"There have been many books recently about important ideas or commodities that have changed the world. This one, I am happy to say, traces the cultural history of an idea that was wrong and changed nothing—but which has nevertheless had an ongoing appeal."
-David Standish, from his introduction to Hollow Earth: the Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastic Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth's Surface
The concept of a hollow earth is, to me, as rich as any distant star or Martian desert. In fact, the similarities between the Mars of fiction and the hollow earth extend far beyond Burroughs. Both have fascinated humans for thousands of years. At some point, each has been treated as seriously by science as it has by a religious fringe.The mid-century monsters of a Cold War America were as likely to come from below as above. And the allure of each has not suffered significantly from their outright disproval. The Hollow Earth has all of the alien romance of Barsoom, in a place that is just beneath our feet.
Imagine the powerful vertigo felt by Admiral Byrd or Travis Morgan as they looked to a concave anti-horizon rising infinitely into a sky that was not a sky. It would have to feel as if one were tumbling into it, yet were still somehow safe in gravity's kung-fu grip.
How strange that the tiny sun above your head never actually sets.
Plus, it's packed to the crust with stuff. From Agartha to Shamballa to the Secret Land of Ogg, it seems that everything ever lost on the surface world finds its way to the center: Hyberboreans, Lemurians, extinct megafauna, flying saucers, cavepersons, psychic monks, wayward Centurions, curious Victorians, Goddamn Nazis, the Marshall family, Richard Sharpe Shaver, and the reptilian fever dreams of David Icke are all rattling around down there. It's like a hamster ball for the imagination.
Serpent men next. For real this time.