When looking for information on fiction involving underground worlds, I came across references to Richard Sharpe Shaver (hopefully nobody called him “Dick”), author and likely paranoid schizophrenic who wrote science fiction adjacent stories about ancient superhumans who lived underground. Ray Palmer edited these and printed them in Amazing Stories, as part of an elaborate yarn about how Shaver had actually come across evidence of this ancient civilization and translated their language. He told several stories of how this came to be the case, but his favorite was that, while working as a welder, he started to hear the thoughts of his co-workers and the underground people who tormented them. I found the first two online, I Remember Lemuria and The Return of Sathanas, and I have to say that for stuff that he obtained through secret knowledge, they’re awfully derivative. I guess the conspiratorial answer to this would be that earlier writers had also somehow found out elements of this hidden history. But I kind of appreciated that they throw in pretty much everything: underground civilizations, lost continents, ancient astronauts, really advanced technology existing in the distant past, strange languages, thought control, hidden meanings to English words, gods from classical mythology being really advanced people. While the narrator and his compatriots eventually left Earth due to being harmed by radiation from the Sun, some of their descendants remain underground, and have become Deros, or “detrimental robots,” even though they aren’t technically robots. Their projection of evil thoughts is responsible for pretty much all the bad stuff that happens. And in the second story, not only do the Norse gods show up as spacefaring warriors, but Satan is reinterpreted as an ancient space warlord.
The Conference of the Birds, by Ransom Riggs – It felt like not much happened in the fifth book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. There are a lot of new characters again based on old photographs, but most of them just show up and don’t do much of anything. There is some development of the prophecy, of the magic that Caul needs to escape from his trapped loop, and of the search for Noor Pradesh’s mother and her relationship with Jacob. I’m not entirely sure why Jacob had to get another love interest so soon, after his relationship with his grandfather’s ex predictably didn’t work out, but there you go. It was well-written and effectively atmospheric, but it seemed a bit rote.
Jirel of Joiry, by C.L. Moore – Written in the 1930s, the stories collected here are written by a woman and have a woman protagonist, a rarity for pulp fiction of the time. Jirel, a badass warrior in medieval France, was obviously influential on many future heroes, but doesn’t undergo all that much character development herself. The tales are more notable for their descriptions of the eerie alien worlds where Jirel inevitably finds herself in her struggles against evil sorcerers and the like. A story that wasn’t in earlier versions of the collection, “Quest of the Starstone,” is a crossover with another of Moore’s creations, the space traveler Northwest Smith, and a collaboration with her future husband Henry Kuttner.