TRUE. In his 1898 novella entitled Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan, Robertson told the story of a ‘superliner’ named the Titan, which sank after striking an iceberg on a calm April night, with great loss of life. The Titan was ‘the largest craft afloat and the greatest of the works of men’. Also like the Titanic, she had new watertight compartments which could be closed from the bridge in an instant, and was considered ‘practically unsinkable’, as she could float with nine of her watertight compartments flooded, and no accident could be imagined which would flood more. Nor did the Titan carry enough lifeboats for everyone on board.
The novella’s plot does differ in some respects from the real-life disaster—the Titan capsized and sank very quickly on her third trip from New York, and the ship’s specifications aren’t exactly the same, but the similarities are nevertheless striking. Indeed, Titanic’s sinking on her maiden voyage is a good example of the truth being stranger than fiction, and this may explain some of our enduring fascination with the disaster.
Robertson’s novella also parallels incidents involving the Olympic; the Titan sinks a smaller ship in a collision, just as the Olympic rammed and sank the Nantucket lightship in fog in the 1930s.
In 1914, Robertson again demonstrated his extraordinary powers of prediction in his short story Beyond the Spectrum, about a war between the Americans and the Japanese which began with a sneak attack by the Japanese on Hawaii and involved the use of a searchlight developed by the Americans which had similar effects to the atomic bomb, including blindness, heat and facial burns.
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