THE BRAIN OF THE PLANET (7)
September 23, 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 Professor Retires
Meanwhile how fared the strangers on the mountain top? For years they lived like hermits, never once descending to the valley below. Their food was brought them by their faithful peons, now peons no longer, but bound to them by chains of roses, the love of man for his brother. With the radio they kept in touch with the world and, year by year, as the changes multiplied, the original low hum of the machine gave way to a mighty roar as its vibrations were increased and intensified in proportion to man’s increasing ability to bear them. In the valley below them the strangers could see the changes actually occurring. As though at the touch of a magic wand, squalor gave way to beauty, and a white-domed city rose in airy splendor under tropic skies. Fertile fields stretched far and wide, where in the old days ragged peons drove their sweating beasts over bare deserts, and graceful white-winged planes from sister-lands skimmed swiftly above the sombre mountains like messengers of peace. Mexico, long-suffering, had come into its own at last. The languorous queen of the Southland smiled in the midst of plenty and her ships sailed every sea laden with the fruits of her tropical gardens.
At last came the day when the inventor looked down from his mountain fastness over a well-nigh perfect world. He was an old man now, a man in whose face shone a light of a strange wisdom. On that day a button was touched and the mighty engine ceased to roar. What mind can conceive the grandeur and the godliness of a soul, that attaining sovereignty over all surrenders it, that manhood may not die.
Strange and terrible things happened for awhile after the great brain was silenced. Old and savage impulses awoke in the night and a phantom army from the charnel vaults of superstition beleaguered the white fortress of the new civilization.
But there is a power stronger than the primeval impulses. That is the power of habit. The world had become accustomed to its new institutions. It had become accustomed to leisure, to freedom, to equality of opportunity, even to a universal love of study and investigation. Very soon irrefutable logic convinced it that any catering to selfish and individualistic impulses would destroy the very goal it sought — the happiness of the individual. The human atom had attained a larger life aye, even a more intensified individuality, by merging itself into that greater life, the State. Men were able not only to enjoy a greater degree of individual freedom, but to draw upon the boundless resources of the whole. The realization had at last been born in upon man that no man can be happy while others are miserable. The old fable of the body and its members was told again, how if the members war with the body and destroy it, the members also perish, how if sickness and starvation hinders the functioning of one part, the whole must suffer proportionately.
Finally the sublime significance of the simple fable penetrated the consciousness of the race, with the result that the wave of reaction began to be regarded as a cerebral epidemic. Medical men and psychologists, many of who had read the history of the previous epidemic, came to the aid of the World-State and insisted on the confinement of all who showed signs of atavism, in institutions for the mentally unsound. Finally the crisis passed, human life resumed its course, and man having himself subdued his lower nature forged on to greater conquests.
Then came a day, after long and watchful waiting for the outcome, that the two old men on the mountain-top looked down upon their work and found it good. With one accord they turned to the long silent monster that still squatted on the edge of the precipice. By the concentrated exertion of all their power, against the gigantic bulk, it thundered down into the rocky canyon a thousand feet below. There it lay — the brain of the planet — a twisted tangled mass of copper and steel. But the world no longer needed an artificial brain, for the wisdom born of experience in both good and evil sat enthroned in the temple of reason. The God Within, the true Christ, had come into his kingdom in the heart of man and had put all his enemies under his feet.
When the last reverberation of the great machine impact with the rocks died out in sobbing echoes, like the death-wail of a tortured living thing, the two men clasped hands in unspoken understanding — and parted. One took the path to the city to end his life with his fellows and share the limitless opportunities of a regenerated world, the other took a dim trail that led further into the mountains where — the Indians said — undying fires still burned upon the altars of the golden gods.
He paused for a moment at the parting of the ways, as the last beams of the setting sun transfigured his features like the halo of a saint. He turned for a moment and extended his arms toward the white-domed city. The perfume from its tropic gardens floated into his dreams like incense ascending to a well-loved deity. He breathed deeply as though in one breath he would draw into his being the essence of the bliss that he had given. Then he turned resolutely down the narrow trail. A deep hush settled over the sombre hills, a reverent hush such as once fell in old cathedrals when men paid homage to the Savior of the World.
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”.