In Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race (1871), we are presented our narrator, an unnamed traveller, who, after a descent into a chasm, discovers a subterranean civilisation. In his discovery, he encounters a strange land, where a foreign, yet somehow relatable, human-like culture, vegetation and architecture appears. Our protagonist meets a foreign species who name themselves Vril-ya, who, according to their ancient history, stem from an upper world – our world, which is to Vril-ya, now only a  myth.

The Vril-ya reveals to our protagonist that they possess a source of energy named Vril. This all permeating fluid renders possible the Vril-ya’s ability to heal, to destroy, to alter matter, and even in such a way that some of their youngsters have the potential to annihilate their entire civilisation. Not only does this reveal that the Vril-ya posses a parapsychological power, which could be associated with a human notion of telepathy, but as our narrator describes it, this power seems to be conducted by the bodies of the Vril-ya:

[…] taking one of my hands in both his own, he approached his lips to my forehead, breathing on it softly. In a few moments my pain ceased; a drowsy, happy calm crept over me; I fell asleep.” (1871:21)

This conduction of Vril, their unique and permeating source of energy, through the Vril-ya appears again as the child Zee heals our protagonist’s wounds, which draws a direct relation between Vril and the bodies of the Vril-ya. (ibid.) This relation can be associated to a similar relation between energy and body in the human realm namely through our conception of electricity, which is both embodied in our own bodies, and this source that we humans use as a means to an end.

The Vril-ya, appearing as a both stronger and more advanced species, can be considered a super-human-race that our protagonist finds both fascinating and terrifying. These majestic creatures, with their awe-inspiring wings and archaic facial features not only amaze our protagonist, but also terrifies him to such an extent that he attacks. (ibid.:33) This unfolds several posthuman questions; How would superior races perceives us human beings? How would a super-race like the Vril-ya treat us, would they destroy us without hesitation or adopt us as their pets, or try and understand us as the Vril-ya does in The Coming Race?


Edward Bulwer-Lytton :“The Coming Race”, 1871, cpt. 1-12

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