THE BRAIN OF THE PLANET (4)
September 7, 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.
CHAPTER II (cont.)
Jerry is Convinced
“Listen carefully,” he said, peering into Jerry’s face. “If you had a child, would you permit him to exercise his free will without restraint?”
“Why of course not,” Jerry smiled, “that goes without saying.”
“Would the temporary restraint that you impose upon him, provided it were exercised in such a way as not to break his will, in any way detract from his self-respect and his ability to exercise his power of choice on reaching manhood?”
“Of course not.”
“In other words,” the professor concluded, “you would not hesitate to impose a temporary restraint on the free will of your child, until he became capable of exercising mature judgment. You would not even hesitate to use mental influence to mould his plastic mind and to foster in his soul a desire for those material and spiritual things which are the heritage of every man?”
“Certainly,” yawned Jerry lapsing back into boredom.
“Well, that is exactly what the brain of the planet will do for humanity. Like a great broadcasting station it will hurl into the world thought vibrations which will be indelibly imprinted on every brain as its own ideas. No brain on earth will be immune from this bombardment of ideas, because my machine has given me control of the mental essence of the planet, that etheric substance which as psychologists have recently discovered, penetrates all individual minds and in which individualized minds may be said to float like bubbles on the ocean. Only by gaining control of this all-permeating essence, hitherto a sluggish Sargasso sea, becalming our brain-ships in the sea-weeds of tradition and in the octopus tentacles of mass psychology, could I hope to accomplish my purpose, but I’ve invented an instrument made of a metal, which is my own discovery. With this machine I can literally dynamite this Sargasso sea of mental stagnation, turn its currents in the direction of evolution and open pathways of new ideas into the limitless ocean of thought that stretches shoreless into Omnipotence. As a result of this bombardment, humanity en masse will first reject the false system under which it is living, and secondly it will become inspired with such a fervent desire for better things, that each man in proportion to his own potentialities will joyfully co-operate with his fellowmen in the materialization of the universal dream.
“The machine will make no attempt to dictate the manner in which the change shall come nor the innumerable details to be worked out in the reconstruction of society. All that the mass mind needs for its salvation is the breaking of its crystallization, and a vision of perfection. Man is just as capable of achieving that vision, once liberated from the shackles of fear and superstition, as he was capable of achieving mechanical perfection.
“The positive minds will doubtless remain positive still, in relation to negative intellects, but their positive energy will be turned in another direction. Around these positive wills, there will rally their former followers fired by their zeal and saved from disaster by the executive ability of their leaders.”
“Your logic is incontestable,” mused Jerry, “but where is this brain of the planet?”
“In my mind,” said the professor, “but in a few years with your assistance, it will be in operation. Back of that brain will be a mind — the mind of the operator — my mind. I shall record upon it those general ideas which humanity will receive and act upon. Unlike the world’s present mental masters, many of whom have been slain by the hatred of lesser minds, I will be doubly immune from the reaction. First, I shall be protected by the fact that the world is ignorant of my operations and secondly, by barriers of iron and steel, for between the action and the reaction I have interposed — a machine.”
Jerry was only half convinced.
“Are you sure this contraption will work?” he questioned.
“Its principle has been adequately tested. Yes,” repeated the professor, “I am sure.”
“If it does, you’re taking a tremendous responsibility.”
“Yes,” answered the professor as he straightened up. And in this moment there was a grandeur about him that transfigured even his lanky awkwardness as he stood there silhouetted against the deepening night.
“He who died upon the cross,” he said simply, “also took a great responsibility.”
Both men fell strangely silent as the swift tropical night leaped through the sunset like a great beast and swallowed the earth in one gulp.
Far below in the valley lay the ancient city of Saltillo, by day a typical Mexican capital with all its startling contrasts of luxury and filth; by night a jewel of many facets flashing on the bosom of the vibrant dusk.
The two men stood for a moment drinking in beauty as in great draughts and then the desire for slumber claimed them. Even those who are to change the course of destiny tomorrow must sleep — tonight.
But the unsleeping stars shone on, over a world that lay gasping in the tentacles of materialism — over a race that was groping like a child in the night crying aloud for a Savior. Impotently man beat his hands against the gates of heaven crying, “How long, oh Lord, how long?” The stars flung back no answer, for is it not written that in the soul of man itself is contained the solution to all man’s problems? Meanwhile the hour awaited the man.
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”.