The Floating Island of Madness – Jason Kirby

Who is Algernon Fraser? pulpfiction01

Our narrator Secret Service Agent Ainslee is flying over the Arabian Desert with Brice of Scotland Yard and Foulet of the French Sureté.  They have been tailing a small aircraft all day.  Suddenly their prey seems to go to warp speed, quickly becoming a speck on the horizon, then disappearing from their sight.

Who is Algernon Fraser?

We flashback to 2 days earlier when Ainslee is in Constantinople (not Istanbul) and loses a suspect.  He finds that Foulet lost the same man in the same way and location.  Foulet believes this man is tied to an organization trying to conquer the world.  All they have to go on is that both escapes took place on a roof and an airplane was nearby.

Who is Algernon Fraser?

They meet Brice that night and he shares his plan with them.  They meet at the airfield before dawn.  After a few hours, they spot an airplane (and get inordinately giddy considering this is an airfield).  It does turn out to be the one they were waiting for, as a glider quickly zips from a rooftop to be towed by the airplane.  This is where we joined their story.

The airplane has vanished and they are running low on fuel.  They decide to do the sensible thing and turn back, but some force holds the plane on the same course.  Their speed accelerates beyond the craft’s ability.  Like Dagney Taggart, they penetrate a barrier and find themselves landed on a solid surface.

They deplane onto a massive flat area surrounded by a six foot wall and are greeted by emotionless drones.  They are told that they will be taken to meet The Master.  And, by the way, don’t try to “go over the wall” because we are 2,000 feet in the air.

After a short walk, they arrive in a laboratory and meet The Master — Algernon Fraser. Ainslee knows the name.  Five years ago, Fraser had burst onto the scientific community with amazing discoveries.  “Discoveries that would reorganize the living conditions of the world.”  Then, like John Galt, he just disappeared.  No one knew if he was dead or alive. Soon he was forgotten.  He established this floating “Galt’s Gulch” using his scientific discoveries.

Fraser explains his discovery of Fleotite which is “not only lighter than air, but lighter than ether.”  I assume he doesn’t mean the anesthetic, so is he saying it is lighter than space?  Which way would it float?  He further describes his uses of light and magnets which have enabled his escapes, the speed of his aircraft, how gliders can be sucked off of rooftops, and how this giant platform can be hanging in the air.

Having been written long before James Bond was created, the three agents do not recognize the now-standard explanation by the villain before doing something awful to them.  Of course had they known, they would still be comforted by the fact that the dastardly time-released deed always backfires.

Fraser has the three men injected with a serum that will turn them into compliant automatons just like the Obama Press Corp, yet retain their memories and intelligence.  They will lose all will and power to resist.  Through an unlikely ruse, they switch out the syringe’s content with water.  And he used the same same syringe on all three men?

Unfortunately, Fraser deems Brice to be the most intelligent of the three and has the doctor give him another — real — injection.  Damn that British accent for making him sound so intelligent!

Yada yada, Ainslee and Foulet are on a deck beneath the platform.  The serum has worn off after three days.  He wants secret information about their countries, or he will cut loose the deck to fall 2,000 feet.  As they refuse, he starts cutting cables.  As he gets to the last two, Brice appears and knocks him out.

Brice pulls the two agents up and tells them to escape in the plane they came in; he will join them later.  Reluctantly, they take off without their friend.  They see the platform start to falter — Brice has shut down the lights and magnets that stabilized it and drew in their airplane.  They watch the platform ascend “straight to the stars”, and are relieved to see a parachute floating Brice safely to earth.

They land on the hard Arabian Desert sand and reunite with their friend.  Sadly, unless Fraser was nice enough to refuel their plane, they are going to die in the middle of the desert.


  • First published in Astounding Stories of Super Science, January 1933.
  • Also that month:  On the 30th, Hitler appointed Chancellor, promises parliamentary democracy.  What could possibly go wrong?

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