By: Booth Tarkington
December 22, 2021

HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize Booth Tarkington’s 1926 Radium Age sf story “The Veiled Feminists of Atlantis” for HILOBROW’s readers. Tarkington, an avid sf reader, wrote this satire of the sexes — shortly after American women won the right to vote — for the fortieth anniversary issue of Forum.

ALL INSTALLMENTS: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5.


“No single theory wholly accounts for the presence of a ‘White Arab’ here,” he said. “Blue-eyed fair people in Africa are spoken of by Egyptian hieroglyphs and rather definitely assigned to this region; my own conclusion is that the Kabyles have been here a very long time. No one can say authoritatively that they may not spring from a flight migration from Atlantis. It is a possible thing, even a rather plausible one; but the same speculation, — for it is a speculation rather than a theory — has been made concerning the Basques, though the language roots of Kabyle dialects and Basque appear to have no relation. However, since if Atlantis existed it was of continental proportion, the peoples upon it were probably of widely different types, even if they were united under a common government.” Here M. Lanjuinais paused to laugh. “Occult science, which formerly had an eccentric European prevalence, probably never touched American life, and so you are probably unaware of the occult tales of Atlantis, and do not know that some of the occultists believed themselves to be in possession of the true history of the sinking of the continent. You have never heard anything of that, have you?”

“It happens that I have,” I said; and, as he spoke, my memory began to turn the legend up from the obscure stratum of recollections it had come to occupy in my mind. “I think it was this.” And I repeated what I recalled of the tradition.

“Yes,” he said, laughing again. “That was the substance of the occult vaporizing, if indeed substance may be attributed to what is so extremely tenuous a vapor. I think the occultists put their own rather forced interpretation upon a Berber story someone must have picked up hereabouts years ago and carried either to Europe or to India, perhaps to both.”

“Hereabouts?” I asked. “Then there is some trace of a legend of Atlantis among the Kabyle people?”

“Not if one speaks carefully,” he replied. “There is a story, yes; but one cannot say that it refers to Atlantis. It speaks of a Great Land to the West in the Waters. That might as well be America, except for the use of the phrase I translated as ‘in the waters, which seems to mean ‘within the waters’.”

“You find this story among the Kabyles?”

“Yes. I came upon traces and variations of it here and there; but its best and most complete form appears among them in some of the hilltop villages nearer Bougie, toward the coast.”

“How does it differ from the occultist form?”

“In several curious details,” M. Lanjuinais replied; and he smiled as a man smiles over something that is between the whimsical and the ridiculous. “Most strikingly of all, it differs in ending with a question that no Kabyle has ever solved and is not to be solved by anyone else, I think.”

“But what a strange thing!” I exclaimed. “For a legend to end with a question seems extraordinary.”

“But not unique. I believe, however, that there are not many traditions leading to questions as their main point. This one does that. There may be some connection, too, with the fact that the Kabyles do not veil their women; though that is only another speculation, and the story doesn’t directly touch upon it.”

“What is the story?” I asked. “Would you mind telling us?”


RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF: “Radium Age” is Josh Glenn’s name for the nascent sf genre’s c. 1900–1935 era, a period which saw the discovery of radioactivity, i.e., 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. More info here.

SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: 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 | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable | Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire” | Francis Stevens’s “Friend Island” | George C. Wallis’s “The Last Days of Earth” | Frank L. Pollock’s “Finis” | A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool | E. Nesbit’s “The Third Drug” | George Allan England’s “The Thing from — ‘Outside'” | Booth Tarkington’s “The Veiled Feminists of Atlantis” | H.G. Wells’s “The Land Ironclads” | J.D. Beresford’s The Hampdenshire Wonder | Valery Bryusov’s “The Republic of the Southern Cross” | Algernon Blackwood’s “A Victim of Higher Space” | A. Merritt’s “The People of the Pit”.