When Worlds Collide/After Worlds Collide Critical Essays

Edwin Balmer, Philip Wylie


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The possibility of danger to Earth from other objects in space dates back in fiction at least to 1839, when Edgar Allan Poe published “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion.” Other examples by key writers include Jules Verne’s Hector Servadac (1877), H. G. Wells’s “The Star” (1897), and Arthur C. Clarke’s The Hammer of God (1993). J. T. McIntosh echoes the part of the first book involving the selection of who will be saved from a doomed Earth in One in Three Hundred (1954) and the warring planetary colonists of the second book in Born Leader (1954).

Edwin Balmer wrote a nine-story mystery series collected in 1910 as The Achievements of Luther Trant. The series contained science-fiction elements including a version of the lie detector. He also collaborated with Philip Wylie on a mystery novel, The Golden Hoard (1934), but he is best known for his collaboration with Wylie on When Worlds Collide, a title more famous than its sequel.

Wylie generally is perceived as a mainstream novelist, but he wrote other works of science fiction, including The Murderer Invisible (1931), reminiscent of Wells’s The Invisible Man (1897); Gladiator (1930), about a man whose strength is scientifically enhanced and whose character inspired the teenage creators of the comic book character Superman; Tomorrow! (1954), a nuclear war novel; and The End of the Dream (1972), a similar treatment of ecological disaster.

The collaboration of Wylie and Balmer on When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide is somewhat a product of its time. The first book makes direct references to Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini, and it depicts the United States as superior to the warring states of Europe and Caucasians as superior in general. A character in the second...

(The entire section is 776 words.)