White mars by Brian W. Aldiss & Roger Penrose. Chapter 21

White mars. Chapter 21



Dear Tom has been dead now for twenty years. He died at the youthful age of sixty-seven. I zeep these words in what would be midway through 2102 by the old calendar.

A statue to Tom stands at the entrance of the Strangers Hall of Aeropolis in Amazonis Planitia. It depicts him in an absurdly triumphalist pose. I never saw him stand like that. Tom Jefferies was a modest man. He regarded himself as ordinary.

But perhaps the legend below his name is correct:

Prime Architect of Mars –


The Man Who Made Utopia Part of Our Real World.

Did Tom love me? I know he loved Mary Fangold. They never married. Marriage had gone out of fashion. But they were In Liaison as the new rationalism has it.

Do I miss him? Probably I do. I did not remain on Mars. In my old age I have decided to move further out, to lighter gravities.

My daughter Alpha went to seek out those Lushan Mountains I painted for her when she was a child. But I find I am an independent animal, as long as I retain contact with my Other. So our lives unfold.

On the occasion when Tom’s just society was announced and its constitution read aloud, everyone was in a mood for rejoicing. We truly knew we had made a human advance.

Our proceedings, together with the celebrations that followed, were recorded as usual and, as usual, broadcast to Earth.

One incident of that day is vividly recalled. I had not seen my friends, Hal Kissorian and Sharon Singh, for some while – not, in fact, since their marriage – and longed for their company to make my happiness complete.

I rang their bell and was admitted. Both of them greeted me warmly. They were scantily dressed. As they embraced me, I smelt sweet and heavy odours about the room. We talked about all that was happening – or rather, I talked. I talked about Chimborazo and about the wonderful sense of social completeness we had managed to build. They regarded me with fixed smiles on their faces. I belatedly realised that the topics held little interest for them.

On the wall behind the sofa on which they sat was a hand-painted mural. I recognised a blue-skinned Krishna with his flute. Krishna was plump, his figure rather rounded in a girlish way, his eyes large and sparkling. Around him lounged pink ladies in diaphanous gowns, holding flower buds or tweaking one of the god’s oily locks scarcely contained by his crown. They all gazed with lascivious approval at his immense mauve erection.

‘Well, that enough of my affairs,’ I said. ‘What have you two been doing?’

Both Kissorian and Sharon burst into joyous laughter. ‘Shall we show you?’ asked Sharon.

I came away with that curious mixture of shame and envy that people of the mind feel for people of the flesh.

It was then I decided I was a solitary person. With a numb heart, it is easy to behave like a true Utopian.

By the fifth year after the collapse of EUPACUS our society had settled on an even keel. All our various disciplines had taken root and were beginning to blossom. The Birth Room was a thriving institution. We had found room for diverse personalities to live together peacefully.

At that time, I visited the Birth Room frequently. I miss it now such things do not exist. I went not only for companionship but to enjoy the transformation in women’s personalities from their personae among men when they entered there. They became simpler and more direct, perhaps I should say unguarded, when they escaped from male regard.

Many were the arguments there about a possible return to Downstairs. By no means all women wanted it. Life Upstairs, although austere, was far less abrasive than it had been on Earth. Certainly child-rearing was easier, while the new generation of children seemed brighter and more companionable, despite their tammies.

Received wisdom was traded.

‘Earth has decided to leave us here.’

‘Let Downstairs get on with its affairs while we get on with ours.’

‘They’ve forgotten all about us.’

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Categories: Aldiss, Brian