The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility
The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility is a novella written by Morgan Robertson and published as Futility in 1898, and revised as The Wreck of the Titan in 1912. It features a fictional British ocean liner Titan that sinks in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg. Titan and its sinking are famous for similarities to the passenger ship RMS Titanic and its sinking fourteen years later. After the sinking of Titanic the novel was reissued with some changes, particularly in the ship's gross tonnage.
The first half of Futility introduces the hero John Rowland, a disgraced former US Navy officer. Now an alcoholic denigrated to the lowest ranks of society, he has been dismissed from the Navy and works as a deckhand on the Titan. One April night, the ship hits an iceberg and sinks, somewhat before the mid-point of the novel.
The second half of the story follows Rowland. He saves the young daughter of a former lover by jumping onto the iceberg with her. The pair find a lifeboat washed up on the iceberg, and are eventually rescued by a passing ship. But the girl is recovered by her mother and Rowland is arrested for her kidnapping. A sympathetic magistrate discharges him and rebukes the mother for being unsympathetic to her daughter's savior. Rowland disappears from the world.
In a brief final chapter covering several years, Rowland works his way up from homeless and anonymous fisherman to a desk job and finally, two years after passing his civil service exam, to "a lucrative position under the Government".
A later edition[clarification needed] includes a coda. Rowland receives a letter from the mother, who congratulates him and pleads for him to visit her, and from the girl, who begs for him.
Similarities to the Titanic
Although the novel was written before RMS Titanic was even conceptualized, there are some uncanny similarities between the fictional and real-life versions. Like Titanic, the fictional ship sank in April in the North Atlantic, and there were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers. There are also similarities in size (800 ft [244 m] long for Titan versus 882 ft 9 in [269 m] long for the Titanic), speed, and life-saving equipment. After the Titanic's sinking, some people credited Robertson with precognition and clairvoyance, which he denied. Scholars attribute the similarities to Robertson's extensive knowledge of shipbuilding and maritime trends.
In popular culture
- Walter Lord's book A Night to Remember (1955), relating the Titanic's wreck, begins with a summary of Robertson's novel.
- The American anthology series Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction used the story in the episode eleven segment entitled "Titan".
- The novel can be found in some locations in the 1996 video game Titanic: Adventure Out of Time.
- The 2010 Doctor Who audio drama The Wreck of the Titan by Barnaby Edwards connects the writing of Futility to the Titanic story through time travel.
- Martin Gardner's book The Wreck of the Titanic Foretold? (1986)
- The book was referenced in the television series One Step Beyond, in season 1, episode 2, entitled "Night of April 14th", which aired January 27, 1959.
- In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fictional universe, the Titan serves as the Titanic's fictional counterpart.
- Roberston's book is referenced in the 2009 video game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors in regards to the game's setting.
- List of fictional ships
- How the Mail Steamer Went Down in Mid Atlantic by a Survivor – 1886 book written to warn about ships which lack lifeboat capacity
- "The Titanic – Futility". History on the Net. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
- Hasan, Heba (April 14, 2012). "Author 'Predicts' Titanic Sinking, 14 Years Earlier". Time. Retrieved 2019-11-28.
- Cocksey, Brian. "The Titan & the Titanic". Light Eternal Publishing Limited. Archived from the original on 2011-08-07. Retrieved 2005-11-23.
- Rutman, Sharon; Stevenson, Jay (1998). The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Titanic. Alpha Books. ISBN 0-02-862712-1.
- Flavio Cenni. "The Titanic before the Titanic". Retrieved 2009-01-13.
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