“The Coming of the Ice,” G. Peyton Wertenbaker, 1926 – A scientist (Sir John) discovers that by removing the ability to reproduce, one can live forever. Our bodies are continually changing, he explains, being replaced, bit by bit; reproduction dams up this activity. The protagonist, Dennell, forgetting his fiancé, demands that the scientist perform the operation on him. Excited by the idea of never having to fear death, he fantasizes that over time he’ll learn enough to become “a god.” This will require becoming a pure intellect (i.e., nothing but purely selfish emotions and a sense of self-preservation). Dennell argues that once he changes his nature, he won’t regret losing everything connected to sex, including his ability to appreciate beauty, to love, and to mate. His fiance, Alice, now informed of the situation, insists that she also have the operation. Once transformed, they’ll give up carnal love and experience the love of the mind–though Dennell wonders if two cold intellects can love.
However, fate intervenes. Alice and Sir John are killed in a taxi accident as Dennell recovers from the operation, leaving him without his only two friends. He lives long, continually studying, alone. Since the Change, the emotions of the past are something he can name but not experience. His perceptions sharpen, he’s filled with vigor, he goes back to university to obtain multiple degrees. He envisions that all human knowledge will be “his” and he’ll become a super-man. Yet, the human race evolves beyond his natural capacities, and he’s unable to keep up with the progress of science, leaving him a relative dullard, rather than a god. He lives to see the coming of the Venusians, the unification of the world, the changing of humanity into shriveled bodies and huge brains. He with his “ancient compunctions” shudders as they “finally” put to death all the criminals, insane, and perverts, and he is forced to tell his story. By this time, society has put him on display in an exhibition as an “archaic survival.”
Eventually, everyone becomes immortal; time ceases to have meaning. All human senses atrophy save a sense of vibration. “I observed the end of speech, of all perceptions except one, when men learned to communicate directly by thought, and to receive directly into the brain all the myriad vibrations of the universe.” The Ice comes, everyone flees south, man turns on man. He with his physique and strong jaw has survived, but he’s become a cannibal. Civilization and cities are slowly covered by the ice. As the ice freezes him, he thinks of God and Alice.
Comments: Opens with a reference to Wells’s The Sleeper Awakens. The text is available at Project Gutenberg. Also available in Amazing: The Wonder Years 1926-1935.
Author: G. Peyton Wertenbaker’s (1907-1968). ISFDB entry. His comments on the nature of science fiction (scientifiction)–its sense of beauty, its appeal to those portions of the mind that appreciate the vast, unknown, and unfathomably strange–are available in Mike Ashley’s The Gernsback Days.