World without Men: A Forgotten Novel of Totalitarian Lesbiocracy by Charles Eric Maine (Beta)

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Ace Paperback Edition of World without Men (Cover by Ed Emshwiller)

The blurb on the thirty-five cent Ace paperback likens Charles Eric Maine’s 1958 novel World without Men to George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.  Ordinarily – and in consideration of the genre and the lurid cover – one would regard such a comparison skeptically.  Nevertheless, while not rising to the artistic level of the Orwell and Huxley masterpieces, World without Men merits being rescued from the large catalogue of 1950s paperback throwaways, not least because of Maine’s vision of an ideological dystopia is based on criticism, not of socialism or communism per se nor of technocracy per se, but rather of feminism.  Maine saw in the nascent feminism of his day (the immediate postwar period) a dehumanizing and destructive force, tending towards totalitarianism, which had the potential to deform society in radical, unnatural ways.  Maine grasped that feminism – the dogmatic delusion that women are morally and intellectually superior to men – derived its fundamental premises from hatred of, not respect for, the natural order; he grasped also that feminism entailed a fantastic rebellion against sexual dimorphism, which therefore also entailed a total rejection of inherited morality.  In World without Men, Maine asserts that the encouragement of sexual hedonism, the spread of pornography into the mainstream of culture, and the proscription of masculinity are inevitable consequences of the feminist program, once established.  The sixty years since the novel’s publication – as a thirty-five cent paperback – have vindicated Maine’s notable prescience as a social commentator.

Although World without Men might not measure up fully to 1984 or Brave New World, Maine, who was a talented storyteller, worked on a higher level than most of the genre writers represented in the Ace catalogue.  Indeed, in its narrative structure, World without Men trades in at least one formally modernistic gesture.  It gives glimpses out of chronological order of a progressive biological and cultural catastrophe so that the reader must reshuffle events into their actual, causal sequence.  Part One, “The Man,” takes place in the Seventieth Century, and Part Two, “The Monkey,” late in the Twentieth.  Part Three, “The Girl,” takes place seventy-five or a hundred years after part two.  Part Four, “The Patriarch,” takes place sometime in the indefinite far future, but before 7000 AD.  (References to Christ as having been born some “seven thousand years ago” permit specification of the date.)  Part Five, “The Child,” recurs to 7000 AD and shares certain personae with “The Man.”  Thus “The Man,” “The Patriarch,” “The Girl,” and “The Child” are long-term sequels to “The Monkey,” which chronicles the development of a birth-control drug called Sterilin, while probing the consciences of the pharmaceutical researcher, a man, who creates it, and the corporate mogul, a woman, who aggressively markets it.  World without Men anticipates certain features of the current faddish ideology calling itself transhumanism, criticizing it in advance of its appearance.

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Back-Cover Blurb

I. “The Man” immediately places the reader in a world of disturbing oddity, doubly disgruntling because its exclusively female denizens take it dogmatically for granted. To the normal sensibility of 1958, Maine’s fictional future would have constituted a shocking prospect even though its hedonism and conformism reflect forecasts of a coming inversion of morality going back as far as Charles Baudelaire’s “Femmes damnées” and renewed in the critical discourse of Oswald Spengler and José Ortega y Gassett. In “The Child,” in a Khrushchev-like secret speech, a dogmatic authority figure called by the moniker of “the Mistress” refers to unisexual society candidly as having the form of a “perversion neurosis” that has achieved “equilibrium.”  That which the doctrine calls “equilibrium,” and which the authorities wish to preserve, corresponds in an objective analysis, however, only to static malaise.  The gynocracy maintains itself in status quo partly through the psychological-political conditioning of its citizenry not to notice the society’s unnaturalness and partly through constant police-state surveillance of nonconformity including the arrest and liquidation of dissidents; the polity also mandates births and implements euthanasia under the euphemism of “mortic revenue.”  That the world of “the Man” and “The Child” shocks the perceptive mentality of 2010 less than it probably shocked its original readers attests powerfully to Maine’s prescience – and to our own jaded sensibility.

“The Man” concerns the discovery at the North Pole of a rocket ship, frozen in the ice for thousands of years, that contains the cryogenically preserved body of a male person.  The state has recovered the body to a research facility in “Lon” (London) for dissection and analysis.  Maine’s point-of-view character, Aubretia Two Seventeen, works as a “press policy and administration officer” in “The Department of the Written Word.”  Essentially a functionary, Aubretia lives a materially comfortable, but thoroughly regulated and insipidly routine life in a system dominated by a strict hierarchy of managerial elites.  The administrators, Aubretia thinks to herself while preparing for work, “keep an alert eye on the plans and schedules of the vast labor organization” of what amounts to a centrally planned world-society.  Ubiquitous, constant surveillance is indeed a component of Maine’s dystopia.  Maine offers Aubretia as a specimen mid-level type of this totalitarian lesbiocracy: “She was handsome enough in the tradition of the day,” with “skin… smooth and burnished to a roseate bronze sheen [and] the whites of her eyes… stained green to contrast with the limpid brown of the pupils.”  Additional details increase the impression of doll-like preciosity and mirror-gazing narcissism: “The silver lacquer on her flat, atrophied breasts had worn thin in parts, but… later in the day she could visit the Beauty center and have fresh lacquer applied.”  Aubretia thinks to herself, “silver was clean, but there were times when it resembled armor.”

Aubretia’s work vetting news for public distribution permits Maine to offer readers further glimpses into the socio-political order.  During Aubretia’s morning she redirects various official announcements.  One concerns “an increase in two and half per cent in live parthenogenetic births during the next two years as a preliminary to a statistical revision of the personal mortic tax assessment figure in light of improving economic conditions.”  She fails to note the brutality that the neutral-sounding bureaucratese implies.  Next from “Femina Entertainment News,” Aubretia gleans the information that “state actress Butterfly II will star tonight in a video dramatic feature concerning the love of two adult women for a young albino girl.”  Aubretia herself sustains liaison with an albino lover, Aquilegia.  The emphasis on albinism in entertainment stems from the sexual lopsidedness of the society.  Other differences than the dimorphic sexual difference now form the only basis of perceptible although etiolated erotic interest.  Arousal depends more on a “comprehensive fund of erotic knowledge” and on “physical… captivation” than on actual “emotional contact.”  The implied lack of genuine emotion in personal pairings accords with the metaphor of “armor,” used by Maine in the description of Aubretia’s cosmetic mien.

Aubretia receives a summons to go to the “Department of Physiology,” in whose laboratory “research into the physiological basis of parthenogenesis was carried out.”  This research does not exclude “the dissection of women… who during life had shown symptoms of aberration from the parthenogenetic norm.”  In the laboratory Senior Cytologist Gallardia reveals to Aubretia the body of the man recovered from the arctic spaceship.  “Aubretia was only conscious of a certain grotesque detail,” whereupon “her stomach seemed to contract and her abdomen to twist up inside herself,” while “her rational mind rejected the obvious explanation” of what she was seeing.  The mere appearance of the male form induces swooning disequilibrium in the brainwashed subject.  Thus, “The vaguely horrific image of the man stayed in Aubretia’s mind for the remainder of the day.”  Yet despite striking Aubretia as “alien and remote” and despite portending “a certain indefinable fear,” the masculine corpse nevertheless persistently implicates for Aubretia “something… fundamental… that had to do with herself and Aquilegia… and all the women of the world.”

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Late 1960s Revised Version of World

Now men being supposed extinct for five thousand years, Aubretia judges the discovery, disquieting though it is, as eminently newsworthy.  Aubretia’s superior, the Mistress of Information, disagrees.  She embargoes the story but offers Aubretia justification, seeming even to disclose a secret or two, as if to take the subordinate into confidence.  Although a carefully fostered myth asserts otherwise, the disappearance of men “wasn’t sudden.”  Rather, says the Mistress, “it was a slow process” stemming from the two facts, as she purports them, (1) that “evolution had ceased in the human species” and (2) that this cessation, rendering “sexual variation no longer necessary,” provoked nature such that she “introduced an economy and eliminated the male sex.”  With a pseudo-logic that takes its pattern in the Marxist view of history, the Mistress claims that, “obviously… woman is the end product of nature,” man having been “merely an interim stage.”  Nevertheless, while “a sex may disappear according to the dictates of nature,” yet despite that, “the endocrine structure of the female body remains the same.”  One notes that the Mistress has used the term “nature” in a contradictory way.  In the abeyance of a male presence, women, remaining naturally oriented to the male, had to be “modified” artificially to fixate on the female.

Aubretia’s lover, Aquilegia, notices her partner’s disequilibrium.  Probing the cause of Aubretia’s distress, Aquilegia reveals herself as a clandestine foe of the regime.  “Quilly” can tell Aubretia, for example, that parthenogenesis was not a timely evolutionary novelty (as the Mistress claimed) but rather a desperate technical innovation.  All official pronouncements to the contrary, every known birth owes itself to “induced parthenogenesis,” in which “the ovum is persuaded to divide and subdivide by artificial means.”  Quilly corrects Aubretia when the latter refers to “a woman named Christ” rumored to have been an early instance of spontaneous virgin pregnancy: “Christ was a man.”  Quilly insists that theirs is not an open but a closed society: “In point of fact, we haven’t any personal liberty” and “we are ‘free’ only insofar as we comply with the adaptation syndrome.”  When Aubretia returns to work in the morning, Quilly predicts, Senior Cytologist Gallardia will have disappeared – reassigned to a posting unknown – and the male corpse, while accounted for as destroyed, will have been relocated to a secret facility somewhere else in the world.  The predictions come to pass.  The truth of them increases Aubretia’s sense of resentful disequilibrium.  When, in a spasm of conscience that makes her a dissident, Aubretia tries to disseminate knowledge of the recovered man against policy, automatic circuits block her broadcast, and the secret police immediately arrest her.  They send her away for mental reconditioning.

II. Readers will next encounter Aubretia, nagged by amnesiac gaps, in “Birm” (Birmingham), as employed in “the collating and filing of governmental statistical records.” She now has a “new friend,” that is to say, a new erotic liaison, whom readers swiftly and correctly identify as a police minder assigned by the state. The statistical records with which Aubretia works have to do with “the regulating machinery of society” and, ominously, “the balancing of productivity against needs.”  She inclines to regard her previous job as having been stressful and she therefore finds the lesser demands of the new job welcome.  In solitary meditation in her new apartment Maine has her rehearse for herself “the clear, logical, and satisfactory picture” in which, as the formula puts it, man “became an obstacle to the wise and peaceful exploitation of natural power for the benefit of his species” and so “cease to exist… and nature provided parthenogenesis to replace the outmoded reproduction system that had vanished with the male sex.”  Yet one or two aspects of the “scientific democracy” bother Aubretia.  “The Department of Mortic Revenue was a name that chilled her mind and heart whenever she heard it mentioned” because the phrase mortic revenue “was another way of saying compulsory euthanasia.  In essence, “all individuals at birth have a certain monetary value to the state,” or, more brutally, everyone has “a price on her head.”  By rendering “service” to the state, every individual must make good her “value.”  Thus everyone’s longevity “is proportional to [her] productive capacity.”

Aubretia’s lover-minder, Valinia, justifies the arrangement.  “Those who fail,” Valinia tells Aubretia, “are those who are least useful to us and to society as a whole: the idle and lazy people, the criminals, the subversive types, the political intriguers.”  The argument cleverly identifies usefulness with orthodoxy, as in all syllogisms concocted by dictatorships to justify liquidating dissenters.  Valinia cynically distracts Aubretia by seducing her.  In the physical détente that follows the climax, Aubretia convinces herself of Valinia’s case: “She realized that control of death was just as logical as the control of birth; indeed, the two were an intimately related function of the balanced state.”  Yet on a deeper level, the disquiet remains.  The advent of Aquilegia’s twin (at first representing herself as Aquilegia) during one of Valinia’s regular three-day absences provokes the doubts into renewed vigor, forcing Aubretia into a struggle with her own inner division.  The twin, who never reveals her name, arrives disheveled; she confesses to Aubretia that she belongs to the subversive underground and that the secret police actively seek her.  She appeals to Aubretia for temporary asylum, telling her that the actual Aquilegia has been “passed to the Department of Mortic Revenue,” where “she paid the tax in full.”  Maine gives to Aubretia’s visitor the role of explicating for her reluctant host that part of the truth about the social order that the dictatorial polity actively and ceaselessly suppresses.

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Another Techno-Crisis Novel by Maine

Aquilegia’s twin reiterates that the story about the natural extinction of men is “a lie.”  Men died off, but as the result of artificial tampering with the natural order, not by some unavoidable and morally neutral catastrophe with an origin external to human intention.  In a phrase, “he was destroyed.”  The twin discloses the destiny of the masculine cadavers that occasionally turn up in remote places: The state uses them in a project to create an artificial male gamete, the point of which would be to restore sexual dimorphism to the species; but lately the official attitude has inclined toward suppressing that effort so as not to alter the monosexual dispensation, now become an inviolable dogma.  The truth-speaker says: “We are creatures of sex living by force and unnaturally in a sexless society…  The government tries to tell us it’s normal, but in fact it’s abnormal.  We’ve become a race of Lesbians.”  The subversives, in the twin’s words, “believe in truth for its own sake”; they “hold that perversion is evil, whatever the motive might be, and that the modern structure of society… based as it is on statistical birth and murder and on a homosexual morality, is wrong and corrupt throughout.”

An additional disclosure – that the ruling authorities defer in their decisions to a global network of electronic brains – belongs to the genre-vocabulary of science fiction and perhaps exceeds the necessity of the story.  Yet the detail is not without metaphorical justification in Maine’s narrative.  The twin tells Aubretia that, should the present arrangement continue “the result will be a world of robots, assembly line creatures all alike, cast in a limited number of patterns, and working blindly under the dictates of an impersonal governing authority.”  The twin remarks that already the government treats citizens “as integers in an… equation.”  That would be the “equation,” of course, of mandatory artificial quickening on the one hand and enforced euthanasia on the other.  Sane living thus requires morality and morality requires “emotional balance between men and women.”  It is the case, Aubretia’s colloquist argues, that “the great majority of women… live their lives in organized peace and harmony, never inquiring beyond the erotic boundary of their own sex hormones… accepting mortic laws without question.”  It is also the case, she argues, that, “morality is more vital than peace and stability based on lies and lesbianism.”  These statements accord with Maine’s indirect affirmation of a fixed natural order in the Mistress’s duplicitous usage of the word nature earlier in the story.

The world of five thousand years hence, in Maine’s forecast, is also a stunted, inward-turning world that has renounced dynamism and creativity, just as it has renounced sexually dimorphic procreation.  When Aubretia first learns of the crashed rocketship at the North Pole, Maine inserts the historical tidbit that, “no rocket had been launched or even made on earth for four thousand years” because “it seemed more logical to womankind to devote worldly wealth on the development of the Earth and its inhabitants and the feminine mind saw neither sense nor sanity in space travel.”  When the Mistress discusses the situation with Aubretia, she argues that spaceflight was a male aberration, a mere “sublimation of unexpended masculine drive,” such that “the cosmos itself became a mons Veneris at which mankind as a whole set its cap.”  The little speech sums up feminist discourse – which denigrates all specifically male activities and derives all social problems, perceived or real, from male toxicity – quintessentially.  It shows once more the cultural perceptivity of the author, who, I remind my readers, was writing more than fifty years ago.

 III. I have treated World without Men, Part One, at length because it represents the logical and material – and spiritual – consequences of events about which Maine tells in Parts Two and Three.  Moreover, Part Five of the novel revisits the identical milieu of Part One and brings back the character of Aubretia, permitting readers to witness the final consequence of the chain of causality underlying Maine’s plot.  The title of Part Two, “The Monkey,” rich with connotations, implicates the irrationality and destructiveness of hedonism-pragmatism as a ruling ethos and places that false creed in the context of a managerial-bureaucratic order.  Such an order inevitably dehumanizes men and women while justifying its actions by appeals to public opinion.  In Maine’s view, however, public opinion is a chimera, created in the first place by managerial techniques such as advertising and propaganda.  The pattern is self-serving and circular.  The characters in “The Monkey” are – to Maine’s end of demonstrating the shallowness of modern Western civilization – depthless people either fixated on their mere function as though it were the whole of life, or hedonistically oriented, or pathologically domineering.  If Aldous Huxley and José Ortega y Gassett loomed forth as probable influences over Maine’s view, so too would Arthur Koestler whose Darkness at Noon (1940) discusses the necessary intellectual perversity of totalitarian propaganda.  The religious theme, however, is peculiar to Maine’s novel no matter its ties to the existing dystopian tradition in English letters.  In World without Men, the rationalistic utopia has not elevated humanity but deformed it.  Maine links that devolution to a repudiation of the basic principle that, “God created mankind in his own image – in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

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Cover Art by Powers

Gorste, the middle-aged central persona, works as a chief research chemist for Biochemix Incorporated, a large pharmaceutical concern.  E. J. Wasserman, a woman in her fifties, inherited Biochemix from its founder, her husband, who died ten years before the events in “The Monkey.”  Gorste’s wife Anne plays a sinister role, one that reaches from Gorste’s domestic milieu into his business affairs in a complicated and fatal way.  Anne had formerly been married to Drewin, now deceased, apparently by suicide.  In the workplace Gorste sustained a testy rivalry with Drewin, exacerbated when Drewin discovered that Gorste and Anne trifled with one another behind his back.  There are others – Slade, Rhinehart, and Ingram – equally cipher-like.  In “The Man,” as we recall, the characters have no family names, only given names with a numerical suffix.  In “The Monkey,” only Anne has a given name, Maine referring to everyone else by his surname and reducing Wasserman’s given names to their initials.  (That Gorste is “Phil” to Anne, readers learn only at the end of the tale.)  Maine stresses the compartmentalized impersonality of the industrial concern, forecasting the functionary-status of the personae in “The Man” in the manner in which Gorste and the others willingly relinquish identity – and so also conscience – to merge with the collective.

The titular monkey is the subject of Gorste’s current project.  The Biochemix board has directed Gorste, on Wasserman’s orders, to develop a drug for the suppression of fertility.  “They had kept the monkey for two years, during which time they injected some two gallons of estrogen derivative into it,” after which, “they killed it and cut it open.”  Examining the ovaries under the microscope, the researchers detect “no sign of fertility… none whatever.”  Rhinehart, who mediates between the scientist Gorste and the board, tells Gorste that this development is good because “the board keep pressing for results.”  Gorste wonders to Slade, “How can you exploit sterility as a commercial proposition,” adding that, “it’s going to take a great deal of hard selling” to induce women to embrace the suppression of their most sexually defining trait.  Now Maine so arranges his story that a supreme irony complicates Gorste’s relation to his own work.  When Drewin discovered Gorste’s adultery, he took revenge by attaching a piece of unshielded uranium underneath the lab-counter where Gorste habitually stands while working; by the time Gorste discovered the deed, the radiation had rendered him sterile, or so he believes.  After Drewin “gassed himself,” Gorste omitted to file a police report although he later divulges the incident to his doctor; he has also guiltily withheld the truth from Anne because “she wants a child,” or so he believes.  The cold marriage is not sexless, but sex has become routine and mechanical, a matter of bodies without spirit.

In their crassness, the deliberations concerning Sterilin resemble a symposium of absolute cynics.  Gorste, listening to Wasserman’s peremptory declarations, thinks, “It seemed strange to hear a woman discussing sterility so candidly and impersonally.”  One of Wasserman’s marketers says, “A product of this type must have a dignified name [that] suggests its function yet at the same time is in no way salacious or capable of misinterpretation.”  The marketer adds that, “Birth-control is only half of the sales story,” the product having the “more positive selling angle” of soliciting the “uninhibited enjoyment of the pleasures of life.”  Wasserman tells Gorste, “The tablets… must be pleasant to take, with nothing medicinal about them… With fizz, perhaps.”  The substance should be packaged attractively, in something like “a [lady’s] compact… pretty, perfumed, even heart-shaped and gilded.”  In Wasserman’s summation, in a sort of Gnostic outburst: “Sterilin is going to influence the whole moral climate of our society…  Sterilin will set women free from the subconscious fear of pregnancy that has always inhibited their relationships with men.”  Wasserman’s phrase, “will set women free,” turns out, in Maine’s story, to be opposite to the actual consequence.

Maine is putting together the elements of an enormity, the liquidation of men.   He thus makes the biochemical innovation of Sterilin inseparable from Gorste’s moral-practical division, his unwillingness to act on the promptings of conscience, or to act against the organization-mentality of his co-workers, or against Wasserman’s manipulative will-to-power.  Gorste has timidly criticized aspects of the Sterilin program; he subsequently feels “that he had erred – sinned against the company’s policy – in some indefinable way.”  Perceiving Gorste’s essential weakness, Wasserman (she of “quick masculine movements”) cajoles and seduces her employee all at once.  Maine endows on her the discourse of devilish sophistry.  “The moral climate of society is changing quickly,” she tells Gorste, “and Sterilin will play an important part in stimulating the evolution of a more liberal morality.”  When Gorste speaks of “conscience,” Wasserman tells him that, “conscience… is simply a matter of conditioning.”  In a voice “that was becoming husky,” as Gorste thinks, Wasserman extols Sterilin for its power to “dissociate sex from pregnancy.”  Consummation occurs.  Gorste knows that, “he [has] been exploited.”  He grasps suddenly that, “in the microtome sections of a simian ovary,” there lies the “point of origin” of “world-wide mass sterility… a rapidly falling birth rate… an irrevocable plunge into moral agnosticism.”  Anne stuns Gorste on his agonized return home with news of her pregnancy.  Protesting his presumed sterility, he voices suspicion of Anne.  “You don’t imagine,” she asks, meaning that she has betrayed him.  “Nor did your first husband,” he retorts.  Anne then lets it slip out that she killed Drewin to be with Gorste.  She “doped his coffee, [and] then pushed his head in a gas oven.”  In the escalation of emotions and charges, Gorste experiences a spasm of anger and kills Anne.  At that moment he receives word from his doctor that he is not, in fact, sterile.  “The Monkey” concludes with Gorste, having telephoned the police, waiting for them to arrive.  It is a scene of complete moral sterility.

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Rare Photo of Maine

IV. “The Girl” fills in the details of the actuality that Gorste belatedly foresees in “The Monkey”: The rise of what might be described as a regime of mandatory promiscuity; the rise of an accompanying police-state whose first function is to conceal the actual situation, as much as possible; the fall of the birth rate generally and the cessation of male births. Maine sets the tale once again in “Lon” or London. In the first, establishing paragraph “the big flame-colored letters of [a] neon sign” flash out ceaselessly the product name of Sterilin.  This sign, writes Maine, “dominated Piccadilly Circus, swamping all the other lights in its vicinity.”  There is also a large, brightly illuminated “statue of Eros,” whose dart “was aimed accurately at the gigantic Sterilin sign.”  The Circus has become the prime pick-up location for women on the prowl for increasingly scarce men.  It is an age of “applied happiness,” as the point-of-view character Brad Somer thinks to himself.  A reporter, Somer has uncovered part of the truth; he seeks to break through censorship to find the rest.  Somer briefs a government official in an attempt to gain cooperation: “Ten years after the first Sterilin advertisement appeared… in all countries where Sterilin had been intensively marketed… birth rates had fallen alarmingly”; moreover, “there had been a snowballing deterioration in the moral standards of civilized society.”  Governments impose mandatory maternity on women, marshaling mothers-to-be in induced-birth centers, and raising the children in crèches.  Finally, Somer has discovered that, “ninety-eight out of every hundred births are female, and… we shall soon reach the stage where all births are female.” Somer’s contact turns out to be a police agent.  She arranges for his arrest and execution.

“The Patriarch” tells the pathetic story of the last man alive on earth – and his death, when he escapes from the Antarctic laboratory where the state holds him for experimental purposes.  In “The Child,” Maine revisits the year 7000 AD.  In its concluding section, he reintroduces the character of Aubretia.  Maine first acquaints us, however, with Cordelia, a cytologist, and Koralin, a laboratory assistant.  Aged seventy-two, Cordelia “had made full use of modern cosmetic techniques”; she thus possesses “the superficial appearance of an adolescent female.”  Cordelia signifies once again the narcissism and false consciousness of Maine’s speculative lesbiocracy.  While Cordelia’s body boasts youthful plasticity, nevertheless “her mind was wrinkled and leathery, impregnated with specialized science and technology, and twisted in the accepted lesbian fashion of the contemporary society.”  Hence Cordelia’s initial attitude toward “the thing in the incubator,” an artificially produced male child, related genetically to the cadaver of “The Man.”  In respect of the word thing, we recall Aubretia’s reaction to the male cadaver as something alien and remote.  When the Mistress of Applied Cytology and other scientists inspect the infant coldly, however, Cordelia’s emotions begin to take hold: She detects “an acrid quality in her superior’s voice,” she sees the researchers as “impassive in their attitude,” and she thinks that for them “the baby might as well have been a stained specimen on a microscope slide for all the human interest that was apparent in their eyes.”  In respect of the word specimen, we recall the ovarian tissue-sections in “The Monkey.”

At the end of a long address – the Khrushchev-like secret speech to which the exposition has already alluded – the Mistress informs her subordinates that, “test four-six-five must be destroyed.”  The Mistress insists that the infant in the incubator amounts to no more than “the result of a successful experiment in micro-cytology” in respect of which “there is no question of human status.”  She offers that the male child’s mere existence threatens an outbreak of “hysteria” in the society; she uses the allegation of this threat to justify destroying the child.  Cordelia bursts out in an uncontrolled, spontaneous defense of the child, but she quickly interprets her own outrage as precisely the “hysteria” that the Mistress has invoked.  She retracts her defense, but the deed itself falls to her subalterns.  One of these, Koralin, undertakes to fulfill the responsibility.  Koralin’s willingness is in fact a ruse.  She boldly removes “test four-six-five” from the premises.  On intelligence gleaned through her connection with the underground, Koralin conveys the baby to “Birm,” where she comes, a suppliant, to Aubretia.  This sequence underlines the Christian plot of the novel.  The Mistress has echoed the sacrificial justification of the Pharisaical high-priest that, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Koralin argues to Aubretia that killing the baby “would have meant the end of all hope for the perverted and neurotic society in which we live.”  She invokes the “parthenogenetic adaptation syndrome,” saying, “It sounds like a disease, and that’s exactly what it is.”  The disease will prove fatal, she continues; “unless we reintroduce the male sex and revert to a normal way of living.”  Thus, “this baby… could be the savior of womankind.”  Maine selects the term “savior” carefully, pointing back by means of it to the Gospel references in “The Man.”  Koralin likens the lesbiocracy to something inhuman and moribund and death-obsessed – “laboratories, experiments in human embryology, fertility centers, induced parthenogenesis, cultivated lesbianism” – that sacrificially seeks the destruction of a mere baby.  “There was another parthenogenetic male,” she tells Aubretia, “a miracle child that was referred to as the savior of mankind,” whom “the state set out systematically to destroy.”  Sharpening the parallelism, Koralin says: “For thousands of years the world has awaited a second Messiah.  And now he has arrived, Aubretia, and authority will attempt to destroy him before he destroys it.”  One notes that Maine has not identified the child as a supernatural Messiah; he has merely defined a child, in this case a male child, as supremely sacred.  On this child’s survival depends the restoration of the natural, the true, order.  The entirety of World without Men pleads for the natural, the true, order and pleads for it unapologetically.

The crumbling Ace paperback of Maine’s novel from which I quote contains a Publisher’s Postscript.  It reads in part as follows: “While the manuscript of WORLD WITHOUT MEN was being prepared for publication, the staff of Ace books [was] startled to see… a story in the New York Times, for Oct. 16, 1957.  This told of the announcement at a meeting of a ‘planned parenthood’ society of advanced work on a ‘synthetic steroid tablet’ to be taken orally to create a limited period of sterility.”  According to the Postscript, this story and one other “unexpectedly underline the credibility of Charles Eric Maine’s novel.”  About Maine himself, information remains scarce.  Charles Eric Maine was the pen name of David McIlwain (1921 – 1981), who served in the Royal Air Force in World War Two and became a writer after the war.  He seems to have published fourteen novels, most of them, to judge by their titles, in the science fiction genre.  (Apart from World without Men I have read none of them.)  An early effort, Spaceways (1953) became a film under the same name the year after its publication.  John Clute and Peter Nichols, writing in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993), dismiss Maine as “determinedly the author of middle-of-the-road Genre SF,” who, “as such, was successful.”  The entry is short and supplies no specifics.  Of secondary literature, I can find none, in which case the present essay is the first.

4 thoughts on “World without Men: A Forgotten Novel of Totalitarian Lesbiocracy by Charles Eric Maine (Beta)

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  3. Dr. Bertonneau,

    Your piece reminded me of my own literary confrontation with the lesbiocracy: Djuna Barnes’s “Nightwood.” As I grow older, I unfortunately continue to be surprised by the fact that when man tries to work-around the Lord’s path, he receives earthly and perhaps eternal hell. It is interesting to me that T. S. Eliot – he who, per Bloom, dreamed everyone’s nightmare in “The Wasteland” – was an admirer of Barnes. And yet perhaps Barnes was ineluctably honest: her heroine is last seen baying at the moon in the climax of her novel.

    It’s mordantly fascinating that moderns will do literally anything other than bend the knee before the Christ who offers them life more abundant and free. Thank you, as always, for your work.

    • Thank you, Wood, for taking the time to read the article. The name of Djuna Barnes has not crossed my mind for three decades at least. Your phrase “ineluctably honest” fits Nightwood well.

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