When Sleepers Woke
It’s 2163 and the Final War has erupted into almost total human annihilation. American fleet pilot Allan Dane watches the scene fold from New York as enemies overtake them and Allan finds himself ejected to land, trying to escape a gas that will kill everyone it touches. Some time later Allan wakes to find that most of the human race is gone, although some have survived and it’s time to open the hatch they have taken refuge in and survey what is left outside. What lies in wait for Allan and the others? Are they truly the only humans left on Earth?
2163 is not that far away now, but when Arthur Leo Zagat (1895-1948) wrote his short story towards the end of his lifetime, it must have seemed a lifetime away. In a way it was, more than a hundred years when the average person only lived seventy years. Yet the days and years keep rolling on, regardless of what any number of doomsday prophecies have tried to foresee. Arthur Leo Zagat was an American lawyer who gave up his professional career to write pulp and science fiction professionally. He was noted for collaborations with fellow lawyer Nat Schachner and in the last two decades of his life, he wrote short stories prolifically. About 500 pieces appeared in a wide variety of pulp magazines, including Thrilling Wonder Stories, Argosy, Dunne Mystery Magazine and Astounding. He also wrote the Doc Turner series that regularly appeared in The Spider pulp magazine through the 1930s. His only attempt at a novel, Out of Time, was published by Fantasy Press in 1949 the year Zagat died.
When the Sleepers Woke is Zagat’s best known work. With less than 12,000 words and an average reading speed of 420 words per minute, you can finish it in less than an hour but, in keeping with George Orwell’s 1984 and other classics, the power of such perceptive work so far beyond its time is easy to underestimate.
This most recent edition by All Classic Books, is available in the traditional trade paper format, as well as e-editions for iPad, iPhones, Nook and Kindle, as well as most other electronic devices, bringing this Classic to new readers who prefer instant downloads and the
convenience of their e-book devices. Both editions have a contemporary cover design, with question and discussion ideas for book clubs, as well as student guides for high school and college readers, to help them understand and interpret the significance of such a work.
Science and pulp fiction, with their futuristic timelines and speculations about what might lie ahead for the human race are so commonplace these days that it’s easy to overlook them and many readers do, but for writers, the early classics in this genre, including Zagat and other contemporaries, deserve much closer inspection.