This article is part of a series exploring the technology and concepts found in The River.
One aim of the early chapters in The River is to bring the reader up to speed on what has happened between now and the future world I’ve created. The history of the Forgotten-Times (a dark age of man set in the future’s history) is briefly explained and, what’s more, our planet is described as having changed from an ocean-covered ball of rock heated by magma to a Hollow-Earth powered by a perpetual energy core.
As ever when I originally wrote about the Hollow-Earth I didn’t do any research and made up my own reasons behind its existence. But after completing my first draft I took a wider look at other people’s creativity and was fairly surprised to find other Hollow-Earths mentioned not in science fiction, but in old genuine science-theory.
Chapel, bell tower and penitential beds on Station Island. The bell tower stands on a mound that is the site of the original cave which according to various myths is an entrance which leads inside the earth to a place of purgatory.
Before modern-day metaphysical views on religion people genuinely believed heaven and hell to be physical places on Earth.
Think about it, Hell is the dark, fiery pit you go to if you sin and don’t ask for forgiveness. Hades is God of the underworld where those who die go, but also those who find certain caverns or entrances on Earth can enter. Sheol is the pit or abyss where Jew’s go upon death to be ‘removed from the light of God’.
If you’re an early animal gaining consciousness for the first time and you see fire bubble from the ground and your companions die and rot you can easily understand the idea that the dead go literally ‘under the earth’. Added to this is the fact that the Earth, prior to the modern age, was almost unimaginably large from individuals perspective you understand how the idea that Heaven and Hell could be physical places in the real world is actually fairly similar to the metaphysical idea of Heaven and Hell being ‘somewhere’.
As ever, as ideas get passed from generation to generation they get adapted, changed, improved or broken. With human’s liking certainty over the unknown the idea of the dead going ‘somewhere under the earth’ was changed to a literal place, city, set of caves or even to the idea that under the Earth the entire planet is Hollow.
Edmond Halley, the renowned 17th century physicist, who measured the orbit of the comet which now bears his name, once put forth the idea of the Earth consisting of a hollow shell with two inner shells and an innermost core. He believed atmospheres separated these shells and each shell had its own magnetic pole. He believed his Hollow-Earth hypothesis answered many anomalies such as strange compass readings and the Aurora Borealis (which he perceived to be ‘escaping gas’ from one of the atmospheres).
Other people have suggested the Earth is Hollow with a small star at its core. Many (such as Raymond Bernard) even think people live under the surface and visit us in UFO’s.
Again and again there are people who’ve believed in the Earth being hollow (with or without shells and suns) to the point that in the 19th century people wanted to head to holes in the North and South poles and enter these areas! Even American Presidents were open to the idea (although the strange beliefs of American Presidents is sadly not just an issue left to older times!)
But with the continuing and relentless pace of scientific discovery the idea of a Hollow-Earth fell flat hitting walls of new information and new knowledge. The Earth would be better explained through plate tectonics, magma flows and iron cores.
So it’s at this point that I deviate from those that still believe in Hollow-Earth theory and join a heady bunch of interesting people, science fiction writers.
Probably against the backdrop of beliefs and openness to ideas in his time Jules Verne wrote ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’. Encountering new places, animals, vegetation and Dinosaurs his intrepid explorers found a whole new world under our feet. Even today his story is still interesting and has spawned an entire genre known as ‘subterranean fiction‘.
Onward from this well-known example there are much more modern-day takes on the idea of getting underground. From the ‘MYST’ universe containing an entire race of people underground to modern-day Hollywood fluff such as ‘The Core’ where scientists delve into magma streams, the idea of a Hollow, or accessible centre, Earth is very much alive.
The Hollow-Earth in The River
In the River humanity goes through the Dark Age. After this time the Earth’s molten core is replaced with a perpetual energy core. The core eats away at molten rock until a thin 200km thick skin of rock is left around the Earth. Eventually the Core’s power is harnessed and used in environmental technology to keep the new Hollow-Earth alive.
These cores, and the Hollow-Earth provide part of the backdrop of my universe. I like to think my idea is fairly unique, but as you can see, I’m really only standing on the shoulders of giants.