Lost Worlds, Found Dangers

Cover, Amazing Stories, May 1949Since the readings themselves were not generating massive amounts of insight for me this week, I started musing about the sub-genre of Lost World tales.  Specifically, I was thinking on how it differs from and overlaps with other related sub-genres:

Since I’m a great big geek, I ended up making a chronological spreadsheet (Lost Worlds mini-bibliography) with landmark Lost World books and associated key terms.

To be fair, prolific authors like H. Ridder Haggard (who I actually quite like) and Edgar Rice Burroughs (whose writing I find pompous) would skew the results strongly if I let them, so I only used a couple of their best-known books each.  I found one correlation that interested me, especially in light of its subversion by Charlotte Perkins Gilman:

  • When the Lost World involves mostly primitive cultures (as perceived by these 1870-1920 Euro-centric authors and their narrators), there is usually very little space dedicated to female characters, and they fall primarily in the “evil old witch” and “innocent noble savage girl” categories.
  • When the Lost World involves  the Lost World involve ancient civilizations, there is almost always a princess, queen, or other woman of power who is both desirable and dangerous.  The inevitably white, male, brawny central protagonist is attracted to her but usually leaves her behind to return to his own world, with some wistfulness but much relief.

Also, the four stock locations for a Lost World are:

  • Legendary islands
  • Remote continental interior (South America, Central Asia, Africa or Antarctica)
  • The Hollow Earth
  • Other planets.

As we run out of unexplored places on Earth, Lost Worlds migrate through the Solar System, then out to other star systems.

Now if I could only fold this into a 320-words essay, and have space for some reflections…

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