“The Miracle of the Lily, Clare Winger Harris, 1928

“The Miracle of the Lily,” Clare Winger Harris, 1928 – Told through diary excerpts of a string of direct descendants: Humanity is about to become extinct due to insect encroachment, develops synthetic food and oxygen plants, and kills all vegetable life, despite protests of those who insist natural beauty is necessary for human survival.

In the chapter, “maximum efficiency,” year 2928, a man pines for something to stir his soul besides the sea.  Life is monotonous though perfectly efficient. Buildings soar to the sky. However, humans no longer have a reverence for the body; the body is simply a “material agent” through which the soul acts. Man now knows of the eternal qualities of the spirit, a knowledge which informs their decision to use reconstituted matter plants, in which spiritless matter becomes food for the living matter in which the spirit is still functioning.

In the year 3928, a soulless world is dying of boredom.  Thanator, one of the line of commentators, deduces that he comes from sentimental stock. He’s read the past diaries, but is protected by a thought-insulator and able to continue his fancies.  He’s aware that he has a strong sentimental attachment to things, perhaps an inappropriate nostalgia.  Earth receives a plea from Venus to help them with their insect problem, but verbal instructions haven’t helped and they need material assistance. Thanator’s friend, a broadcaster, hopes that inter-stellar television, if it can be made to work and can be coupled with radio, will suffice instead.  Thanator shows his friend a family relic, a golden box from the time of the last insect. At first it appears to be full of insect eggs, then appears to contain seeds.  Thanator removes a slab of the concrete that now covers the world and impatiently (as it is a time of instant gratification) waits for life to sprout. A lily, a symbol of resurrection blooms; he places it in the window for the occasional pedestrian to enjoy (most of the world skates or drives vehicles at dizzying speeds).

Ten years later, Thanator is now a farmer, having successfully planted his seeds. Inter-stellar television has been perfected and contact with Venus is finally possible. They see the faces of the Venusians at last—a large beetle appears on the screen, with its mammalian “insect” pest. Thanator thinks it would be rational to side with the rational insects, but feels a strong bias towards the mammal. The Venusians quickly develop a fear of the humans, and humanity rallies to conquer the Venusians, to overcome their boredom if nothing else.  The narrator retreats to his garden and finds a beetle—no, he thinks, man will not need to go to Venus to conquer “insects.”

Comments: Available in Amazing: The Wonder Years 1926-1935.

Author: Wikipedia: “Clare Winger Harris (January 18, 1891- October, 1968) was an early science fiction writer whose short stories were published during the 1920s. She is credited as the first woman to publish stories under her own name in science fiction magazines. Her stories often dealt with characters on the “borders of humanity” such as cyborgs.” Note: “For many years Harris claimed to have been the first woman science-fiction writer in the United States. While this can be debated (since Gertrude Barrows Bennett, writing under the pseudonym Francis Stevens, published science fiction stories as early as 1917), Harris is recognized as the first woman to publish stories in science fiction magazines under her own name.”

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About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1926 and earlier, aesthetics/beauty, animals/insects, cars/pedestrians, natural/artificial, progress/obsolescence, religion/soul/spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

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