THE COMING OF THE AMAZONS
A SATIRISTIC SPECULATION ON THE SCIENTIFIC FUTURE OF CIVILIZATION
AUTHOR OF “SACRIFICE,” ETC.
LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO.
NEW YORK * TORONTO
The Coming of the Amazons
by Owen Johnson
printed in the Untied States of America
To Harrie T. Lindeberg
Preface - vii
It is now one week since the termination of the extraordinary adventure which happened to me in this, the third week in November 1929. Every detail, even to the least conversation is clear in my memory as I start to set down my strange revelation. I, John Bogardus, graduate of Harvard and Oxford, descendant of a virile patroon ancestry, now in my thirty-second year make this record, that my fellow men, at present supinely indifferent to the alarming portent of the feminist uprising, may perceive before it is too late, the hideous catastrophe toward which in the relentless war of the sexes we are blindly drifting.
On the fifteenth of November I had sought refuge at my club in the company of my old friend Dr. Sachaloff, a biologist in the --------------- Foundation, whose propensity to think out loud had proven exceedingly irritating to the mediocrity of his associates.
We had lunched and wined in a manner befitting [viii] the cellar inherited from my paternal grandfather, and luncheon over, the conversation had run along lines of scientific speculation into the future of society and the possibilities of the prolongation of life. Dr. Sachaloff, sure of my confidence, had permitted his imagination the unpardonable scientific liberty of prophecy.
[Dr. S. proclaims that life might be prolonged from two to three hundred years. John B. suggests freezing a human and thawing them. They discuss hibernation. Dr. S. has been experimenting with it. He suggests to John that he come by the lab and see.
On John's way home he runs into Kitty Dalgleesh, who teases him about being so happily married; he teases her for not being married. She warns him, however, that “Beware! You have married two mothers-in-law, mother and sister.” p. xii which although he doesn't respond, worries him.]
The suggestion that Kitty had artfully implanted in my imagination disturbed me though I tried to shake it off. It was in line with my own growing forebodings.
When I entered my home, I found tea spread and a group of women listening to Mrs. Agatha Billings laying down the daily law with occasional sallies from Ernesta. My mother-in-law is a woman of terrific dignity; calmly impressive as the classic portraits of Martha Washington whom she resembles. Ernesta is a young Amazon, who leads parades of protest on horseback, who writes Latin poetry, has taken her bar examination and spends five thousand a year on her clothes.
[John goes past the gathering of women, including his wife Emelia, and into his library where he hears the following exchange:]
The voice of my mother-in-law coldly irritant rose from the other room.
“The history of society wherever we study it profoundly is simply the record of the warfare of the sexes. No wonder then that marriage must remain the battle ground.”
“But,” objected Mrs. Zanzigger, who was militant but not advanced, “in modern marriage, with equal division of economic responsibility and a common standard of moral judgment, isn't an intellectual companionship possible?”
“After sixty, perhaps,” interrupted Ernesta. [ … Ernesta continues:] “The salvation of society is in the future woman.”
[The women express the views that suffrage is the first step, that women should look on themselves as man's superior. They say the age of physical force is over; the Age of intellect is coming. Men will have to look after the children.]
After this I heard only confusedly, my head must have begun to nod, for sounds and forms became confused and my book slid to the floor.
All at once --- a brilliant light seemed to play about me. [John starts and is in the lab of Dr. S, and has been in a cataleptic state for eight hours. Dr. S says ready for the twenty-first century? and then “I saw the steely eyes, through the bushy dark whiskers, felt a sudden pain from the pressure of the fingers on my brow and again all outlines became watery and evasive.” [p. xvii]
[Chapter I. Then he is waking up and hearing women's voices speaking of his condition. As he emerges into consciousness he is not sure “Was I awake or in the grip of an artifical dream induced by an opiate? Were the voices I heard about me simply the fragments of my imagination?” (pp. 2-3) he becomes more conscious & they tell me he will be fine tomorrow. He hears one comment:]
“What beautiful teeth and all his own,” I heard another voice say as I passed blissfully into unconsciousness. p. 3
[He awakes for the second time, on a stretcher. He is aware of a floating sensation - realizes he is an open air hospital. “A score of women in loose Grecian robes were standing around, gazing at me with the utmost curiosity. Two things struck me at once. They were all of a uniform stature, at least seven feet in height, slender, broad-shouldered, and all had the blue eyes and pale yellow hair of the true Scandinavian blonde. Furthermore as far as I could judge, they appeared all to be of an age between twenty-five and thirty.” [p. 5]
[It is “Athena, the thirteenth month of the year” in the year 2181. He was “Committed to the Frigidrome” in 1929. They are shocked to hear that - they say the Frigidrome was not in general use until the year 2075. They are not familiar with his references to prohibition, the stock market, and Hoover.” They ask his name and he tells them]
“My family name? Bogardus. John Bogardus.”
“Family name? What is that?”
“Why the name of the father and mother --- the name of the children. Family name name of the family.” I look around at their puzzled expressions and a light dawned on me. “What - doesn't the family exist? Has marriage been abolished?”
[They tell him that he will find many startling changes. The one inquiring of him (“of superior position”) says]
“Never fear. I shall take the best of care of you. Tomorrow, we'll talk over many things. Now as the weather bureau is turning on the rain tonight, we must hurry down.” She stopped and looking at me with a fascinated intentness said, “Bogardus, you have the most beautiful hair and teeth I've ever seen. And I love your eyes and smile. We don't have males like you now-a-days.”
She put her arms under me and lifted me lightly up, holding me a moment suspended. Her blue eyes were close over mine, she was smiling with a smile that was tantalizing, magnetic, and ardently possessive. She reminded me, yes, all at once she reminded me of Ernesta.
“I've seen you before,” I said drowsily. “What is your name?”
I could not meet the flame in her glance, my eyelids closed and with a sigh, my head relaxed against her protecting breast.
p. 9 - Chapter II
He then wakes to find himself in a diving suit, on a gigantic dirigible. He observes a lot of cars rising and descending, very different from airplanes. He has no trouble moving about, which surprises him; she tells him this is because he has been “electrically massaged for weeks.” She leads them to a plane and says they could put on “electronized belts and walk” but that it might be distressing for him.
p. 11: “What, you have overcome the force of gravity?” I said astonished. “You can walk on air?”
“Oh, long ago. Michaelson's discovery of the disassociation of protons is over a hundred years old now.”
Their machine is powered by the “electronoid” which contains enough energy to fly 20,000 miles if necessary. They cannot collide because of magnetic fields and automatic piloting. New York is all wooded lawns now. She tells him that [p. 13] “I keep forgetting that you lived in the age of materialism. New York, of course, was [p. 14] completely destroyed for the first time in 1984 and resettled only a hundred years ago." The New York he sees “is built on the ruins of two other civilizations.” p. 14
p. 15 “New York, of course, has been twice destroyed. Once in 1984, at the period of the European conquest, and again in 2080, when it was voluntarily levelled under the first years of the Matriarchal era.” p. 15 “Her arm drew my head to her shoulder. Her warm lips closed my eyelids. Intoxicated, I yielded again to her superior strength.” She says poor dear, she's been tiring him out and will take better care of him in the future. Finally they arrive at her home, are greeted by several dogs, and observe storm clouds forming - Acquilla informs him that they have been able to control the weather for over fifty years and “We do all our raining at night of course.”
Chapter II - her home is on a monumental scale; “A brilliantly colored machinot, shaped like a beetle rose from its seat, received our coats and disappeared.” The rooms have tinted glass roof, walls of glass bricks, and then artificial light. She professes amazement at the primitive lighting system he explains to her, and says: p. 19 “How strangely archaic, but then of course you ignored the true relation of electricity, gravity, and heat. Though later, Zugg and Plumpf must have suspected the truth. Of course today there are not many secrets in the physical world. Light is generated like heat and radiated through the house. The floors and walls are porous, that is the whole secret.” They go to a beautiful thermal bath room.
Acquilla slipped from the Grecian robe which was her only garment and advanced to the edge of the pool. I hesitated a moment with that sense of modesty which is inherent in the male, but perceiving the complete naturalness of her gesture, I realized quickly that a false show of prudery would render me ridiculous. I gave my toga to Mag, who smiled at me entranced, and followed Acquilla.
I now noticed with interest certain physical changes that the scientific evolution had made in the female figure. From the flat waist upward it was the torso of a man, powerfully muscled, broad [p. 21] over the shoulders and flat breasted, due to the fact, as I learned later, that for over two centuries no woman had nursed her own child. For the rest, though she overtopped me by a clear foot, it was the graceful, lithe figure of the young Mercury one sees in medieval art. But my feeling of aesthetic admiration was rudely dispelled. Turning to Mag, who was staring at me with fascinated eyes, Acquilla lifted the lovely golden curls from her head and stood before me absolutely bald. I could not repress an exclamation of dismay.
“That is the price women have to pay for the supremacy of their intelligence,” said Acquilla.
“What! Science that has worked such miracles has not been able to prevent baldness?”
“Those of the Histrionic caste keep theirs much longer,” Acquilla replied, “but we of the Philosophers and Scientists lose ours at fifty.”
“For heaven's sake, how old are you?” I exclaimed bewildered.
“Oh, not so old,” Acquilla replied with a touch of asperity. “How old are you?”
“Really, if it weren't for your teeth and hair I should have said a hundred.”
I glanced at the perfect lustre of her teeth and shuddered. Was that possible too? But I mastered my fears and replied according to etiquette:
“And you look twenty-four.”
“I am hardly seventy-six at that.” She extended her hand, took mine, and led me into the perfumed pool.
He floats on the pool, which is also sending electric charges through him. He relaxes and enjoys as colors swirl over his head; Acquilla explains p. 23 “Each chord has a color value so that as you listen to music, your eye at the same time receives an identical impression.” They go to a warm room to dry off, and then go to eat. Here too the room resembles Rome, with low couches. Acquilla says p. 25 “It is quite a masculine repast I have ordered tonight, in consideration of your long fasting. I myself eat sparingly.”
The dogs come to him, and she comments:
“How odd,” said Acquilla. “I've never seen them pay the slightest attention to any male before.”
I confess this allusion to her past struck me disagreeably, for already romance was stirring in my imagination.
[p. 25 She is curious to know his first question and guesses politics, marriage, the competitive system? No:]
“How have you solved the servant problem?”
[she says it's no problem at all, she runs the place p. 26] “on a dozen machinots, a gardener and Mag, my housekeeper.”
“But even if you have one servant, my dear Acquilla, you have the servant problem, haven't you?”
“Problem? There is no problem,” she replied, thinking over what I had said.
“Then you have discovered how to produce perfect servants.”
“Certainly, we have absolute control over our servants.”
“Why, very simple. We put them under hypnotic control, of course.”
My face expressed such blank amazement that she continued immediately:
“But how else can you handle servants? I simply hypnotize them and suggest to them each morning what they shall do during the day. That eliminates all possibility of error or misunderstanding.”
“Wonderful! And to think no one ever thought of it in my day. Perfect, and so simple!”
[he begins laughing - she is very concerned and doesn't know what is happening. He realizes that p. 27]
“Good heavens, women have abolished laughter!”
[he wonders if she is human, touches her hand, decides she is not an automaton, and dinner arrives]
Chapter IV - p. 29
Acquilla cast a swift glance at the centre of the table, and drawing a silver platter towards her on which were a dozen colored bottles about the size of egg cups, said:
“I shall dine as you dine but in a different manner.”
“Pills!” I exclaimed in dismay. “Compressed food - I knew it!”
“You are like all men, I see,” she answered gravely. “Always jumping at conclusions. What I am eating is exactly what you will partake of, only it is in the form of extracts and quite as delicious too, I assure you. As for your fear of compressed tablets, it is groundless. Until the age of seventy, modern dietetics long ago recognized the value of bulk in food. It is only when the problem of preserving tissues and health is one of arrestation rather than development of the vitamins that we eliminate bulk for chemical values. I can recommend the soup, Bogardus, it is a pot-au-feu such as I am certain you have never tasted.”
[p. 30 He is indeed impressed with the soup and she tells him it has been aging 25 years. That “It comes from the kitchen of the celebrated André Poullardier of Rouen.” They preserve foods in a culinary library - dishes of the great chefs - like wines. She also has tobacco for him and they both smoke pipes.
Feeling relaxed he begins to appreciate her again, and decides “A fig for that wig or any wig in the world!” and remembers historically that women never showed their own hair. Then he remembers his wife, but reminds himself that she was in the past.
Acquilla tells him that he was discovered in a steel vault while excavating to discover the great museum. New York has been blotted out. He comments sadly that “Then Chicago has become the metropolis of America” p. 35. She tells him that Chicago and San Francisco have about 25-30,000 people; 1 million on the North American continent. He asks about the population of the world and she tells him (“exactly as I happen to be on the International Control of Population Board” that it is two million, six hundred thousand. 500,000 each for Europe, South America, and Africa; 100,000 for Australia; 1,000,000 for Asia and 1,000,000 for America. He tells her in his time population was a billion, six hundred millions; she had thought 1200 millions.
She begins to tell him the history of how they came to be this way. He refers to “the World War” and she says p. 37:
“The World War? Is that what you called that little struggle? Because after all it settled nothing, did it? The first true mondial conflict came in 1984 though there were local conflicts before that; the Japanese-Russian War of 1955, which brought all Asia, including Siberia, into the Oriental Empire; the breaking up of the British Empire and the Unification of Europe under the Germans in 1965.”
“Then Bolshevism did not over-run the world,” I interrupted.
“The Russians had only manpower and inaccessibility in their favor, and to science these two factors are negligible. Of course, Bogardus, you recognize that the object of all the great male civilizations was to crush all competition by evolving a superior form of destruction.”
Feeling myself and my sex attacked, I demurred.
“Isn't that a sweeping indictment?”
“Why? Look at history. What is it? It is simply the record of a scientifically organized minority overcoming less martially intelligent masses. You are not convinced? Surely you do not ascribe it to moral virtues. Take your America. The white race conquered the red because ten intelligent men with muskets could slaughter a thousand ignorant savages. Take the conquest of Africa by a handful of Europeans. You do not claim it was superior courage?”
“We have always regarded it as such,” I volunteered timidly.
“Because you looked at civilization only from your egocentric point of view. The courage was always on the side of the savage, fighting against incomparable odds. The intelligence was back of the guns. Do you see my point?”
available at SFPL & LOC