Wednesday 1 November 2023


The Lure of Atlantis (part 2) Edited by Michael Wheatley


Once in a Thousand Years by Frances Bragg Middleton (published 1935).  The Editor has some fun with this one, first in exploring the genuine identity of the author (usually identified as female but, the Editor believes, probably male). Identifying the source for the basic plot is easier, being inspired by the poem The Lemmings by John Masefield (helpfully included in the text) which concerns longing for the unattainable. 

A group of young men goes for a night-time swim in the Sargasso Sea. One of them, Shane O'Farrell, does not return. Three years later he reappears, greatly changed both physically and mentally. With some reluctance, he is persuaded  by one of his friends to give an account of his adventures - in the land known as Atlantis, among very superior people. This is rather more than a simple adventure story, though. O'Farrell starts talking about some "principles of heredity"; among them the idea that if two people were both physically and mentally identical, then they would share memories. Eventually, O'Farrell has to choose between remaining with the Atlaneans or returning to his life in our present. 

Child of Atlantis by Edmond Hamilton (published 1937). A honeymooning couple are shipwrecked when their yacht crashes into a large island which suddenly appeared in front of them. It turns out that the island is inhabited by survivors of other shipwrecks, who explain that it is impossible to escape since the island is ruled by "the Master", who can exert mental control over the islanders. The Master turns out to be a massive and ancient metal robot, apparently invulnerable.


The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune by Robert E. Howard (published 1929). A very different style of fiction from the ones seen so far, best described as being within the "sandals, swords and sorcery" fantasy sub-genre. The plot centres on King Kull of Valusia, a powerful and successful monarch who is now becoming bored with life, as "he hears no more the sea-songs heard as a boy on the booming crags of Atlantis". He is approached by one of the girls at his court  who advsises him to seek out Tuzun Thune, a wizard of the Elder Race who lives in Valusia in the House of a Thousand Mirrors. All things are known to him, she says, all of the secrets of life and death, for "he speaks with the dead and holds converse with the demons of the Lost Lands". Eventually Kull is tempted to seek out Tuzun Thune and to look into the mirrors which cover the interior of his House. They show him first a view of the past, populated with archaic monsters, and then of the future, "when the Seven Empires are crumbled to dust and are forgotten. The restless green waves roar for many a fathom above the eternal hills of Atlantis". There is even a helpful sequence: "Ere Atlantis was, Velusia was, and ere Valusia was, the Elder Nations were". Kull becomes fascinated by the mirrors, spending his days staring into them, until he begins to doubt his own existence and very nearly falls into a trap set for him. Rather to my surprise, I found this to be the most interesting and philosophical of the stories in this book.  

A Voyage to Sfanomoë by Clark Ashton Smith (published 1931). Smith was a prolific SFF writer, principally of short stories, many of which are grouped into "cycles", or related families of tales.This one belongs to the Poseidonis cycle, several stories concerning "a great island adjoining the main continent which itself had vanished a vast period before, sank down beneath the waves", the island being the last remnant of Atlantis.  Two brothers, Hotar and Evidon, are faced with the loss of their home due to flooding, and with their advanced knowledge of astronomy seek a remedy to this on another planet. The one they choose is Venus, known to the Atlanteans as Sfanomoë, and the brothers begin the process of designing and building a spacecraft to travel there. They arrive after a journey of many years, and find a wild land with no trace of civilisation, but with spectacularly beautiful flowers with disconcerting capabilities.

Spawn of Dagon by Henry Kuttner (published 1938). This one is an early version of the "sword and sorcery buddy" stories, with a mismatched pair of rogues taking on the Dagon-worshipping evil monsters of the deep in order to defend Atlantis from destruction.


This is a rather more varied collection than most in the British Library's Tales of the Weird anthologies, and provides some remarkable contrasts. This can only reflect a tiny proportion of the published works on the topic - a quick scan of the amazon book store revealed well over a thousand volumes with Atlantis in the title.

The continued interest in the subject is demonstrated by a recent Netflix series Ancient Apocalypse, which argues the case for regarding the myth as being based on fact. Sadly for the romantics among us, professional archaeologists overwhelmingly disagree.