We met Gustav Meyrink, Bohemian bohemian and mystic author, a few months ago. Best known for his adaptation of the Jewish folk legend The Golem, he is attracting attention almost 80 years after his death for an eerily prophetic short story written in 1903.
The dystopian fantasy, titled Petroleum, Petroleum, foresees catastrophe after an explosion sends oil gushing unstoppably from a well in the Gulf of Mexico (though the predicted date is 1951). The story’s central character is a chemist named Dr Kunibald Jessegrim (which must be an anagram of something…) who has made millions from mescaline processing, whom we find at the beginning of the tale merrily poisoning fish with strychnine. He predicts that the world’s seas will become overwhelmed with oil, which will be sucked up into rainclouds with cataclysmic consequences for humanity. The end of the story finds various factions bickering about how to clean up the mess. Eeek.
Anyway, happy thoughts! Happy thoughts!
If you want to freak out your friends by reading the story aloud with a flashlight under your face, you can find an English translation in the Dedalus collection The Opal (and other stories).