THE PLANET JUGGLER.
By J. George Frederick.
man who took the stars from their paths and changed the
FAR below appeared the lamps of Madison Square and the lights of windows that looked like illuminated children's blocks, piled high; the twin lights of the vehicles of Fifth Avenue and Broadway moved about like iridescent bubbles in the waters of a stream.
The wireless telegraph operator in the little room in the great white tower was standing by the window, looking idly down upon it all.
Suddenly, without an instant's warning, the room was ﬁlled with an incredulously fast sparking at the apparatus, with ﬂashes of light which thew a ﬁerce, pallid light upon everything. The operator wheeled about, astonished, and strode to the head-piece attached to a cord, which contained the telephonic receiver used for receiving messages in the Morse code.
But before he reached it, the diaphragm of the receiver crackled as if it would burst—as a telephone receiver of ordinary use crackles when lightning hits the wire. Then, to the operator's astonishment and confusion, words came to him from the head-piece, as distinct as though spoken hy a bass voice into his ear in loud tones—though he was ﬁve feet from the tiny receiver. “Hallo, Earth! Hallo, Earth! Do you understand? Hallo, Earth! Hallo, Earth!”—and ran on indeﬁnitely, in Esperanto,
the universal language which was by this time used by all the intelligent classes of the earth.
The operator was half terror-stricken. Never before had a spoken word been transmitted through the receiver. Only dots and dashes from ships, harbor and island stations and transatlantic liners had ever come through it.
The thought struck the operator with professional excitement, after a moment, that perhaps some of the scientists who were perfecting the wireless system had at last made wireless telephony possible for long distances, and that he had accidentally picked up the message.
But the moment be closed the switch, after “cutting in” with his sending apparatus to sound an “O.K.” signature, the same sounds issued from the receiver again:
“Hallo, Earth! Hallo, Earth!”
The operator had imagination, and the strange and queer accent of the voice, and the startling cosmic manner of address, set wild visions moving in his head. But, no, somebody was having fun with the anonymous opportunities of the system, he thought.
For one whole minute the voice kept calling, “Hallo, Earth!” and then it ceased.
Almost instantly thereafter there was a medley of messages in the Morse code. Sandy Hook, Bayonne, Atlantic Highlands—even Cape Cod, and ﬁnally Glace Bay, inquired of each other and everybody:
“Hurrah! Wireless telephony at last?”
“Was that your office?”
“Whose voice was on the wire?”
It took ﬁve minutes before the mystifying information went round that nobody knew anything about it.
This was forming the absorbing topic of gossip over the system, when suddenly communication was cut off abruptly by a. series of high-frequency waves which completely annihilated the systemʼs currents. Once more the strangely accented voice said:
“Hallo, Earth! Hallo, Earth! Do you understand?”
It kept this up for several minutes, and then suddenly it said:
“Call all your rulers of the earth together and have them do as I did before the next moon’s course, or I will cause your entire planet to fall into the sun. Do you understand?”
Then it repeated the same words again, carefully and deliberately.
The operator stood staring at the instrument with dilated eyes and a ﬁxed look of amazement and incomprehension on his face. He dashed off a message to Bayonne, asking, “Did you hear that?”
But before Bayonne had a chance to reply, the high-frequency current again cut in, and the receiver, which the operator could not hold to his ear without pain, said:
“Hallo, Earth! You can talk to me if you get your aerials up twice as high as you are now, and send your spark at right angles from the plane of the earth. Do you understand? Better do it at once.”
Then, once more, it repeated the entire conversation three times.
The operator was completely excited. A clammy perspiration broke out on his face, and he flung open the windows with a nervous jerk. He called Fort Hamilton and Sea Gate, and asked them what they had heard. They replied that they had caught a confused message which they couldn't make out; but they thought that they had been picking up Willenborg’s or some other experimenterʼs trial messages at wireless telephony, and that he was gulling them.
But the operator was not satisﬁed. Evidently he was the only one who had caught and could understand any prolonged conversation from the mysterious sender. Though the time came to shut up the office for the night, he remained at his post, hoping for another message. He waited a half-hour, and then he was rewarded.
“Hallo, Earth! Do you understand?” This was repeated a number of times; and then: “Get to work at once and ﬁx up a station to talk to me. You need higher-powered coils, higher aerials, proper angles, and greater horse-power spark generation. Get your best electrician and let me tell him how to ﬁx it up. Do it at once, or youʼll never have the chance. I can dump the earth into the sun in twenty-four hours, and you’ve got to do as I say. I am talking from
one of the ﬁxed stars—as you call them. I won’t tell you which. Do you understand all that? Hallo, Earth!”
The operator wrote down the words with a feeling of ground sinking underneath him. The cynical part of him was urging him, as he wrote, to regard the thing as a joke; but some imaginative sense strongly induced him to consider it seriously.
“Jove!” he said, as he read the message through after the voice had ceased, “I canʼt stand this. Iʼm going to send for more brains than Iʼve got to face this thing.”
Then he telephoned to the city editor of a newspaper on which he had worked in the telegraph-room. He knew the man personally, but when he told him of the incident, in a half apologetic, half excited voice, the editor laughed uproariously.
“Mac,” he said patronizingly, “for Heavenʼs sake, go home and sleep it off. Donʼt stay in your office and monkey with the instruments in your condition.”
But Mac was so obviously intense and persistent, and talked so rationally, that the editor listened again.
“Send a wireless to Bayonne or anywhere on the coast,” Mac urged with great earnestness, “and if they say they havenʼt received wireless telephone messages which they donʼt understand, then talk to me as if I had ’em; but if they admit having received them, send one of the boys from the staff up, and also any electrical authority you can chase up tonight, and they'll hear something as mysterious as ever I heard in my life.”
“All right, Mac,” said the editor good-naturedly.
Evidently, the editor found something worth investigating after he had consulted the other wireless stations in the New York zone, for shortly afterward he telephoned again, in a more excited voice:
“Iʼm sending up Jones, and Elverson, the big electrical man, whom we found just leaving a banquet. There must be some good story in this thing. Donʼt keep them too long; I want the story for the ﬁrst page.”
He presumed it was some interesting new development in wireless science, nothing more. But the operator was not satisﬁed that it was nothing more, for about every ten minutes the “Hallo, Earth!” call came in on the receiver.
The electrician, who was the countryʼs famous genius at electrical communication of every sort, was only curious and skeptical when he came.
He listened patiently to Macʼs story, with the suggestion of a sardonic smile on his lips, and then went to work to interrogate for himself all the wireless stations. All of them reported actual telephonic messages; but even this did not satisfy him that the operators were not having a little fun; so he questioned two transatlantic liners which had just reported to Sandy Hook, and when they reported the same thing identically, he got to work in earnest.
He was just preparing to ask Clifden—over on the other half of the world—about it, when once more the high-frequency current destroyed everything but its own message:
“Hallo, Earth! Hallo, Earth!”
Elverson, who had every mechanical possibility of the wireless at his ﬁngerʼs end, sat staring at the coils, his hand on the large brass key, with a look of profound amazement gathering on his face. When the voice ceased, he sent his message to Clifden with considerable eagerness. Clifden replied that its lines were working strangely, and that a peculiar current was at intervals dropping a strange noise into the receivers, which sounded like a far-off voice.
Then Elverson sent messages by telegraph over the regular lines to Chicago, and here he learned that a voice was being heard in the receivers, to the astonishment of the wireless operators. They said that the large telegraph companies were reporting trouble with their lines, as if electrical-storms were interfering.
Elverson rang up the New York telephone office, and found that no long-distance line was working satisfactorily. Then once more the current broke in, and at the sound of it the reporter, who had been dozing, sat bolt upright. The voice was stentorian, with a peculiar bass quality.
“Hallo, Earth!” it said. “Get to work at once. Get greater horse-power spark generation, higher-frequency current, and get your aerial up higher. Di-
rect the spark at right angles from the plane of the earth. Do you understand? Then you can talk to me. Do it before the moon gets into your virgin sky next month, or I will drop your whole planet into the sun. I can control every bit of your magnetic rotary power, and put you where I want to.”
When the voice ceased there was a deathlike stillness in the tower-room. Elverson gazed at the telephonic head-piece from which the voice had spoken, as if fascinated by a serpent; his eyes glowed supernaturally in the violet tube-light over the desk. He reached for the copies of the messages the operator had previously received and transcribed, and studied them a long, long time.
Finally the reporter stirred.
“Beg pardon, Mr. Elverson,” he said, “my paper goes to press very soon; what shall I say about this?”
He wore a foolish smile as he talked, for he thought it a joke.
Elverson did not answer for a full minute; then he looked up vaguely.
“Eh?” he inquired, in the tone of a man roused from a deep sleep. “Did any one speak to me?”
The reporter repeated his question.
“You can say,” said Elverson, struggling under strong bewilderment, “that unless I am as crazy as a loon, a Napoleon of the universe on some far-off star has communicated with us, and means to subdue thc earth or destroy it.
“When you go down, please order a lunch for me at a restaurant, and send half a dozen messenger-boys. Iʼm not going away from here until I know exactly whatʼs going on.”
ELVERSON and the operator stayed at the instrument all night. Only repetitions of the previous messages were received, however. Together the two men went over the ground carefully, noting every scientific detail of the mysterious communications and eliminating every possible chance of humbuggery.
As soon as morning came, Elverson sent for a number of fellow scientists, aerial experts, and workmen.
The messages still continued to come at intervals, and by this time the entire country—indeed, the world—was aware that mysterious electrical phenomena of some kind were present, greatly to the detriment of our systems of communication. Crowds of people loitered outside of the wireless offices, and policemen had to be called.
Five scientiﬁc men, including Bardi, the perfecter of wireless systems, and Kale, the authority on telephonic science, sat in the tower-room, gravely listening to the occasional interruptions of the formidable high-frequency current which swept everything before it for four hours. After spending an hour holding communication with various parts of the earth by telegraph telephone, and wireless, on the subject of the electrical disturbances, they went to private dining-room in a near-by hotel and held a conference.
Meantime, on Elversonʼs orders, another room was being equipped by workmen with wireless apparatus, with an aerial extension to the flagpole on the top of the building. Arrangements were made for as high horse power spark generation as modern facilities could produce.
After the scientific men had been conferring for a long time, a new message came from the unknown voice. It was quite lengthy, and it gave minute electrical directions, which the experts read with intense interest. It was completely technical:
“You need exactly 248,000 per second waves. Take your regular city power current, alternating, and polyphase it and quadruple-induct it, and then establish a perfect induction-balance with it in a vacuum.”
There followed complete instructions about getting the proper angle off the plane of the earth, at which to loose the spark; and directions for connecting and protecting the mouthpieces and receivers for conversation.
The ﬁve scientiﬁc men read these words over and over again, and began to draw diagrams. After an hour of absorbing work, Kale, the telephone expert, said, with a rather ﬂushed face:
“Gentlemen, the last doubt has been removed from my mind about the actual-
SOURCE: Frederick, J[ustus] George (1882-1964). The Planet Juggler, The All-Story Magazine, vol. 12, no. 3, November 1908, pp. 508-533. Reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, March 1940, pp. 42-68 (see below for links to full text),
817. THE PLANET JUGGLER. All-Story, November 1908. Nouvelle. * One of the very earliest space operas, setting many of the patterns of later work. * World peril and interstellar war. * Unspecified future, far enough away that Esperanto has become the world language. * A startling message reaches the earth: "Deliver to me five hundred million tons of gold, or else I will drop the earth into the sun." Conversation reveals that the threat-maker is a native of Canopus, and that he has learned Esperanto by monitoring earth for the past ten years. (It is also revealed later that gold is in short supply on Canopus, and that the entity needs it to build an interstellar empire. He plans to exterminate the lesser races of the universe.) * [p. 266, excerpt of entry]
SOURCE: Bleiler, Everet F. Science-fiction, the Early Years: a Full Description of More Than 3,000 Science-Fiction Stories from Earliest Times to the Appearance of the Genre Magazines in 1930, with the assistance of Richard J. Bleiler (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1990), p. 266.
This story is also mentioned in Earliest story with Esperanto future.
Esperanto Saves the World!, Imp of the Diverse (Blog), May 5, 2015.
Background on the author and story, with links to its later serialization in the Washington Times, May 5 - 12, 1910.
The story was reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, March 1940, pp. 42-68, with illustrations on p. 43, 57. This issue can be viewed and downloaded.
Famous Fantastic Mysteries v01 06 - The Blind Spot - Austin Hall can also be viewed but not downloaded at Comic Book Plus. The search function is helpful.
Frank Blighton & the Fourth Dimension
Esperanto in early science fiction to 1930
by Everet F. Bleiler
Esperanto in The Scrap Book, April - June 1907
(with 2 articles by D. O. S. Lowell)
J. U. Giesy (John Ulrich, 1877-1948) & His Collaborators
The Cavalier: Covers & Contents
Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress
& Utopia Literaturo en Esperanto /
Science Fiction & Utopian Literature in Esperanto:
Gvidilo / A Guide
Esperanto & Interlinguistics Study Guide / Retgvidilo pri Esperanto & Interlingvistiko
J. George Frederick - ISFD
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