(1856-1907) Irish journalist and author, who began his career as an author of fiction with a Future War novel, For England's Sake (1889), a somewhat congested tale set in Near Future India, in which loyal native forces turn the tide against invading Russia; a later novel, The Next Crusade (1896), continues the action in eastern Europe: luckily, the novel ends with the Mediterranean transformed into "a British lake". The protagonists of A Plunge into Space (1890) travel by Antigravity to Mars, where they discover humans living under Utopian conditions, and a fatal romance ensues; the 1891 edition includes a preface ostensibly by Jules Verne (in Science Fiction Studies XX #59 [March 1993], Robert M Philmus and Arthur B Evans plausibly suggest that – as there is no bibliographical record of this piece in any Verne bibliography, and as there was no French version of the novel and Verne did not read English – the preface may be bogus). Of his later work, A New Messiah (1902) features an advanced submarine and Near Future political intrigue; and El Dorado (1904; vt From the Cliffs of Croaghaun 1904) is a Lost World tale set in the Amazon; once again political intrigue intersects with generic devices.
Cromie is best known for his third sf novel, The Crack of Doom (1895), which is set in the year 2000; the protagonist runs across a politically radical villain (the secret society he dominates is vitiated by Feminism and other unacceptable beliefs) who possesses the power of Telepathy and has also developed a device to unlock the atomic energy contained in matter, and thus destroy the world. In the heavily plotted event, the protagonist alters the formula, so that only a South Pacific island is evaporated, and all is saved. There is no doubt of Cromie's intention here: the first use of atomic energy had, thousands of years earlier, destroyed the fifth planet and created the Asteroids; though hazily described, his use in this novel of a nuclear device to shake civilization marks the first occurrence of a theme which would dominate the next century. [JC]
see also: Crime and Punishment; End of the World; History of SF; Power Sources; Spaceships.
born County Down, Ireland: 1856
died Belfast, Ireland: April 1907
- For England's Sake (London: Frederick Warne and Co, 1889) [pb/]
- A Plunge Into Space (London: Frederick Warne and Co, 1890) [illus/J C: pb/uncredited]
- The Crack of Doom (London: Digby, Long and Co, 1895) [hb/nonpictorial]
- The Next Crusade (London: Hutchinson, 1896) [hb/]
- The King's Oak and Other Stories (London: George Newnes, 1897) [coll: hb/]
- Kitty's Victoria Cross (London: Frederick Warne and Co, 1901) [pb/]
- A New Messiah (London: Digby, Long and Co, 1902) [hb/]
- El Dorado (London: Ward, Lock and Co, 1904) [hb/]
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