Dr. Materialismus

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Stimson, Frekeric Jessup. "Dr. Materialismus." Scribner's Magazine Nov. 1890. Reprinted Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology all editions. For a sequel and further bibliographical information, see the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, as of August 2023, here.[1] Also as of August 2023, text of story on line at WikiSource here.[2]


Note scene where the male protagonist is tied to a chair and — in an early instance of a motif that will continue through Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), MARATHON MAN (1976), and TOTAL RECALL (1990) — subjected to technology-mediated psychological coercion running from the very direct (dental torture in MARATHON MAN) to subtle. Dr. Materialismus uses fictional advanced Machine Age vibration-producing mechanisms to manipulate the emotions of the protagonist.

Dr. Materialismus:

About two hundred thousand vibrations make in man's cerebrum what you call passion; about four billion per second, that is gravitation, what the philosophers call will, the poets, cosmic love; this comes just after light, white light, which is the sum of all the lights. And their multiple again, of love and light, makes many sextillions, and that is love of God, what the priests name religion."

[* * *]

"Perhaps," I spoke out, then, "you can create the emotion, or the mental existence—whatever you call it—of God himself." I spoke with scorn, for my mind was clearer than ever.

"I can—almost," he muttered. "Just now I have turned the rhythm to the thought millions, which lie above what you call evil passions, between them and what you call the good ones. It is all a mere question of degree. In the eye of science all are the same; morally, one is alike so good as the other. Only motion — that is life; and slower, slower, that is nearer death; and life is good, and death is evil."

"But I can have these thoughts without your machinery," said I.

"Yes," said he, "and I can cause them with it; that proves they are mechanical. Now, the rhythm is on the intellectual-process movement; hence you argue."

See "Automata (H. Bruce Franklin)" for Franklin's brief, insightful comments.


RDE, finishing, 31Aug23