Dreamed up by American and European SF writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - at a time when Lamarckian-Bergsonian evolutionary philosophy, which posits a tendency for organisms to become more perfect as they evolve (because such change is needed or wanted, e.g., by "life"), remained popular - many of the first fictional supermen were portrayed by their creators as examples of a more perfect species towards which humankind has supposedly long aimed. Radium-Age superman was, that is to say, homo superior, an evolved human whose superiority was mental, physical, or both.
Aye, there's the rub: for, as Nietzsche has Zarathustra predict, "Just as the ape to man is a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment, man shall be just that to [superman]." Olaf Stapledon, Philip Wylie, George Bernard Shaw, and other PGA SF authors agreed that the superman - whose values and worldview the rest of us can't share, or even comprehend - would seem cold, inhuman, alien. Even, or especially when, he or she is trying to help us.
The influence of Radium-Age supermen remains a powerful one. Consider Adrian Veidt, in the forthcoming Watchmen movie adaptation. Unlike most superheroes we'll see on the big screen in the next year or so - e.g., Wolverine, Wonder Woman, Captain America, not to mention Superman himself - Ozymandias, as Veidt was known in his costumed adventurer days, isn't merely a mutant, a godling, a scientific experiment, or an alien visiting a planet where he's uniquely able to kick ass. Instead, he's an Übermensch - a self-overcoming individual, that is to say, who has not only mastered his perfect body but (to quote Peter Cannon... Thunderbolt, the Charlton comic that inspired Moore's Ozymandias) "harnessed the unused portions of the brain." Fortunately or unfortunately for humankind (that's the issue), he has also revalued our human, all too human values.
"I think you could see that it was an evil thing to do and maybe a patronizing thing to do," Watchmen illustrator and co-creator Dave Gibbons said a few months ago, when asked about Ozymandias's catastrophic scheme to save the world. He continued:
I think that probably is one of the worst of his sins, that it's kind of looking down on the rest of humanity, scorning the rest of humanity. I think for that reason that [Veidt's former comrade, the masked vigilante] Rorschach, by persisting in his single-minded devotion to what he sees as the truth is ... actually painted in a very human manner. At the end of it, your loyalty lies very much with this very flawed, psychopathic human being who knows his faults, who knows the faults of the rest of humanity, rather than somebody like Adrian, who considers himself to be above humanity and who has taken a rather cold and calculating view of everything.
Ozymandias may sound like Tom Cruise (who was interested in the role). What he's utterly unlike, however, is your typical comic-book superhero - who, despite his or her superhuman abilities, tends to reflect and personify our own, human values. That's because Superman was an invention of SF's gung-ho, can-do Golden Age. His pre-Golden Age literary precursors, however, were a different story altogether.
Here's a list - in no particular order - of the 10 most influential and problematic supermen and women from 1904-33. A version of this post was first published by io9.
1) HUMPTY, in Olaf Stapledon's Last Men in London (London: Methuen, 1932). Stapledon writes insightfully about homo superior - he's credited with coining the term - in three of the four novels for which he's remembered. I've already written, in this series, about Last and First Men and Odd John, so that leaves Humpty. He's a young "supernormal," a London teenager in whom there is "some promise of a higher type." According to Stapledon, all "submerged supermen" are adolescent misfits, because: they don't take themselves seriously, they don't want to get ahead, they despise athletics, they're puzzled and bored by religion and patriotism, they don't regard sexuality as shameful, and they remain idealistic long after childhood. They're Lost-Generation-style idlers, in other words. But with really big heads. In a Good Will Hunting-like coda to the novel, whose protagonist is Paul, a teacher telepathically possessed by a member of an evolved human species (the Last Men) living in the distant future, the brilliant Humpty outlines a plan to found a new human species that will control the world and eliminate or domesticate the "subhuman hordes"... then succumbs to despair.
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2) THE WONDER, in J.D. Beresford's The Hampdenshire Wonder (Sidgwick and Jackson, London, 1911). Victor Stott is a giant-headed "supernormal" child mutated in the womb by his parents' desire to have a son born without habits. After surveying science, philosophy, history, literature, and religion, the Wonder says, "So elementary... inchoate... a disjunctive... patchwork." His adult interlocutors are shattered by his statements about the nature of the universe and human progress; his philosophy begins with rejecting "the interposing and utterly false concepts of space and time," and ends with the notion that life and all matter are merely "a disease of the ether." Unable to live without illusions, everyone rejects the Wonder's disenchanting insights; he also makes an enemy of the local clergyman, who may murder him. "He was entirely alone among aliens who were unable to comprehend him, aliens who could not flatter him, whose opinions were valueless to him." Scholars call this the first SF novel of real importance about intelligence; it's the ancestor of Clarke's Childhood's End and Van Vogt's Slan.
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3) RALPH, in Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (Stratford Co.: Boston, 1923. Serialized in Modern Electrics, 1911-12.) Ralph One-to-foresee-for-one (get it?) is a great American scientist, and a superior type; the "plus" at the end of his name proves it. Though we're told he's got an impressive physique and "gigantic mind," we never learn what makes him tick, or how he feels about his inferiors. The only thing that Gernsback, a pioneering SF magazine publisher after whom SF's Hugo awards were named, cares to write about is the technical marvels he's dreamed up. This grown-up Edisonade lurches from one future-tech showcase to another: fluorescent lights, microfilm, radar, television, even a Hypnobioscope that allows you to avoid subscribing to newspapers in your sleep. The polar fleece-wearing citizens of solar-powered, geothermally heated New York don't fear or resent Ralph; in fact, they've erected a glass-and-steelonium luxury tower for him in Union Square. Ralph, in short, is a bore, and so is his techno-utopian society. Except maybe when his girlfriend is kidnapped by a Martian.
4) ZOZIM and ZOO, in George Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (Constable: London, 1921). Shortly after WWI, the secret of Creative Evolution - in Shaw's formulation, the process by which an organism can will its own entelechy, or self-potentiation - is discovered. By the year 3100 the long-lived elite have developed perfect physiques and advanced mentalities. Zozim and Zoo are Boomer-like superhumans (he's nearly 100, she's 50, but they act like young adults) who assist a sham oracle in overawing the short-livers seeking its advice. It's all part of a plot to colonize and supersede ordinary humans! But like the proto-Yippies they are, Z and Z are upfront about the put-on. Zoo: "[Zozim] has to dress-up in a Druid's robe, and put on a wig and a long false beard, to impress you silly people.... I have no patience with such mummery; but you expect it from us; so I suppose it must be kept up." It's Wild in the Streets meets Highlander. Fun fact: RFK was quoting Shaw's play when he said, ""You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'"
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5) THE AMPHIBIAN, in S. Fowler Wright's The Amphibians (Merton Press: London, 1925). Half a million years in the future, a nameless, time-traveling protagonist discovers that the Earth's dominant intelligent species are the Dwellers (humanoid giants with equally giant intellects, self-destructively devoted to science) and the furry Amphibians (not merely mentally and physically more evolved than modern man, they're also morally superior). Though they regard the time traveler as a primitive (hello, Planet of the Apes), one of the Amphibians accompanies him across a Divine Comedy-like landscape of incredible horrors and warfare between monstrous species. It's an allegorical adventure, in which conflicting philosophies of life and morality are debated: the Spock-like Amphibian is dispassionate and sees things from a transcendental perspective, while the Kirk-like Primitive is emotional and impulsive. Fun fact: Everett F. Bleiler calls The World Below (The Amphibians + its sequel, published together in '29) "undoubtedly the major work of science fiction between the early Wells and the moderns."
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6) BORK/DE SOTO, in John Taine's Seeds of Life (1951; serialized in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Fall 1931). "We do not like the thought of being relegated to a minor place in the evolutionary scheme; we half expect that a race of geniuses would treat us cruelly, as we treat dumb animals," writes Peter Nicholls. "Taine's Seeds of Life is a prototype of this kind of story." Maybe not, but it's a ripping yarn that may have influenced everything from Flowers for Algernon to Spider-Man. Neils Bork, a pathetic lab technician, attempts suicide via X-rays and is transformed into a supermind in the body of a swarthy Adonis; he renames himself De Soto. ("De Soto was but a partial, accidental anticipation of the more sophisticated and yet more natural race into which time and the secular flux of chance are slowly transforming our kind.") He invents wireless energy transfer devices, secretly planning to use them to bombard humankind with "dysgenic" rays that will devolve unborn children. Then De Soto's own evolution reverses itself: "I never used to think, but saw the inevitable consequences of any pattern of circumstances - no matter how complicated - immediately, like a photograph of the future." He repents of his superioristic ways, and is killed by his own reptilian offspring. Fun fact: John Taine was the pseudonym of CIT mathematician Eric Temple Bell.
7) HUGO, in Philip Wylie's Gladiator (Knopf: New York and London, 1930). Wylie is best known as coauthor of When Worlds Collide, and as a crank(y) essayist obsessed with Soviet nukes and "Mom-ism." The only thing you ever hear about this Radium-Age SF classic is that it's "thought to be the book from which 'Superman' was derived." Make no mistake: Siegel & Shuster lifted everything except Superman's cape from Gladiator. Thanks to an experiment by his scientist father (who studies grasshoppers and ants), Hugo Danner is nearly invulnerable, runs faster than a train, leaps higher than trees, and hurls boulders like baseballs. Also, his father gives him Nietzschean advice only, e.g.: "The stronger, the greater, you are, the harder life is for you." So... Hugo creates a fortress of solitude in Colorado, drops out of school, wanders the planet, then joins the French Foreign Legion at the outbreak of WWI ("He felt himself almost the Messiah of war . . . He was like a being of steel"). Later, he adopts a secret identity, moves to
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8) EARANI, in Erle Cox's Out of the Silence (E.A. Vidler: Melbourne, 1925; serialized in The [Melbourne] Argus, 1919). Alan Dundas stumbles upon the subterranean repository of a long-vanished, fantastically advanced civilization. He awakens Earani from a state of suspended animation. Her intelligence and abilities are as astounding as her beauty. (Hello, Leelo in The Fifth Element.) In fact, Earani was the end result of her civilization's worldwide eugenics program, which she intends to put back into practice, as soon as she conquers the planet. ("This world of yours is full of pain and misery.... Is any price too great that buys a perfect and wholesome humanity?" Earani demands of Australia's prime minister. "You hold that to carry out my mission would be a crime. I hold that to fail in doing so would be a crime.") Alan, who falls in love with Earani, is undisturbed by her plan to wipe out the "colored races" and inferior whites; one is not sure what the author himself thinks about this subject. In the end, Earani is backstabbed (literally) by another woman.
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9) POLLARD, in Edmond Hamilton's "The Man Who Evolved" (Wonder Stories, April 1931). Dr. John Pollard is a biologist trying to crack one of the two great mysteries of evolution: "What is the cause of evolutionary change?" Having determined that the answer is "the cosmic rays," and having built a cosmic ray-gathering contraption, Pollard invites two friends (one of whom is the narrator) to witness as he investigates the second question: "What is the future course of man's evolution going to be?" Pollard first evolves himself into a superman, with a godlike physique and immense intellectual power; then into a shriveled body supporting an enormous head; then a huge head with almost no body, which plans to "master without a struggle this man-swarming planet, and make it a huge laboratory in which to pursue the experiments that please me"; then into a brain with tentacles, a Dr. Manhattan-like being whose perspective is so cosmic that it no longer cares to dominate the world. ("The only emotion, if such it is, that remains to me still is intellectual curiosity...") Alas, after evolving himself one more time, Pollard devolves back into simple protoplasm. Fun fact: Isaac Asimov described this as "the first science fiction short story... that impressed me so much it stayed in my mind permanently."
10) HERVE, in Noëlle Roger's Le nouvel Adam (1924; translated as The New Adam, London: Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd., 1926). When Herve Silenrieux, a hapless medical student working for Dr. Flecheyre at Paris's Institut Pasteur, attempts suicide by shooting himself in the head, Flecheyre implants in him an experimental combination of glands that he believes will stimulate the brain - and in so doing, create an evolved human. Indeed, Herve becomes incredibly brilliant... but wholly logical and unpleasant. For example, he no longer hesitates to kill patients for experimental data. Dismissed from the hospital, Herve develops a death ray, which he tests on villagers in the French countryside; after that, he detonates lumps of lead with the force of an atomic bomb, setting off a series of earthquakes. Attempting to prevent Herve from wiping out the human race, Flecheyre confronts him; Herve's forcefield detonates the lead bullets in Flecheyre's pistol, and both men die. Fun fact: Noëlle Roger is the pseudonym of Hélène Dufour Pittard, a Swiss-Canadian journalist.
"Some individuals, it is true, are more special. This is natural selection. It begins as a single individual, born or hatched like every other member of their species, anonymous, seemingly ordinary. Except they're not. They carry inside them the genetic code that will take their species to the next evolutionary rung. It's destiny." - fictional geneticist Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurth), expressing an un-Darwinian view of evolution in the first episode of Heroes, 9/23/06.
NINETEENTH CENTURY (1804-1903)
* Don Quichotte, "The Artificial Man: A Semi-Scientific Story" (The Argonaut, August 16, 1884). The narrator meets a sickly, elderly-looking man who claims to be an 18-year-old artificial human being. He was reared, he says, in a bell jar and is nourished by chemicals inserted into his stomach. To prove his claim, he lifts off the top of his head and removes his brain. The artificial man claims he is the first step in the evolution of man into a superior type.
* Edward Payson Jackson, A Demigod: A Novel (Harper: New York, 1886). Hector Vyr is the product of a 200-year eugenics program. More Tk. 1170.
* Ernest G. Harmer, Professor Bommsenn's Germ (Belgravia, January 1888). Humorous short story. Professor Bommsenn (Mommsen + Bunsen?) of Heidelberg stimulates embryos elictrically, until he creates "primordial germs," capable of being forced into any organic form. One of these germs, which he manipulates into becoming a cow (because he's hungry) evolves beyond a cow into a form beyond mankind — a four-foot-tell creature which uses its mesmeric ability to paralyze Bommsenn, whose skeleton is discovered a year or so later.
* Joseph Shield Nicholson, Thoth: A Romance (Blackwood: Edinburgh, 1888). A descendant of Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race? TK. 1624
* Camille Flammarion, Omega: The Last Days of the World (1893).
* Frank Challice Constable, The Curse of Intellect (1895). An ape is given human intelligence. The first SF story of any significance about intelligence, according to Peter Nichols.
* Oto Mundo, The Recovered Continent: A Tale of the Chinese Invasion (1898) 1582
* Louis Boussenard, Ten Thousand Years in a Block of Ice (1898)
* Alfred Jarry, The Supermale (1902)
* Aston Forrest, The Extraordinary Islanders. Being an Authoritative Account of the Cruise of the 'Asphodel," as Related By Her Owner (R.A. Everett and Co.: London, 1903). 802
* Godfrey Sweven, Limanora: The Island of Progress (Putnam: New York, 1903). 2148
THE NINETEEN-OUGHTS (1904-13)
* H.G. Wells, The Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth (1904)
* Alfred William Lawson, Born Again: A Novel Wox, Conrad Co.: New York, 1904). Lawson was a crank scientist who believed that the earth is the inner surface of a hollow sphere. Eccentric novel in which John Convert -- more TK. 1286
* Tyman Currio (John Russell Coryell?), Weird and Wonderful Story of Another World (Physical Culture, October 1905—September 1906). Novella. Currio is probably the pseudonym of John Russell Coryell, a dime novelist now remembered as the creator of ace detective Nick Carter. Currio, the narrator, has just returned from Jupiter, and this is his report. Interested in interplanetary flight, Currio has discovered etheric waves, which counteract gravity and move at half the speed of light. More TK. 539
* E. Nesbit (as E. Bland), "The Third Drug" (The Strand, February 1908). Short story. See Nesbit entry. Note that Nesbit and Shaw, who also wrote about a superman, were both Fabians.
* M.P. Shiel, The Isle of Lies (1909). See Shiel entry.
* J.D. Beresford, The Hampdenshire Wonder (1911). See J.D. Beresford entry; and see above. Nichols calls this the first SF story of real importance about intelligence.
* William Greene, "The Savage Strain" (1911)
* Hugo Gernsback, Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (Stratford Co.: Boston, 1923. Serialized in Modern Electrics, April 1911-March 1912. Revised for book publication.) See Gernsback entry; and see above.
THE TEENS (1914-23)
* Harry Keeler, "John Jones's Dollar" (1915)
* J.A. Mitchell, Drowsy (1917)
* Frederic Carrel, 2010 (T. Werner Laurie: London, 1914). Takes place some 2,100 years from now (2010 years from the "new Renaissance"). Western Europe is ruled by a council. The East is ruled by a warlike queen. America is a "negro republic." Extreme longevity, even immortality is possible. Air travel, embryonic engineering, a psychometer that reads thoughts. The hero is the Universal, a great scientist named Caesar Brent who is reminiscent of Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+. Brent's latest discovery is that intelligence can be increased and ancestral memory attained. It involves sardinium, a new element derived from the sea, and is pushed into the brain with a peculiar helmet. The reactionary Victor Veitch persuades the European council to forbid Brent's process (one thinks of GWB vs. stem cell research?), which is portrayed as a danger to the human race. MORE TK
* George Allan England, The Fatal Gift (All-Story, September 4-25, 1915). Novel. The story is presented as an historical incident, based on a diary edited by England. More TK 676
* Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot Chicago: McClurg, 1924; composed of "The Land That Time Forgot," Blue Book, August 1918; "The People That Time Forgot," Blue Book, October 1918; and "Out of Time's Abyss," Blue Book, December 1918).
* Marie Corelli, The Young Diana: An Experiment of the Future (George H. Doran: New York, 1918). More TK 484
* Austin Hall, Into the Infinite (All-Story, April 12-May 7, 1919). Professor George Witherspoon, a remarkable mathematician who dabbled in metaphysics and psychology, wanted to accelerate human evolution and produce a superman a million years further advanced than present-day man. Such a superman would have incredible powers, among them complete control of his subjective mind (occult-talk for the unconscious) and much of what he could do would look supernatural or even miraculous. More TK 988
* Erle Cox, Out of the Silence (E.A. Vidler: Melbourne, 1925; serialized in The [Melbourne] Argus, 1919). See above.
* G. Stanley Hall, "The Fall of Atlantis," a novella (story?) in Recreations of a Psychologist (Appleton: New York, 1920). Hall was a distinguished experimental psychologist and educator, the first president of Clark University. Info TK 994.
* George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (Constable: London, 1921). See Shaw entry; and see above. Note that Shaw and Nesbit, who also wrote about a superman, were both Fabians.
* Georges Lebas, Jean Arog, le premier surhomme (1921)
* E.V. Odle, The Clockwork Man (Heinemann: London, 1923; Doubleday, Page: Garden City, NY, 1923). Edward Vincent Odle (1890-1942) edited The Argosy from 1926-38. "Of the many works of scientific romance that have fallen into utter obscurity," writes Brian Stableford, in Scientific Romance in Britain, 1890-1950, "this is perhaps the one which most deserves rescue." Eight thousand years from now, advanced humanoids known as the Makers will implant clockwork devices into our heads, devices which permit us to move through time and space — at the cost of a certain amount of agency. If one of these devices should go awry, a "clockwork man" (perhaps what we'd now call a cyborg) might appear in the 1920s, at a cricket match in a small English village, performing brilliantly at the sport but speaking and behaving strangely. Worse, like the titular character in Philip K. Dick's 1969 story "The Electric Ant," the clockwork man might attempt to tinker with his own mechanism. Bleiler writes: "Exactly what Odle had in mind is not clear, and interpretations of his book vary. For some the book is warning against the activities of science; for others, a speculation on the nature of man, perhaps striking on the same ideas that Wells hit in Men Like Gods.... Interesting in idea, but without Wells's literary skill." Also perhaps a meditation on the coming race of homo superior; it's been suggested that J.D. Beresford, who knew Odle, was an influence. Like Wells, Odle is not as misanthropic as many British writers of this period; he wonders eloquently if the amorality of reason and the bestiality of human nature can be overcome by the force for good that also exists in humanity. Stableford: "One of the most thoughtful scientific romances of the period. The moral of the story is presented a little obliquely, with a scrupulously polite lack of stridency, but this is still one of the most eloquent pleas for the rejection of the 'rational' future and the conservation of the humanity of man."
* H.G. Wells, Men Like Gods (Cassell: London, 1923. Macmillan: New York: 1923). See Wells entry.
THE TWENTIES (1924-33)
* John Lionel Tayler, The Last of My Race: A Dream of the Future (London, 1924). The narrator, a medical man of the 20th century, wakes up in the year 302,930. He is encouraged to write down his activities and sensations — then notices that the seeming humans who attend to his wants are perfect automatons. So are the flowers in the garden, and a tortoise that creeps about. (Hello, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?...) He also notices that the house — modeled after a 20th century home — is a sort of living organism that is aware of his thoughts and moods and responds to them. A superman — so evolved that the narrator can hardly bear his presence — pays him a call. He explains that 20th-century mankind (Homo ignorans) became extinct because his brain grew so large that his giant head prevented its passage through the birth canal. We learn all about the evolution of superior forms of mankind; very proto-Stapledon. MORE TK 2157
* Noelle Roger, Le nouvel Adam (1924, translated as The New Adam (1924, translated as The New Adam, London, 1926). Swiss writer, playwright. Old Dr. Flecheyre, the successor to Louis Pasteur at the Institute, has been experimenting with gland transplants and has worked out techniques that have helped thousands. Stableford: Roger, "working under the inspiration of religious rather than scientific ideas, presents an emotionless ultrarationalistic superman as a straightforward figure of menace." More TK. 1903
* S. Fowler Wright, The Amphibians: A Romance of 500,000 Years Hence (Merton Press: London, 1925). See Wright entry.
* J.C. Snaith, Thus Far (Hodder and Stoughton: London, 1925. Appleton: New York, 1925). British author. Murder mystery against a background of biological experimentation. More TK. 2072
* Henry Carew, The Vampires of the Andes (Jarrolds: London, 1925). Bleiler says: "clumsily presented and so disorganized, with inconsistencies, ill-fitting new material perpetually added, changes of narrative center, unexplained phenomena, and similar faults..." and "almost unreadable." Will Wooton, an archaeologist, removes a block of orichalc (a metal mentioned by Plato as used in Atlantis) from a mound in South America. Messages of great importance were engraved on it by the Muchacaraps, an extremely ancient secret society. Wooton enters an enormous cave world that is the secret society HQ, and undergoes a syncretistic occult initiation. After which he's informed by the gods — Varuna, Kronos, Quetzalcoatl — that he and his mate will produce the next evolutionary step in mankind.
* Guy Dent, Emperor of the If (1926). Stableford: the book is "especially interesting in its skeptical examination of the hypothesis that a more challenging environment would have produced a fitter and better mankind."
* Muriel Jaeger, The Man with Six Senses (1927)
* Edmond Hamilton, "Evolution Island" (Weird Tales, March 1928). Short story. TK. 1006. Hamilton was one of the first SF hacks. See Hamilton entry.
* Wallace West, "The Incubator Man" (Weird Tales, October 1928). Short story, ranging from the present to about 2075 AD. More TK 2357
* Edmund Snell, Kontrol (Ernest Benn: London, 1928). British writer. During WWI, Captain Wildash becomes acquainted with Dr. Guriev, a maverick scientist who speaks of creating a superrace by brain transplants — the best brains moved to the best bodies. Wildash is severely wounded by a shell blast, and Guriev believes him dead. More TK 2074
* Philip Wylie, Gladiator (Knopf: New York and London, 1930). See Wylie entry; also see above.
* Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future (1930). See Stapledon entry.
* John Gloag, To-Morrow's Yesterday (1930) – an inter-war novel exploring the future of man. British notion that man must be replaced by a new species. another example of postwar disillusioned British future fiction, though even more hysterical than the 1920s stuff. Like Fowler, extreme misanthropy. Humans deserve what they get. The replacement for humanity are not our descendants! MORE TK
* John Taine, The Iron Star (Dutton: New York, 1930). Actually a novel of devolution.
* Paul Ernst, The Black Monarch (Weird Tales, February-June, 1930). Novel. TK 684
* John Hargraves, The Imitation Man (1931)
* John Taine, Seeds of Life (Weird Tales, February-June, 1930). Novel. TK 684. See above.
* Edmond Hamilton, "The Man Who Evolved" (1931)
* Olaf Stapledon, Last Men in London (1932)
* Philip Wylie, The Savage Gentleman (1932)
* Lester Dent's Doc Savage series, which began in March '33.
* Muriel Jaeger, Hermes Speaks (1933)
* John Russell Fearn, The Intelligence Gigantic (1933 serialized; 1943 book?) — superman used as a figure of menace
EARLY GOLDEN AGE/LATE PGA
* Olaf Stapledon, Odd John (1935)
* Claude Houghton, This was Ivor Trent (1935)
* Stanley G. Weinbaum, "The Adaptive Ultimate" (1936) — a scientist who creates a superwoman has to kill her in order to protect the world from her ruthlessness, but again there is a tentative expression of sympathy.
* M.P. Shiel, The Young Men Are Coming (1937)
* H.G. Wells, Star-Begotten (1937)
* Andrew Marvell, Minimum Man (1938)
* Stanley G. Weinbaum, The New Adam (1939). Written in the early 1930s? Published posthumously. A painstaking account of a superhuman growing up in the human world, treating the hypothesis objectively rather than intending to criticize the contemporary human condition. The superman suffers as a result of being a "feral child" among ordinary humans, but his death does not put an end to the history of his kind. Publication of this pioneering work was quickly followed by 2 novels that paved the way for a glut of superhuman heroes, often messiah figures: Slan (1940; 1946) by A.E. Van Vogt, and Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson (1940; 1948).
PS: Brian Stableford, in Clute and Nichols's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, writes that early SF writers were
surprisingly loth to make the superman an outright figure of menace, even where Darwinian thought was dominant: although they usually conceded that there was no place for them in contemporary human society, and generally disposed of them in one way or another, most were very much on the side of the superhumans. The reasons are simple enough: most of the early writers concerned were harshly critical of the contemporary human condition and wholly in favor of "progress"; moreover, writers frequently credit themselves with a proto-superhuman viewpoint. It is very easy to love the notion of the superman if we believe that we might become supermen ourselves, or at least be parent to their becoming; it is for this reason that Bergsonian ideas are more frequently echoed in superman stories than Darwinian ones, and some works — most notably George Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah (1921) — are based on an explicit neo-Lamarckianism. Both the Darwin-inspired H.G. Wells, in The Food of the Gods (1904), and the Bergson-inspired J.D. Beresford, in The Hampdenshire Wonder (1911), are allied with their superhuman characters, agreeing with their indictments of the follies of contemporary man. The same is true of two other classic scientific romances directly inspired by Beresford: E.V. Odle's The Clockwork Man (1923), and Olaf Stapledon's Odd John (1935) — although the former carefully keeps its real superhumans (the makers of the eponymous cyborg) offstage, as does Claude Houghton in This was Ivor Trent (1935), whose hysterical climax represents the extremity of UK interbellum disenchantment.