, Farley worked Venus and Pellucidar. Alternately, I've also written a couple of essays on the origins of Pellucidar in pseudo science and in fiction, and I'll happily refer those to you as well.   On the other hand, you don't need to read any of these to get through this.

Ralph Milne Farley (actually Roger Sherman Hoar) wrote a trio of novels, the Radio Man series, in the 1920s, set on Venus which were very very reminiscent of Burroughs Martian stories.   From there, he'd written an alien invasion novel that tied to his Venus trilogy, and eventually returned in the late '30s to a couple of Radio Man adventures.

Along the way, he wrote an inner world novel titled The Radio Flyers   Essentially, the story is that a Chicago newspaperman sends a couple of intrepid aviators, Eric Redmond and Angus Selkirk to fly to the north pole and back. 

Now, there'd been expeditions to the pole before, but this was the 1920s, when people were inventing new aircraft every other week and were always in the news for flying from one place to another place.  It was the age of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhardt.

Things don't go so well, because once they reach the polar region, they get lost.   Even worse, they crash.   Separated Eric drifts on the ice floes.  But instead of freezing to death, he finds themselves entering warmer waters.   Their ice melts, he makes it to shore, and there he discover Vikings and Cavemen.

The Vikings are Christian settlers of Greenland, whose ship had drifted into the interior world.  The Cavemen are actually inuit.  Or more precisely, they're the ancestors of the Inuit people, who according to this, were originally inner world dwellers who drifted into the frigid outer world and adapted.

Eric, who knows a bit of Swedish, manages to communicate with the Norsemen, hooks up with the local beauty queen/chief's daughter, Helga, rescuing her from some cavemen.   It turns out that the girl is accident prone: At one point, a giant pterodactyl tries to fly off with her, and at another point, a seven foot ape man tries to abduct her, if that's not bad enough, traitorous Vikings want her for themselves, so its just as well Eric is around.  They get captured, they escape, Eric figures out Hess inside the world.   There are woolly mammoths, glyptodonts and giant sloths, life is pretty primitive.   Luckily, there's a bright interior sun to keep everything lit.

Angus shows up in the airplane, having had his own adventures, and the two friends have a reunion.   Of course, Helga gets lost again, and more adventures happen.   She's abducted by a pterodactyl but manages to kill it herself.  Angus hooks up with Astroo, a Skraeling Princess, which is good, but their airplane runs out of gas, which is bad.   They decide to build hang gliders, using pterodactyl leather for their material.

Then they hook up with Helga's Norse people, but that gets complicated, because there's a big battle with the Skraelings, and some ambitious Vikings side with the Skraelings so that they make themselves the rulers of the Vikings.

Eventually, everything works out though, and Angus and Eric settle down to a happy life with their savage Princesses and adapt to this new world quite nicely.   So much for the Radio Flyers.

Unfortunately, of the Radio Gun Runners, we know very little.   On Bill Hillman's Erbzine, there's a passage discussing Farley, where it is noted that the characters in the Radio Gun-Runners figure out that they're entering the inner world by reading the Radio Gun Runners in Argosy magazine.   So, obviously, it's a sort of sequel to Radio Flyers, set in Farley's Pellucidar, but that's as far as we can get.

Farley liked to do stuff like that.  The Radio Flyers itself references the Radio Man adventures and publications in Argosy.   The chronicler of both the Radio Flyer and Radio Man adventures is the same fictional Robert Milne Farley, and we must assume that they're both ‘true’ chronicles to each other.

In the Radio Beasts, Myles Cabot returns to Earth and mentions that Hess read the chronicles of his adventure as Radio Man, published in Argosy.   Then again in the Radio Man Returns, various persons challenge the fictional Farley on the reality of Myles Cabot.

It's a neat literary conceit that tends to tie his worlds together.   The inner world or Farley's Pellucidar of the Radio Flyers and Radio Gun-Runners is in the same universe as Farley's Venus.  I suppose that means that if his Venus is the same planet as Burroughs Venus, then his inner world must be in the same universe as Burroughs Pellucidar stories.

But the point is that the Radio Gun-Runners is clearly a second hollow world story or novel from Farley, and almost certainly set in the same continuity as the Radio Flyers themselves.  Beyond that, however, I can say nothing more about it.

Indeed, there's even an interesting side note.  There is at least one substantial pastiche on the web which has Farley's and Burroughs Pellucidarean characters meeting up and having an adventure together.  I believe its called Vikings in Pellucidar

You'll recall that when we looked at Mars, these sorts of crossovers were pretty frequent, for Venus, they're nonexistent.   A crossover for Pellucidar...  Interesting.

All right, so let's take a look at Farley's inner world.   It's peopled by Vikings who've sailed in from Greenland, and by Skraelings, stone age savages who have given rise to the Inuit of the outer world.   The inner world is a tropical paradise with a twenty-four hour sun at its center.  Among the creatures mentioned are glyptodonts, giant sloths, woolly mammoths, eohippus, a seven foot tall gorilla-man and pterodactyls.   The biggest of the pterodactyls is robust enough to carry a human away. 

Let's just give it up.   This is Pellucidar, no ifs ands or buts, and we all know it.   Farley knows it and Burroughs knew it.   There's actually a reference which can be found in Erbzine 0987:

THE SCIENCE FICTION FAN (1939 science fiction fanzine) vol. 4 #4, whole number 39. 5 ½ x 8 ½, 20 pages. Ditto printing.   Article by Ralph Milne Farley on how he and Edgar Rice Burroughs read the same book and were each inspired to write different stories by it (in Farley's case The Radio Flyers). He even quotes a letter he had received from ERB.

That book was undoubtedly Marshall B. Gardner's privately published manuscript, Journey to the Earth's Interior,  printed originally in 1913 and reprinted expanded to 456 pages only a few years later.   According to Gardner, the Earth was hollow, it was a shell 800 miles thick, with 1400 mile openings at each pole.   Inside, there was a sun, 600 miles in diameter, giving life and heat perpetually to the inner world.  Other planets were built the same way, the Martian ice caps were evidence that Mars was hollow.  By this time, of course, there had actually been several expeditions to the North Pole and the South Pole.   Gardner worked hard to argue that they never actually made it.  Apart from that, he was pretty much making the same sorts of arguments as his predecessors.

Gardner's book, of course, allows Farley to offer up a fig leaf of deniability.   Apparently, he and Burroughs corresponded over this and Farley maintained that he took his inspiration from the same book that Burroughs did, probably Gardner's work of pseudoscience, written in 1913 and revised, expanded and reprinted in 1926.

Well, okay, fair enough.  Except that At the Earth's Core was published in 1914-15 and Pellucidar came out around a year later.   Tanar of Pellucidar and Tarzan at the Earth's Core appeared in magazines in 1928-1929.

The Radio Flyers appears in 1929.   The Radio Gun Runners appears subsequently.   This is after Burroughs has chugged out no less than four Pellucidar novels, including one which crosses over with his most famous creation, Tarzan.

Farley is a huge fan of Burroughs, and his Radio series is pretty much a homage to Burroughs Martian series, and he was also a friend of Burroughs.   So, are we expected to believe that Farley never read the Pellucidar novels, wasn't inspired by them?   Come on, who is kidding who here?  No, instead he claims he took his inspiration from Gardner.

Yeah, and Otis Adelbert Kline's Jan and Tam took nothing from Tarzan, and Kline's Martian novels have no resemblance to Barsoom.

Did Farley take nothing from Gardner's book?  Well, I'll put it this way.  What I think he took from Gardner was the license.   Gardner gave him a kind of plausible deniability, grounds to say he wasn't working in Burroughs world, but merely taking his inspiration from the same source, producing a similar work.   Yeah, right.  Whatever.   I'm pretty sure that Farley didn't get his gorilla-man and pterodactyls from Gardner, no way, no how. 

There's a certain justification to Farley.   Remember that basically, all these writers were working in shared worlds, worlds that were grounded in the reality of the time, in the social narratives and concepts of the time known to readers as well as writers.   The wild west was a shared world, the mysterious Orient was a shared world, darkest Africa, old dying Mars and young thriving Venus.  These were all places that existed as shared landscapes irrespective of their realities.   Africa wasn't dark, the West had only been briefly wild, Mars and Venus would turn out to be quite unlike our concepts.  But each of these places meant something to people, they had a look, a feel, a sort of landscape and history associated with each. 

Pellucidar, or Gardner's Hollow Earth,  was another one of these shared worlds.   It was a minor one, but there was an evolved vision, a narrative, a sort of consensus landscape there.   So Farley had a fig leaf to hide behind.

Of course, the trouble is that Burroughs vision became more famous and more pervasive than Gardner's ever was.  Even more than Burroughs Barsoom shaped the visions of Mars, Burroughs Pellucidar defined and described the inner world.

Look, it's been a long time, everyone is dead, the copyrights have expired, so we may as well just fess up and be honest about the whole thing. The Radio Flyers and Radio Gun-Runners are just a couple of  Pellucidar novels from a contemporary and peer of Burroughs.   Let's just call it what it is.


The Radio Man ~ Argosy All-Story Weekly: June 28, 1924 
The Radio Beasts ~ Argosy All-Story Weekly: March 21, 1925
The Radio Planet ~ Argosy All-Story Weekly: June 26, 1926
The Radio Flyers ~ Argosy: 1929
The Radio Gun-Runners Argosy: 1930
The Radio Menace ~ Argosy: June 7, 1930
Caves of the Ocean ~ Argosy January 17, 1931  (4 parts)
The Radio Pirates ~ Argosy August 1, 1931
The Danger from the Deep ~ Astounding August 1931 
The Radio War ~ Argosy July 2, 1932 (5 parts)
The Golden City ~ Argosy May 13, 1933 
The Immortals ~ Argosy November 17, 1934 (6 parts)
Eric of Aztalan ~ Golden Fleece January 1939 
Liquid Life ~ Thrilling Wonder Stories October 1936 
Pe-Ra, Daughter of the Sun ~ Amazing July 1939 
The Hidden Universe ~ Amazing Nov, December 1939
The Living Mist ~ Amazing August 1940 
City of Lost Souls (with Al P. Nelson) ~ Fantastic Adventures July 1941
The Immortality of Alan Whidden ~ Amazing February 1942 
Holy City of Mars (with Al P. Nelson) ~ Fantastic Adventures May 1942 
The Radio Minds of Mars Part 1 & 2 ~ Spaceway Science Fiction 1955 & 1969
Ralph Milne Farley in GOLDEN FLEECE 
Ref: PULPDOM #20, December 1999
January 1939 brought the magazine's first complete novel, "Eric of Aztalan" by Ralph Milne Farley which scored a trifecta, winning the cover painting, the inside cover and the lead position.  Not to mention 11 of the issue's 32 interior illustrations.  Farley was first and foremost a science fictioneer; all of his work had a touch of the fantastic.  This one was a Vikings in America tale; ten years earlier he had done a Vikings at the Earth's Core novel, "The Radio Flyers" for Argosy.  In the story Eric Thorfinnsson and his uncle Black Harold lead a band of Norsemen across the Great Lakes and into the wilderness of Wisconsin, where they encounter a tribe of Ontonogan Indians and a stone city of the Mayans, an outpost far from their Cnetral American homeland.  The Mayans believe Eric to be the incarnation of their god Quetzalcoatl.  Eric falls for a lovely Indian girl, Wenona, the sister--though he does not know this--of his blood-brother Dacori.  Battles rage, the Indians prove to be both allies and enemies, and Eric evenutally raids the Mayan fortress, where all three are captured and prepared for sacrifice.  In order to save Wenona and Dacori, Eric agrees to remain with the Mayans as the living embodiment of their god.  And here, abruptly, the story stops with almost nothing resolved.  Either this was the first half of a much longer novel or Farley was baiting the hook for a sequel.  But if Eric's further adventures in Aztalan ever saw print it wasn't in GOLDEN FLEECE.

The Flashlight Brigade ~ Amazing Detective Tales: June 1930 
The Vanishing Man ~ Amazing Detective Tales August 1930 
Another Dracula? ~ Weird Tales September October 1930 
The Man from Ouija Land ~ Mind Magic July & Aug 1931
The Time-Traveler ~ Weird Tales August 1931 
The Astral Menace ~ Mind Magic September 1931
Dangerous Love ~ Mind Magic
The Hieroglyphics ~ My Self November 1931
Abductor Minimi Digit ~ Weird Tales January 1932
The Degravitator ~ Amazing March 1932 
The Whistle ~ Weird Tales November 1932 
Spilling the Atoms ~ Science Fiction Digest October 33
The "Rexme!" ~ Fantasy Magazine July 1935 
Annabel Reeves ~ Marvel Tales Summer 1935 
The Man Who Met Himself ~ 1935
Smothered Seas (with Stanley G. Weinbaum) ~ Astounding Jan 1936 
Backward Time-Traveling Impossible (article) ~ Fantasy Mag Jan 1936
Treadmill of Doom ~ Spicy Mystery April 1936 
Black Light ~ Astounding August 1936 
Vallisneria Madness ~ Weird Tales May 1937 
A Month a Minute ~ Thrilling Wonder Stories December 1937 
The House of Ecstasy ~ Weird Tales April 1938 
Invisible Bomber (as Lieut. John Pease) ~ Amazing June 1938
Time for Sale ~ Amazing August 1938 
Horror's Head (as Lieut. John Pease) ~ Amazing Oct 1938
Beauty and the Beast ~ Science Adventure Stories #1 1938 
Major McCrary's Vision ~ Strange Stories February 1939 
The Stratosphere Menace ~ Weird Tales March 1939 
The Bottomless Pool ~ Strange Stories April 1939 
The Radio Man Returns ~ Amazing June 1939 
Mystery of the Missing Magnate ~ Weird Tales October 1939 
Conquest of the Impossible (article) ~ Startling Stories Nov 1939 
Watch Your G's (article) ~ Stardust March 1940 
The Time-Wise Guy ~ Amazing May 1940 
Rescue Into the Past ~ Amazing October 1940 
Test Tube Twin ~ Weird Tales January 1941 
The Time Capsule ~ Astonishing Stories April 1941 
I Killed Hitler ~ Weird Tales July 1941 
Wings of Death ~ Weird Tales September 1943 
The Man Who Lived Backwards ~ Fantasy Book #7 1950
Stranded in Time ~ The Omnibus of Time, FPCI: Los Angeles, 1950
Revenge of the Great White Lodge ~ Omnibus of Time, FPCI, 1950 
Man Who Could Turn Back the Clock ~ Omnibus of Time, FPCI, 50
After Math ~ The Omnibus of Time, FPCI, 1950

At the Earth's Core: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
At the Earth's Core: eText
At the Earth's Core Art
At the Earth's Core: Japanese Art
At the Earth's Core: Nkima's Notebook
Pellucidar: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
Pellucidar: eText
Pellucidar Art
Tanar of Pellucidar: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
Tanar of Pellucidar: Mahlon Blaine Art
Tarzan at the Earth's Core C.H.A.S.E.R.
Back to the Stone Age C.H.A.S.E.R.
Back to the Stone Age Art by John Coleman Burroughs I
Back to the Stone Age Art by John Coleman Burroughs II
Land of Terror C.H.A.S.E.R.
Land of Terror Art by John Coleman Burroughs I
Land of Terror Art by John Coleman Burroughs II
Land of Terror Synopsis and Commentary
Land of Terror and Savage Pellucidar Art
Land of Terror and Savage Pellucidar Art: Large Images
Savage Pellucidar C.H.A.S.E.R.
Savage Pellucidar: Nkima Chat I
Savage Pellucidar: Nkima Chat II
Pellucidar Dust Jackets I: Large Images
Pellucidar Dust Jackets II: Large Images
Vintage News Clippings:
Is There A World Inside Of The World? Chicago Tribune ~ August 3, 1913
Dr. Teed Thinks It a Hollow Sphere and That We All Live Inside It
Into the Heart of the World After Andree Chicago Trib ~ Oct. 3, 1909
Vikings in Pellucidar: 1932 Pastiche
At the Core of Mars: A Novel by Seth Kallen Deitch
Cydonia Art

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