1940-01 The Other World

Cover Date: January 1940
Volume 14 #5
Copyright Date: Friday, December 15, 1939
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Bantam Edition # 29, October 1968
Sanctum Edition # 27
Story Length: 35,911 words
WHMC: The collection contains eight folders for this story, f. 615-622.
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.

In 1939 John Nanovic writes Dent. The only date on the letter is Friday. Nanovic sends a plot regarding Dent’s lost world idea. Henry Ralston suggests using the St. Louis fur trade as the gimmick with some extraordinary pelts being offered for sale. Nanovic’s letter also suggests two factions vying for control of the pelts. One is a criminal gang and the other is a fur consortium. The lost world is located off Hudson Bay and consists of a large cavern inside a mountain. Access to the location is by boat through a rocky cleft that provides a natural camouflage to outside appearances. This opening leads to an enormous cavern populated by a lost race. These people have an artificial light that is very much a take-off from “The Land of Always-Night” first published in March 1935. There is no mention of dinosaurs.

This story is different from the earlier stories. First of all, this appears to be the first time Doc Savage sees a dinosaur. Doc Savage and his crew first encountered dinosaurs in their second adventure, “The Land of Terror,” from April 1933. The incident appears once more in the series. In the April 1938 issue, “The Pirate’s Ghost” Monk questions Sagebrush Smith “Did you ever hear about the time Doc found that lost island of prehistoric dinosaurs?” Amazingly, in “The Other World,” there is no acknowledgment of this fact by Doc Savage or any of his men.

This fact coupled with other basic changes precludes the idea that this story is a continuation of the earlier ones. When Doc Savage encounters a Tyrannosaurus in the hidden world, he experiences a great deal of fear. Doc loses his supermachine pistol which causes him a great deal of anxiety. Dent explains is thusly:  The idea of being unarmed in this phantasmagoria of a place was not pleasant. As he crept along—he was as human as the next man—he had a great deal of difficulty with his courage. Fear wanted to overwhelm him. Complete panic surged at his nerves. He had an almost overwhelming desire to surrender sanity and plunge shrieking through the fabulous jungle.

This is definitely not the Doc Savage of the larger-than-life stories. Readers could argue that the wearing down of Doc’s abilities is simply the result of the continuous ordeals he has endured in the previous eighty-two adventures. But to completely eliminate the prior adventure on Thunder Island with its dinosaur population indicates that this is a reimagining of Doc Savage. The magazine cover depicts Doc Savage evading the tyrannosaurus rex. His facial expression coveys a high degree of anxiety.

“The Other World” is a bit of rewrite of “The Land of Terror.” Both locations are only accessible by airplane. The first dinosaur encountered is a pterodactyl. Both stories have an incident involving trees and danger from creatures with big front teeth. In the earlier story, the animals were giant beavers. In the later story, the animals are giant weasels.

This story also repeats ideas first seen in the December 1933 story, “The Phantom City.” Monk strongly resembles the bestial creatures. The land’s populated consists of two distinct races. One is bestial and war-like while the other is peaceful. Both “The Other World” and “The Phantom City” owe a large part of their pedigree to “The Lost World” by Arthur Conan Doyle.

“The Other World” also borrows a little from “The Land of Always-Night” with the story of Lanta’s people entering the underground world to escape the cold. The location is straight out of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Pellucidar series.

Of course, we should not forget to mention Jules Verne and his classic story, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1864) which was replete with a gigantic ocean within the earth swarming with prehistoric creatures and enormous cave men.

In the first half of the story, Doc Savage, Renny, Monk, and Ham are doing all the leg work. Long Tom Roberts and Johnny Littlejohn initially remain in New York and join the crew later in the story. The story of Long Tom’s nickname is retold but there is no mention of World War I. World War II started in Europe on September 1, 1939. It is likely that the Street & Smith management felt that mentioning World War I would tend to date the characters.

It is mentioned that the Russian aviator, Veselich Vengarinotskovi, uses “large bills” in payment.  Prior to 1929, U.S. currency was physically larger in size.  Smaller bills were issued in 1929 and all the older larger sized bills were called in by the Department of the Treasury and destroyed.

The Soviet Union launched a series of trans-polar flights in 1935.  The first flight was unsuccessful.  In 1936, Soviet pilots flew from Los Angeles, California to Moscow.  In 1937, a crew of three Russian pilots flew from Moscow to San Jacinto, California.  The plane landed with less than fifteen minutes worth of fuel left in the tanks.  They had flown for 62.5 hours non-stop.  The Russian pilots were hailed as heroes.

A jitney is mentioned.  It is a slang term for a bus.

Doc uses a plane from his Hudson River hanger, but the name Hidalgo Trading Company is never used in the story.

Dent shows his family roots a bit. Missouri plays prominently in the early part of the story. One of the locations in the story is the Ritz Hotel in St. Louis. Typically, these names are made up but in this case the hotel was real entity. The February 26, 1939, edition of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat carried an advertisement for the Ritz Hotel which was located at 4137 Lindell. An examination of this address using Google maps shows a large shopping center at that location.

The pets, Habeas Corpus and Chemistry both appear in the story but only for a few lines. Their appearance is strictly a cameo, and they have no actual role in the story. Chemistry is described as a “scrawny” chimpanzee.

In Chapter 16, “Lanta,” there is a small error in the story. After landing in front of the valley where Lanta’s people live, Doc states that he and Renny will fly back to ferry the remaining prisoners back to the canyon. But in the next paragraph, after Doc leaves, it states that Renny, Long Tom, and Johnny guarded the landing area.

Religion: Dent is tosses a little Sunday school in with the story. Lanta explains her people are currently observing a religious holiday.  She believes her people are more sincere in their observances of such days than the outside world.