These three sci-fi novels from the dawn of the twentieth century are among the first works of fiction to imagine visiting other planets.
A Honeymoon in Space: Lenox, the Earl of Redgrave, has invented a flying ship with the power to break free of Earth’s gravity. But before taking to the stars, he has some personal business to attend to—namely, wooing an old flame. The lady in question is Zaidie, a woman about to be forced into a loveless marriage. Stealing her away, Lenox takes her out of this world. George Griffith’s accounts of other planets are spectacularly imaginative—from subterranean civilizations on the moon to the warlike Martians to the musical inhabitants of Venus.
A Journey in Other Worlds: This philosophical sci-fi novel by John Jacob Astor follows a stockholder of the Terrestrial Axis Straightening Company across the solar system. On Jupiter, Astor creates a world of gushing volcanoes, crashing waterfalls, and otherworldly flora and fauna. In contrast, his Saturn is an introspective land. Astor’s vision of a future with levitating trains, a police force equipped with cameras, and an interconnected network of phones, solar power, wind power, and air travel is astonishingly prescient.
A Princess of Mars: An Arizona prospector, John Carter suddenly finds himself transported to Mars in the first novel of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom series. The shift in gravity gives Carter superhuman powers—and he’ll need them! The red planet, called Barsoom by its inhabitants, is in the grips of civil war. To save the legendary Princess Dejah Thoris, Carter must defeat legions of giant, four-armed, green barbarians and travel thousands of miles across a landscape populated with monstrous flora and fauna.