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August/September 2009
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The Coming Race, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1870)

IN 1870, Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote The Coming Race, a science fiction novel based on the "hollow earth" theory, which was then the topic of serious debate in many countries. Bulwer-Lytton created a world beneath the surface peopled by a superior race known as the Vril-ya. Their civilization was powered by a multi-purpose energy source called Vril, derived from the Black Sun, which radiated at the center of the Earth. After an unknown hero from the surface accidentally discovered their world, he soon became enthralled by the Vril-ya and their technologically advanced culture. In the end, he wondered what would happen to humanity if the Vril-ya ever decided to explore the surface of the world.

Bulwer-Lytton is best known today as the author of that infamous phrase, "It was a dark and stormy night." Despite his florid writing style, his novel remained popular into the twentieth century. In fact, some saw it as more than just a story. In Berlin, Germany, its followers included the Vril Society, the Vril Lodge, and the Society for Truth, which was formed specifically for the purpose of finding Vril. When the Nazis sprang into power, they reportedly tried to prepare for an eventual meeting with the Vril-ya by training German youth to become "Supermen." Today, a belief lingers that the Nazis discovered a passageway to the underground world, gaining access to superior technology that was used during the war. In 2001, Kevin and Matthew Taylor wrote The Land of No Horizon, about the possible existence of life beneath the surface, while a website,, weighs modern scientific concepts against early theories about the Earth.

—Patricia A. Martinelli

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