THE BRAIN OF THE PLANET (3)
August 29, 2023
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.
The Secret Revealed
“I get you,” replied Jerry, “You’re not half so crazy as you look. But go on. What’s all this got to do with the brain of the planet?”
“Everything,” answered the professor. “What I told you was more than an example, it was an exact analogy.”
“You mean that the world is like the monster that had a lot of brains, but no real intelligence. You mean that we might all be dead and don’t know it?”
“You have the general idea,” he replied, “although you’re getting ahead of the story. What I do mean is that through lack of a super-brain, the disconnected and crystallized brains of individuals are perpetrating fossilized and primitive institutions long after these institutions have outlived their usefulness. Mechanically we surpass the very gods, in our control of natural forces, but our capacity to think, logically and without prejudice in regard to religion, morals and government is comparable to that of a twelve-year-old child. In our thinking we have followed the path of least resistance, finding it easier to pay others to think for us than to do our own reasoning. As a result we are enslaved by a mass psychology dictated by a few positive and unscrupulous minds, who are actually laughing up their sleeves at our stupidity.
“We accept our morals ready-made from these positive minds who would not think for a moment of practicing the restrictions they dictate for their inferiors, knowing full well that the masters of the planet have always dwelt beyond the law. These precepts come down to us with the sanction of tradition, and are embodied in cant phrases which we repeat like parrots, fondly imagining them to have originated in our own intelligence. According to the law of suggestion, well known to our mental masters, the ceaseless repetition of a thing finally engraves itself on the plastic substance of the brain, and all our thoughts must necessarily revolve around those fixed ideas, which usurp the throne of reason and dictate all our actions.
“It has become a crime to give birth to an original idea and we are becoming increasingly intolerant, as the events of the last few years testify. Many hate-inspired factions have reverted to the superstitions of our ancestors and we stand face to face with another inquisition. The Masters of the Machines, as we have begun to call those who control the means of production and distribution, have sent agents into every land who, with clever appeals to the lower emotions, have justified the continuance of the animal instincts for murder, jealousy and fanaticism, by clothing them in the garb of patriotism, honor and religion. Festering and puritanical inhibitions are garbed in the robes of virtue; and secret vices, born of the repression of man’s normal functions, leer and chatter in the twilight of civilization.
“We cower in terror at the utterance of any word that they have bid us fear, no matter how noble an idea it may represent; and we wage wars of personal profit for the Masters of the Machines. The only thing that has saved the race so far is that these selfish leaders, through their very selfishness resulting in conflicting individual goals, have been unable to unite their forces in one grand campaign for the enslavement of humanity. But notwithstanding, humanity has reached the end of its rope. It is divided into innumerable factions each rallying around the leader capable of making the strongest appeal to the most deep-seated prejudice of his respective faction. Today, as you well know, these factions are at each other’s throats and no one knows how soon the storm will break.”
Jerry yawned, “I’ve heard all this before,” he said wearily, “and, of course, it’s more or less true, but what are you going to do about it?”
“We are going to install the brain of the planet — the Super-brain. We are going to create a central governing control that will be more powerful and therefore have a potential positive to every mind on earth. It will be the greater Intelligence around which all lesser intelligences will revolve as the planets revolve around the sun. The idea came to me that if human minds can be swayed by evil wills that work against human progress, why can they not be swayed by a beneficent will that works for human progress? And the beneficent will will have this stupendous advantage, it will not be divided against itself.”
“But,” objected Jerry, “In either case, whether man is controlled by many evil wills or by one good will, it amounts to the same thing, that freedom of choice will be destroyed, that man will not be permitted to think for himself.”
The professor looked at his companion with a new respect and answered with a perceptible warmth of comradeship.
“I have thought long and earnestly over just that point, and this is my conclusion. It is true that free will is the most precious heritage of the race. It is true that anything which endangers man’s right to formulate and act upon his own decisions, will destroy that which is man’s essential essence — his manhood. Yet you must admit that mankind is face to face with that very calamity now. We have become a race of automatons who have sold our birthright for the crumbs of material comfort that fall from the masters’ tables. Yet, as you say, if all this were changed and a beneficent autocrat were substituted for the Masters of the Machines, the same result would ultimately ensue — decline. History bears this out; but I have a solution.
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”.