By: Lilith Lorraine
August 24, 2023

Mondrian’s Evolution (c. 1910–1911)

Lilith Lorraine’s feminist utopian novelette The Brain of the Planet was published by David Lasser as a chapbook in Hugo Gernsback’s Science Fiction Series in 1929. HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize it here for HILOBROW’s readers.

ALL INSTALLMENTS: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8.


CHAPTER I (cont.)
They Go to Work

About three months following the foregoing events on a sweltering day in August, two men climbed wearily up a narrow mountain trail in the state of Coahuila, Mexico. Behind them trudged four tired burros, heavily laden, and urged on by two equally exhausted peons. At last the perspiring caravan reached the summit and the two men ahead looked down upon the peaceful scene below, and mopped their brows vigorously.

With one of these strangers the reader is already acquainted; he is the young psychology professor with spectacles and — a dream. His companion, Jerry Brand — blonde, robust, handsome — bore all the earmarks of an intelligent young mechanic and such, indeed, he was. Notwithstanding his humble calling, something of the pioneer and of the dreamer must have been woven into his fabric. Otherwise he would not have been here on a mission of whose real purpose he knew nothing save that it took him over unknown trails and was flavored with the spice of danger.

He now addressed his employer, Harry Maxwell, erstwhile professor of psychology at the University of Arizona and Secretary of the Arizona Institute of Applied Psychology.

“By the way, Harry, old boy, did you get that permit?”

“Yes, I have it in my pocket, which means that we can proceed with our plans at once with the full consent of the government.”

“What did you tell the Governor that you were going to do?”

“I told him I wanted to erect a broadcasting station to test out some new discoveries.”

Brand whistled.

“Yes? Well, if it wouldn’t be asking too much, now that we’ve reached the end of the trail — what are you going to do ?”

“Exactly what I told the Governor, erect a broadcasting station to test out some new discoveries.”

“What kind of broadcasting station?”

The professor smiled queerly.

“The Governor didn’t ask me that,” he answered quietly.

“But I do,” persisted the young mechanic. “I’ve got enough sense to know that you wouldn’t throw up a good job and drag another man with you into the wilds of Mexico simply to build a broadcasting station. Besides radio isn’t your line — though I have heard that you’re a sort of inventor on the side.”

“You begin to exhibit signs of that divine curiosity which precedes the dawn of intelligence,” said the professor jovially. “Well, since you’ve been so patient up to now, you might as well know all about it. But don’t forget your contract, that you’re willing to try anything once.”

“Shoot,” said Jerry laconically.

“What you are going to install under my instructions is a broadcasting station, but it is more than that. It is the brain of the planet.”

“The planet will be needing a brain if everybody gets as loco as you are,” remarked Jerry, but he still showed a willingness to listen.

“You are right about the planet needing a brain, my boy,” went on the professor seriously, taking no heed of his friend’s sarcasm. “It needs a centralized intelligence to direct the rudimentary ganglionic centers that pass for the brains of human beings. It needs a centralized control just as the body needs a centralized control. It needs a super-will that can impose its mandates upon the lesser lives that unite to form that Greater Life-Society — and unite the warring individual wills in service to the whole.

“Let me make myself clear by telling you something of the evolution of the brain,” the professor went on warming up to his subject. “As you doubtless know, the great prehistoric animals, the monarchs of the ancient world, could hardly be said to have a central brain at all. What they did have was a number of small brains distributed throughout the body at strategic points where they were needed for the control of local functions. True, there was an embryonic brain in their small heads but it was only the germ of what the brain has evolved into today. It was relatively insignificant in comparison with other centers exercising cerebral functions. Why one of these cumbersome creatures could have been killed — struck in a vital spot and yet could have turned and slain the slayer, simply because the poor fool didn’t know it was dead.”

“Of all the unutterable nonsense—” began Jerry.

“Just wait till I finish,” interrupted the imperturbable professor. “I repeat that a prehistoric monster after being technically dead might have turned and annihilated his enemy. You can readily understand how this could have come about when you consider the gigantic bulk of these creatures, the slowness of their reflexes and the absence of a well-developed central control to co-ordinate their responses and to receive and register outside stimuli.”


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” | Max Brand’s The Untamed | Julian Huxley’s “The Tissue-Culture King” | Clare Winger Harris’s “A Runaway World” | Francis Stevens’s “Thomas Dunbar” | George Gurdjieff’s “Beelzebub’s Tales” | Robert W. Chambers’s “The Harbor-Master”.