"Dr. Halliday Sutherland is a born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better” – G.K. Chesterton
The ‘Lethal Chamber’ in Eugenic Thought is a chapter Dan Stone’s book, Breeding Superman. Stone argues that the concept of the lethal chamber was not unknown to Britons given that it was mentioned in the literature of the inter-war period. Here is Dr. Halliday Sutherland’s contribution to that literature.
The chapter jottings at the top of the page suggest inclusion in a book, but to my knowledge this version was never published. It was written after June 2nd, 1931.
The fictional short story was published in Britannia and Eve in July 1938 and superbly illustrated by Eric Fraser. “Mr Smith, better known in State records as H.99/Hampstead” receives a letter from the Ministry of Eugenics in relating to some irregularities relating to his son Henry. An argument ensues, interrupted by the Inspector of Cheerfulness, Inspector Weevil. Smith is taken to the Lethal Institute.
Here he is allowed to choose a sympathiser—someone to assist him in the difficult moments ahead. These include “Sympathiser Jolly”, “Father Peace” and “Sympathiser Eve” (who stands with her back to the artist in the picture above). Then on to the lethal chamber itself.
This version of the story appeared in the second issue of Fantasy in 1938 as The Valley of Doom.
Utopia is a film scenario that was never published. In it, he added a “prequel” to the action of The Perfect Eugenic State. The scenario opens with a radio broadcast by Sir Belgium Hare, a eugenist.
“A present day broadcast is heard without a break through the receiving sets of different groups of listeners. Sir Belgium Hare is a tall, well-preserved, clean-shaven, prosperous man of sixty, with a resonant, deliberate and rather pompous voice. As each group of listeners switch off their wireless, the scene changes to the next group. In all groups the acting is silent so that the speech is heard without interruption from start to finish.”
SIR BELGIUM: (Puts on horn-rimmed spectacles and reads script)—Excellent. Our last broadcast fluttered the dove-cots, if one may judge from the press-comments. Have you any technical suggestions in regards to one’s vocal production?
ANNOUNCER: Well, Sir Belgium, if I might make a suggestion…
SIR BELGIUM: Pray do so, pray do so, by all means.
ANNOUNCER: Don’t get too close to the microphone. It picks up noises.
SIR BELGIUM: What noises?
ANNOUNCER: Well, er, such as a cough, or clearing the throat.
SIR BELGIUM: Ah! You refer to the extra-respiratory accompaniments of speech. I shall bear that in mind. The further away I am from the microphone, the better! That’s the idea!
ANNOUNCER: Well, in one way, yes, Sir Belgium.
The crackling Aerial at Rugby against a night sky of drifting clouds and moon. As these scenes are silent it might be better if the aerials showed silent sparks.
VOICE OF SIR BELGIUM: “No man appreciates more than I do the meaning of Progress, and tonight…”
Crowded Saloon bar. All stools at the bar occupied by artisans, commercial travellers, clerks, racing men, dog-walker (with large St. Bernard), shop-keepers, shop-walkers. Another row of similar types standing at the bar, or fetching drinks from bar to round tables where their lady friends from charwomen to shop girls are seated. Others are playing at pin-tables. Behind bar Landlord, wife, and three barmaids are busy serving drinks. Beer engine in constant use. Washing and drying tankards and glasses. Cash register working. On wall behind bar shelves of glasses and bottles. Near the roof a clock, and a load speaker. On bar is a peanut machine, another with crisps, and plates of hors d’oeuvres. Beggar on crutches enters offering matches. “Not this side, please.”
Newsboy sells papers with price of the last race. Man buys it, and reads in stop press:
“Kempton. 4.30 1.Golden Acre. 2.Solomon’s Feast. 3.Sailors Quest. 8/1, 7/2, 10/1 (14 ran).”
VOICE OF SIR BELGIUM: “I appreciate the opportunity of speaking to so many thoughtful people, who, like myself are prepared to devote a little time to a consideration of the Future. I am also conscious of the fact that many profound thinkers, who are now giving me their attention, hold opinions contrary to mine. They are entitled to their opinions, and Time alone will prove which of the two opposing schools of thought is right and which is wrong. Yet I am also of opinion that it is (shouts) Time, Ladies and Gentlemen, and more than Time that these ideas were put into execution. We are spending a great deal of money on…”
No one is paying the least attention to Sir Belgium Hare, until he shouts—“Time, Ladies and Gentlemen, and more than Time.” Then two or three men draw Landlord’s attention to the clock…and Landlord switches off radio.
The Valley of Doom “novelette” was included in the February 1951 edition of Worlds Beyond.