The Devolutionist (2)
February 28, 2013
HILOBROW is pleased to present the second installment of our serialization of Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist. New installments will appear each Thursday for eighteen weeks.
“The Devolutionist” (Argosy All-Story Weekly, July 1921) is the third occult-science-fiction Dr. Kinney story; the others are “The Lord of Death” (June 1919), “The Queen of Life” (August 1919), and “The Emancipatrix” (September 1921). Having learned how to visit other worlds telepathically, without leaving Earth — by means of Venusian technology — Dr. Kinney and his companions enter the minds and share the sensations of the inhabitants of a human-like civilization on other planets. In this story, they visit a double planet: Hafen is the abode of capitalists, Holl of workers. A nearby planet of “cooperative democrats” is in trouble, so Kinney & co. step in.
Cobbler and one-reeler writer Homer Eon Flint (1888–1924) published a number of pulp science fiction stories — including “The Planeteer” (1918; one of the earliest examples of cosmic sci-fi) and The Blind Spot (1921, with Austin Hall) — during the genre’s Radium Age. Everett Bleiler’s Science Fiction: The Early Years calls Flint “in many ways the outstanding writer of s-f in the Munsey pulp magazines.” Flint died in a crash near Oakland, Calif., after supposedly stealing a taxi at gunpoint in order to use it in a bank hold-up.
BACK ON EARTH
“Talk about results!” Billie was first to speak. “Why — where do you suppose I found myself? Out in mid-ocean, in a small boat, with the spray flying into my — that is, into the face of —” She broke off, confused.
“Your agent?” the doctor put in. All Billie could do was to nod; Van Emmon was bursting to talk.
“My agent was a Parisian apache, or I’m a bum guesser! I didn’t catch all that was going on, but it certainly sounded like the plans and specifications of a garroting!”
“No such excitement here,” said Smith. But his eyes were sparkling. “I was going the rounds with a mail-carrier. How do you explain that, doc? I’ve never given mail-carrying a second thought.”
“That would have nothing to do with it. As for myself, I was looking through the eyes of some member of the House of Representatives, in Washington. I recognized the building. They were calling the roll at the time.”
He paused while he made a note of the incident, for the sake of checking up the hour with the newspaper accounts later on. Then he rubbed the knuckles of one hand in the palm of the other — a habit which indicated that a diagnosis was going on in his mind. The others waited expectantly.
“There’s a big difference,” commented he, thoughtfully, “between these experiences and our last experiments. Then, each of us knew exactly what to expect. Each had a definite image of a certain particular person in mind when he went into the teleconscious state. That made it comparatively easy for us to communicate the way we did, even when you”— indicating the bride and groom —“were still in Japan.
“But to-day neither of us had the slightest idea what was coming. That is, if we followed the rule. Did you”— addressing Smith —“take care to concentrate strictly upon the one idea of view-point?”
“Nothing else. I kept my attention fixed upon eyes and ears, only, just as the instructions read.”
“Same here,” answered Billie, for herself and the geologist.
“Then we know this much: So long as the four of us are connected up in this fashion”— holding up his braceleted wrists —“we combine our forces to such an extent that we do not need a definite object. It’s simply the power of harmony.”
Billie was anxious to get it down pat. “In other words, there’s nothing to prevent me from locating some one, although unknown to me, so long as we four agree upon the same locality?”
“That’s it exactly. If we agree to concentrate upon Greenland, even, we shall find four people there whose view-points resemble our own. The main thing is to find similar view-points.”
There was some discussion along this line, in which the doctor made it clear that view-point was simply another name for perspective, and that it had nothing whatever to do with actual mental accomplishments. The view-point was really the soul.
“As yet,” he went on, “we should make no attempt to ‘put ourselves in the other fellow’s place.’ Such efforts require a violent exertion of the imagination, and we need practice before tackling the more advanced problems.
“Time enough, after a while, to get in touch with the Venusians. There’s none of them that has a view-point like ours. And once we’ve done that —”
“What?” from Billie, breathlessly.
“Anything! The whole universe will be open to us! Why, I understand from reading these books”— indicating the Venusian manuscripts —“that there is such a thing as an intelligent creature, so utterly unlike ourselves that —” He stopped short.
“For the time being,” said Smith quickly, “we’d better be content with something familiar. Is there some other planet in our solar system that would do, doc?”
“No. According to the Venusians, the only others that are habitable besides Venus and the Earth, are Mars and Jupiter. And it seems that the people on these two are so totally different —”
“We couldn’t get an answer?”
“Very unlikely. Besides, I am having the cube refitted for a two-months’ cruise. Rather thought I’d like to visit Mars and Jupiter in person.
“But when it comes to leaving the solar system entirely the telepathic method is the only one that will work; even the nearest of the fixed stars is out of the question.”
“How far is that?” Smith inquired.
“The nearest? About four and a half light-years.”
“Yes, but what’s a light-year?”
“It amounts to sixty-three thousand times the distance from here to the sun!”
Smith whistled. “Nothing doing in the cube, that’s sure. Besides, could we expect to find any people like us in the neighborhood of that star?”
“Not Alpha Centauri.” The doctor reached for one of the Venusian books, and pointed out certain pages. “It seems that the Class IIa stars — that is, suns — are the only ones which have planets in the right condition for the development of humans. The astronomers already suspected as much, by the way. But the Venusians have definitely named a few systems whose evolution has reached points almost identical with that of the earth.
“Now, until we have acquired a certain amount of ability”— examining the books more closely —“our best chance will lie in the neighborhood of a giant star known to us as Capella.”
“Capella.” Billie had drawn a star-chart to her side. “Where is that located?”
“In Auriga, about half-way from Orion to the Pole Star. She’s a big yellow sun.
“At any rate, the Venusians say that this particular planet of Capella’s has people almost exactly the same as those of the Earth, except”— speaking very clearly —“except that they have had about one century more civilization!”
Billie exclaimed with delight. “Say — this is going to be the best yet! To think of seeing what the Earth is going to be like, a hundred years from now!”
Instantly Van Emmon’s interest became acute. “By George! Is that right, doc? Are we likely to learn what the next hundred years will do for us?”
“Don’t know exactly.” The doctor spoke cautiously. “That’s merely what I infer from these books.”
“If we do,” ran on the geologist excitedly, “we’ll see how a lot of our present day theories will be worked out! I’m curious to see what comes of them. Personally, I think most of them are plain nonsense!”
“That remains to be seen.” The doctor glanced around. “Remember: what we want is the view-point only; and the place is Capella’s planetary system. Ready?”
For answer the others leaned back in their chairs. The doctor touched the button at his side, as a signal to his wife; he settled himself in his chair; and in a minute his head was dropping over against his shoulder. In another second the minds of the four experimenters were out of their bodies; out, and in the twinkling of an eye, traversing space at absolute speed.
For thought, like gravitation, is instantaneous.
RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HILOBROW’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.”
HILOBOOKS: The mission of HiLoBooks is to serialize novels (both original and reissued) on HiLobrow, and to reissue Radium Age science fiction in beautiful new print editions. The following titles can be read in serial form via HiLobrow.com and/or purchased in gorgeous paperback form online or via your local independent bookstore: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. Also serialized on HiLobrow: W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet”, Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist, Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon — 2419 A.D., Jack London’s “The Red One”. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.
ORIGINAL FICTION from HILOBROW: James Parker’s swearing-animal fable The Ballad of Cocky The Fox, later published in limited-edition paperback by HiLoBooks; plus: a newsletter, The Sniffer, by Patrick Cates, and further stories: “The Cockarillion”) | Karinne Keithley Syers’s hollow-earth adventure Linda, later published in limited-edition paperback; plus: ukulele music, and a “Floating Appendix”) | Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention, published by Red Lemonade | Robert Waldron’s high-school campus roman à clef The School on the Fens | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Flourish Klink’s Star Trek fanfic “Conference Comms” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Charlie Mitchell’s “Sentinels” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | John Holbo’s graphic novel On Beyond Zarathustra (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD by Stephen Burt | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | EPIC WINS: GOTHAMIAD by Chad Parmenter | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”