By: Lilith Lorraine
September 19, 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.


A New World

Things came to pass with unerring accuracy just as the professor had predicted. The epidemic died down but in its wake came reforms that were conceived and consummated with such lightning swiftness that the mind could hardly adjust itself to the change.

All the mighty energies of man’s superhuman machinery were enlisted on the side of human progress. Strange and powerful new inventions were launched and welcomed — inventions that overnight practically lifted from the race the ancient curse of toil. The germs of these inventions had long slumbered in the minds of geniuses, but they were hindered from perfecting them because no capitalist would dare employ a labor saving device that would throw millions out of employment at once, and hence precipitate a revolution. With the devil’s own arithmetic they had carefully computed — these Masters of the Machines — just how many hundred of thousands could safely remain on the verge of starvation without stirring up appreciable discontent. No one cared to be the one to furnish the last straw to break the camel’s back. It never occurred to them to reduce the hours of labor for all as each new invention was perfected. That would be Socialism, and Socialism was one of the bogie-words from which men fled in terror. But now the bogies of mass psychology were dissipated by the clear sunlight of spiritual insight. The capitalistic system crumbled on its rotten foundations and with it crumbled national boundaries and the old superstitious religions, those animated corpses whose skeleton fingers pointed to paradise beyond, and lulled men into an opium dream of future glory to compensate them for poverty and inequality here. Whatever spiritual light had ever burned upon the altars of men’s creeds had long since been smothered by the iron hand of Mammon, for only those who were willing to sell their small souls for the fleshpots of Egypt were permitted to pose as the spiritual leaders of men. The last Christ had been crucified upon the altar of greed, and flesh could no longer endure the rigors of the Great Persecution.

It came about that the World-State was ushered in, just as the professor had predicted, by the very ones who had formerly opposed it — the Lords of the Machines. Those who, through long experience in power, had learned to use that power judiciously became the initiators of the new regime. Mankind was not forced again to witness the spectacle of amateurs in government playing with forces of whose nature they were ignorant. Time and time again in the past the nations had exchanged one master for another only to find the new one more ignorant and hence more arrogant than the old.

The Masters of the Machines retained their mastery until a purely natural process deprived them of it. Greater minds even than they — minds which had been formerly suppressed and crowded back — came to the front with greater ideas and, working to the top, peacefully supplanted their former masters by the simple fact of greater efficiency. A strange thing was discovered, namely that those exercising the actual authority were not the real intellects of the race. They were simply those sufficiently selfish to advance their personal interests regardless of consequences to others, and sufficiently intelligent to discover and enlist the services of greater minds in their campaign of self-aggrandizement. The real brains did not exercise power because, through the breadth of their intellects, they had glimpsed a higher goal than money-grabbing, and could not, therefore, concentrate their whole souls on this end as did the Lords of the Machines. Even a small brain with all its energies concentrated on one object may dominate a greater brain whose energies are scattered. Since material wealth was the standard by which all was measured, it came about that the greater minds were forced to concentrate a great part of their energies on its acquisition. By refusing to concentrate, all still pitifully holding to a higher vision became enslaved by those whose concentration was undivided.

Now it was only natural that these really great minds should eventually dominate, once their standard became the universal standard. Humanity with every material comfort within the reach of all, with every desert blossoming as the rose, with their giant machines become the slaves of man instead of man being the slaves of the machines-the world found itself with undreamed leisure within its reach. Under the invisible direction of the Super-brain, and under the visible guidance of a real intellectual aristocracy, man began to employ this leisure in the exploration of the realms of mind. The world began to bring its mental evolution up to the level of its mechanical evolution, and finally to surpass it. Things which were formerly luxuries had become necessities, yet necessities attainable by the pressing of a button. Relieved of the compulsion of expending all their energies in acquiring the means to live, humanity began to savor life itself — to probe it to its uttermost and to grasp something of its meaning and its goal. Relieved from physical labor and seeking an outlet for the unbounded energy that comes with perfect health and freedom, men released this energy in the realms of art and scientific research. A golden age began to which the golden ages of the past were but as dark nights of mental obscurity.

The relations between the sexes became perfect, for with both sexual jealousy and economic pressure removed at a single stroke, all marriages were based on real love, on affinity of tastes; and such marriages were, of course, impregnable. Crude and anthropomorphic religion of fear that had been such a potent weapon in the hands of the Machine Kings gave way to a belief in a Supreme Intelligence permeating every soul and intuitionally directing all who listened to its guidance. Humanity that through the long, dark ages had sought their god in the uncharted heavens found him at last in the human heart.

Volumes could be written on the reconstruction of society, but we moderns of 1970 have only to look around us to see the result — a perfect race in a perfect world, a race that having overcome the earth, pierces the heavens with an endless arc of light seeking new wrongs to right, new worlds to conquer.


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”.