The Time Ship: A Chrononautical Journey


H. G. Wells wasn?t the only nineteenth-century writer to dream of a time machine. The Spanish playwright Enrique Gaspar published El anacron?pete??He who flies against time??eight years before Wells?s influential work appeared. The novel begins at the 1878 Paris Exposition, where Dr. Don Sindulfo unveils his new invention?which looks like a giant sailing vessel. Soon the doctor embarks on a voyage back in time, accompanied by a motley crew of French prostitutes and Spanish soldiers. The purpose of his expedition ...
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The Time Ship: A Chrononautical Journey

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H. G. Wells wasn’t the only nineteenth-century writer to dream of a time machine. The Spanish playwright Enrique Gaspar published El anacronópete—“He who flies against time”—eight years before Wells’s influential work appeared. The novel begins at the 1878 Paris Exposition, where Dr. Don Sindulfo unveils his new invention—which looks like a giant sailing vessel. Soon the doctor embarks on a voyage back in time, accompanied by a motley crew of French prostitutes and Spanish soldiers. The purpose of his expedition is to track down the imprisoned wife of a third-century Chinese emperor, believed to possess the secret to immortality. A classic tale of obsession, high adventure, and star-crossed love, The Time Ship includes intricately drawn illustrations from the original 1887 edition, and a critical introduction that argues persuasively for The Time Ship’s historical importance to science fiction and world literature.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…[The Time Ship] inaugurates one of science fiction’s most potent subgenres, and for this alone, it deserves to be remembered and honored. Moreover, the period illustrations by Francesc Soler are exceptionally charming.”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“…a jolly romp with considerable humour and sly digs at both Spanish and French pretensions.” —Nick Caistor, Times Literary Supplement

“As the first English Translation of this humorous and important work, this book belongs on the shelf along with more famous works of science fiction from the late 19th century, as a reminder of the contributions of less-known but still important Spanish writers to this genre. Recommended” —P.J. Kurtz, Choice

“This is a lovely little slice of genre history. …The Time Ship makes for an entertaining—and in places gleefully subversive—read.... Thanks are due to Wesleyan University Press for supporting its publication, and to all involved for bringing it back to light for modern SF fans.”—Nic Clarke, Strange Horizons

The Barnes & Noble Review

Editors and translators both, Yolanda Molina-Gavilán and Andrea Bell (Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain) have done the whole genre of SF an immense boon by getting into print a long-lost Spanish time-travel tale, The Time Ship: A Chrononautical Journey. But they do not release it naked, instead swaddling it with much informed research and exegesis. What the reader learns is that Enrique Gaspar was a fascinating, cosmopolitan, and urbane figure, highly significant in Spanish literature although mostly forgotten and unknown today, who essayed this Jules Verne-like tale in 1887 for a number of reasons. First, to keep his own fiscal head above water. Second, to satirize follies great and small. And third, to uphold the honor of Spain in all technologically progressive matters. The shapely narrative resulting from these conflated motives is nonetheless organic, authentic, and enjoyable.

Gaspar created the story first as a very specific sort of play, a "zarzuela," or kind of comic operetta, and the structure and character suite of the adapted novel retain that early template. Don Sindulfo, a pompous inventor, is paired with his assistant, young Benjamín, while Clara, Sindulfo's niece — after whom he lusts — has her servant Juanita as chum. Two soldiers, noble Luis and lowborn Pendencia, round out the troupe. They would have all alternated songs onstage, but here the multivalent pairings and regroupings make for a lively banter.

The first chapter sets the scenario: Don Sindulfo launching his temporal expedition from Paris, to much public acclaim. In the next two chapters he lectures on theory, while Chapter 4 gives the back-story of the characters and the creation of the ship. With Chapter 5 we're off and running, as some amorous soldiers sneak onboard the ship and Don Sindulfo contracts with the French authorities to carry back some superannuated prostitutes in order to reinvigorate them. For, you, see, unless one is properly and scientifically insulated, backward time-travel regresses one physically, like Benjamin Button.

Before you can say "Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits," our chronic argonauts are back in imperial China, searching for the secret of immortality, and hubristically hoping to stun the ancients with nineteenth-century knowledge. But their plans go kerflooey, and much farcical action ensues, resulting in a series of further voyages (Pompeii on the eve of destruction, Noachian times, etc) and hairbreadth escapes, until ending at the dawn of cosmological time itself.

Gapsar's work exhibits much humor and genuine speculation — although the latter has been since undermined. He finds human nature eternally perverse, and harkens to Voltaire's wry philosophy. Additionally, we get curious foreshadowings of the twenty-first- century phenomenon of "atemporality," where the past becomes a grab bag of disassociated tchotchkes freed from the original context. A charming and pertinent ancestor of modern SF, this worthy novel, overlooked for a century, will no longer be forced to hide its light of other days under a bushel.

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, andThe San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819572387
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 7/5/2012
  • Series: Early Classics of Science Fiction
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

ENRIQUE GASPAR (1842–1902) was a Spanish diplomat and pioneer of social theater. YOLANDA MOLINA-GAVILÁN is a professor of Spanish at Eckerd College. ANDREA L. BELL is a professor of Spanish and Latin American studies at Hamline University. Molina-Gavilán and Bell are the coeditors of Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Time Ship’s Place in the History of Science Fiction
In Which It Is Proved That FORWARD Is Not the Byword of Progress
A Lecture within Everyone’s Reach
Theory of Time: How It Is Made, How It Is Unmade
Which Deals with Family Affairs
Cupid and Mars
The Vehicle as School of Morality
Retroactive Effects
The Gradual Reduction and Ultimate Elimination of the Army
In Which a Seemingly Insignificant Yet Greatly Important Incident Takes Place
A Bit of Tiresome, Though Necessary, Erudition
Forty-eight Hours in the Celestial Empire
Nineteenth-century Europe Meets Third-century China
An Unexpected Guest
The Resurrection of the Dead before Judgment Day
Where All Is Explained and All Is Entangled
Bread and Circuses
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
Shipwrecked in the Sky
The Best One; Not Because It’s Better but Because It’s Last
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