Nov 11 2011: Adrift In The Stratosphere by Professor A.M. Low (Abbey Rewards, c.1942)
Aside from the fact that Professor A.M. Low sounds suspiciously like a made-up name, perhaps with a satirical poke at the quality of the pseudo-scientific notions put forth by the potboiler SF novel it adorns in mind, this is a fairly typical production line space thriller, knocking off a bit of Flash Gordon and a dash of Enid Blyton simultaneously, as our heroes venture to Mars, find themselves at war with its inhabitants and return triumphant, after several sketchily related adventures, to Earth.
That they’re painted as schoolboy versions of RAF pilots suggests a certain propaganda function in play as stiff upper lip, common sense and clean-living fortitude conquer all, but I suppose that would be more than excusable in the dark days of the Battle of Britain, when the war with Nazi Germany was very much in the balance, and Britain was – for all the power invested in its Empire – by no means certain to escape invasion or defeat.
As the ‘Foreword’ points out: “the line between possibility and imagination is not easy to define. Wild dreams of flying a few centuries ago have become the commonplace of travel. Electricity, radio, synthetic chemistry and the study of the atom have shown us new worlds, more striking than any fiction. To deny the existence of other worlds is even more vain than to conceive their eventual conquest. For knowledge should teach us above all that every fact is a matter of opinion”.
But apart from offering the philosophical kernel of postmodernism three decades early (demonstrating, as if further proof were needed, that postmodernism was never really much more than an Oedipal recycling of certain modernist tropes anyway) it doesn’t seem likely to persuade anyone (least of all the book’s own author) of even an extremely tenuous plausibility in the storytelling and writing: both would be flattered by use of the word ‘functional’, which may be why ‘aim low’ became the slyly deployed nom de plume of whoever the hand behind the book might have been.