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With The Night Mail: A Story Of 2000 A.d.
by Rudyard Kipling
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Reprint of Kipling's delightful science fiction tale, first written in 1904, imagining a then-impossible overnight air flight from London to Canada, which takes place in December of the year 2000. Includes selections from the fictional air flight magazine in which Kipling described the risks, prices and social comedy of a flying world. Great gift for Kipling fans, science fiction readers, and anyone interested in the historical imagination.
From the Back Cover
"With the Night Mail," first written in 1904, was one of Rudyard Kipling's rare "experiments" into science fiction. In this story Kipling imagined an overnight air flight from London to Quebec on December 14, 2000.
Kipling's imagined sky vessel is a cross between a smooth metal bird and a balloon with turbine engines. It runs on gas jets and wind power similar to the dirigible, the helium-gas balloon of Kipling's time. Unlike anything Kipling knew, it is propelled through space horizontally at lightning speed. Its pilots communicate with other air ships either by radio or - sometimes - simply opening the ship's windows to shout across the winds.
The present edition brings this long out-of-print story back into the hands of Kipling readers and science fiction fans everywhere. It include selections from the original "Arial Board of Control" periodical notices with which Kipling embellished his original account of twenty-first century aeronautics. As he does in his well-loved Kim, Jungle Book, and other stories and poems, Rudyard Kipling here takes the reader on a fantastic journey which is never out of date.
From the despatching-caisson I was conducted by a courteous and wonderfully learned official - Mr. L.L. Geary, Second Despatcher of the Western Route - to the Captains' Room (this wakes an echo of old romance), where the mail captains come on for their turn of duty. He introduces me to the Captain of "162" - Captain Purnall, and his relief, Captain Hodgson. The one is small and dark; the other large and red; but each has the brooding sheathed glance characteristic of eagles and aronauts. You can see it in the pictures of our racing professionals, from L.V. Rautsch to little Ada Warrleigh - that fathomless abstraction of eyes habitually turned through naked space.
On the notice-board in the Captain's Room, the pulsing arrows of some twenty indicators register, degree by geographical degree, the progress of as many homeward-bound packets. The word "Cape" rises across the face of a dial; a gong strikes: the South African mid-weekly mail is in at the Highgate Receiving Towers. That is all. It reminds one comically of the traitorous little bell which in pigeon-fanciers lofts notifies the return of a homer.
"Time for us to be on the move," says Captain Purnall, and we are shot up by the passenger-lift to the top of the despatch-towers. "Our coach will lock on when it is filled and the clerks are aboard." ...
"No. 162" waits for us in Slip E of the topmost stage. The great curve of her back shines frostily under the lights, and some minute alteration of trim makes her rock a little in her holding-down slips.
Captain Purnall frowns and dives inside. Hissing softly, 162 comes to rest as level as a rule. From her North Atlantic Winter nose-cap (worn bright as diamond with boring through uncounted leagues of hail, snow and ice) to the inset of her three built-out propeller-shafts is some two hundred and forty feet. Her extreme diameter, carried well forward, is thirty-seven. Contrast this with the nine hundred by ninety-five of any crack liner and you will realize the power that must drive a hull through all weathers at more than the emergency-speed of the "Cyclonic"!
The eye detects no joint in her skin plating save the sweeping hair-crack of the bow-rudder - Magniac's rudder that assured us the dominion of the unstable air and left its inventor penniless and half-blind. It is calculated to Castelli's "gull-wing" curve. Raise a few feet of that all but invisible plate three-eighths of an inch and she will yaw five miles to port or starboard ere she is under control again. Give her full helm and she returns on her track like a whip-lash. Cant the whole forward - a touch on the wheel will suffice - and she sweeps at your good direction up or down. Open the complete circle and she presents to the air a mushroom-head that will bring her up all standing within a half mile.
"Yes," says Captain Hodgson, answering my thought, "Castelli thought he'd discovered the secret of controlling aroplanes when he'd only found out how to steer dirigible balloons. Magniac invented his rudder to help war-boats ram each other; and war went out of fashion and Magniac he went out of his mind because he said he couldn't serve his country any more. I wonder if any of us ever know what we're really doing." ...
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