I’m rounding up my ‘lost world’ series with the novel that gave the genre its name. Written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World was published in the Strand Magazine (which had previously published his Sherlock Holmes stories) in 1912 and stands as the archetypal entry in the genre.
Trading the Africa of H. Rider Haggard’s novels for the jungles of South America, The Lost World tells of journalist Edward Malone who is sent to interview curmudgeonly oddball Professor George Challenger who has been ridiculed in the press for claiming the existence of dinosaurs on a secluded South American plateau.
Convinced to accompany the professor on an other expedition to the plateau, Malone and some other intrepid explorers set out for South America. Betrayed by their native guides who cut the rope bridge, stranding them, the company delve into the plateau and encounter pterodactyls, an allosaurus and primitive ape-men who are at war with a tribe of humans.
The lost world genre was continued in the 20th century, most notably by Edgar Rice Burroughs who had experimented with lost cities in his Tarzan novels and went full genre in 1918’s The Land That Time Forgot. But Burroughs’s other novels had a far deeper effect on fantastic fiction. The world had been changed by its first great war. The days of imperialism were numbered and blank spaces on maps were getting smaller and smaller. Suddenly the world didn’t seem so big anymore. Writers of adventure fiction turned to the stars for inspiration and Burroughs’s A Princess of Mars (1912) became the blueprint for a new breed of fantastic fiction. The lost world genre evolved into the ‘planetary romance’ adventure where the crumbling ruins of lost civilizations appeared against the backdrop of alien planets.