Collingwood, Harry

Tagged: Author

Pseudonym of UK civil engineer and author William Joseph Cosens Lancaster (1843-1922), most of whose fiction – he wrote at least 40 books – was for boys and featured nautical settings. He remains best known for his "Flying Fish" sequence of sf tales: The Log of the "Flying Fish": A Story of Aerial and Submarine Peril and Adventure (1887), With Airship and Submarine: A Tale of Adventure (1907) and The Cruise of the "Flying Fish": The Airship-Submarine (1924). The eponymous vehicle is a ship whose construction is made possible by two Inventions: a metal alloy stronger and lighter than any other yet known; and a new source of energy contained in crystals which can also be used to blow up enemies. The 600-foot-long vehicle operates in the air as an armoured aircraft (see Airships), on the surface as a ship and Under the Sea as a submarine, and takes the tales' protagonists back and forth across the Earth, leading them to a Lost World, to inner Africa and elsewhere. The third volume, in which a dreadnought successor to the ship fails to be built in time to affect World War One, is anticlimactic. Also of interest is Through Veld and Forest: An African Story (dated 1914 but 1913), whose young protagonists find a Lost Race in southern Africa ruled by a She-like empress who has gained Immortality and counts among her subjects a subspecies of missing links (see Apes as Human). To contemporary eyes, the usual defacements of British boys' fiction of this era – unthinking Imperialism, relentless slaughter of wildlife, complacent racism – are perhaps intensified by the author's vitriolic attacks on trade unions and other sins of the British working classes. [JC]

William Joseph Cosens Lancaster

born Weymouth, Dorset: 23 May 1843

died Chester, Cheshire: 10 June 1922

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"Flying Fish"

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